Seven Thieves


1h 42m 1960
Seven Thieves

Brief Synopsis

A professor and thief decide to join together and pull off a heist.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Crime
Thriller
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1960
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Monte Carlo,Monaco; The Riviera,France
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Lions at the Kill by Max Catto (London, 1959).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

On the French Riviera, Theo Wilkins reunites with his old friend Paul Mason, who has spent the last three years in an American penitentiary. When the wary Paul wonders why Theo suddenly sent him a plane ticket to fly to France, Theo takes him to a sidewalk café, where Pancho and Melanie, seated at a rear table, size him up. Pancho and Melanie are two of Theo's five accomplices in an elaborate caper he is planning, and Theo begs Paul to join them and be the "one friendly face among strangers." Theo, who was once a prominent science professor before turning to crime and being unceremoniously "cast out into the gutter," has devised his revenge in the form of what he terms an elaborate experiment that will make the world gasp--the $4,000,000 robbery of the Monte Carlo casino. Reluctant to commit himself, the cautious Paul agrees only to meet Theo's five accomplices at a tawdry club, where Melanie performs seductive dances while Pancho plays saxophone. In addition to Melanie and Pancho, Paul is introduced to Raymond Le May, who works as the secretary to the casino director and is in Melanie's thrall; Louis, a seasoned safecracker; and Hugo Baumer, an expert mechanic and get-away driver. Paul suggests continuing the discussion at Pancho's hotel room, and there they examine a blueprint of the casino that depicts a private elevator leading from the director's office to the vault two floors below. The next day, everyone except Raymond and Theo regroup in Pancho's room, and Paul agrees to throw his lot in with them on the condition that he be given total authority. Paul then asserts that they must move up the heist to the evening of the Governor's Ball, the night the casino will be the most crowded, and to draw the timid Raymond deeper into their web, insists that he issue them invitations to the ball. After Hugo purchases a limousine, an ambulance and a swift get-away car, the group holds a dress rehearsal of the theft. Posing as a wheelchair-ridden baron, Pancho, accompanied by Theo, the baron's "personal physician," drives to the casino in a limousine chauffeured by Hugo. Meanwhile, Paul and Louis check out access to the governor's apartment and the elevator leading to the vault. On the night of the ball, they reconvene at Pancho's, and Paul is surprised to discover that Melanie does not live there, but has her own place. When Theo shows Pancho a cyanide tablet that will make it appear that he has suffered a heart attack, thus creating a diversion at the casino, Pancho balks, fearful that the tablet may kill him. At the casino, Louis, Melanie and Paul present their invitations, and soon after, Pancho and Theo, as the baron and his physician, arrive. Paul and Louis then slip out the window and onto a narrow terrace to scale the casino façade up to the governor's apartment. Louis, terrified of heights, is prodded by Paul until they reach the elevator and descend to the vault. As Louis drills open the safe, upstairs in the casino, the Duc di Salins recognizes Melanie as an exotic dancer. When the Duc alerts the casino director about Melanie, Raymond begins to lose his nerve, but Melanie coolly instructs him to delay the police. Meanwhile, at the roulette table, Theo reminds Pancho to take his medicine and when Pancho places the tablet in his mouth but refuses to bite down on it, Theo injects him with a dose of cyanide, after which he collapses. After declaring that his patient has suffered a heart attack, Theo advises that the baron be taken to the director's office. Soon after, a concerned doctor knocks at the door to report that he detected the odor of cyanide, thus disputing Theo's diagnosis of a heart attack. Stating that he was simply being discreet, Theo explains that the baron committed suicide and then calls for an ambulance to pick up the body. After Theo and the others leave the room to wait for the ambulance, Paul and Louis, carrying a satchel of stolen bank notes, enter the office, stash the money in the seat of the wheelchair and then take the elevator up to the governor's apartment. As they slip onto the ledge to climb down to the casino, Melanie struggles to unlock a window so that they can sneak back inside. Soon after the window pops open, the police arrive to question Melanie about her escort. Just then, Louis and Paul appear and identify themselves as Melanie's escorts. As Louis and Melanie dance toward the exit and their waiting car, Paul nods to Theo that their mission is a success. Turning to the director, Theo suggests removing the baron in his wheelchair so as not to call attention to his condition. They then wheel the baron to the waiting ambulance, where Paul and Hugo, dressed as ambulance attendants, wheel him in. After the ambulance drives off, the exhilarated Theo anxiously anticipates hearing "the world gasp" about his crime, and then exhausted, drifts off to sleep. Soon after, Pancho regains consciousness and notices that Theo has died. Pulling off the road, Paul tearfully cradles Theo's lifeless body in his arms and insists on driving him back to his hotel. Melanie asks to go with them, and after putting Theo to bed, Melanie confides that she envies him because he died happy. When Paul bitterly muses about Theo's inauspicious fall from hero to social pariah, Melanie realizes that Paul is Theo's son. Deciding to renounce their share of the money, Paul and Melanie return to Pancho's, and after Paul scrutinizes the bank notes, he discerns that they have been newly minted and recorded and are therefore unspendable. Paul then reasons that if they return the money, the casino will forgo pressing charges to avoid a scandal. When the others disagree, Paul pulls his gun and they resentfully toss the bank notes into a suitcase. Returning to the casino, Paul and Melanie drop an envelope addressed to the director that contains the claim check for the suitcase. As the director retrieves the satchel, Paul places a bet at the roulette table and wins handsomely.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Crime
Thriller
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1960
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Monte Carlo,Monaco; The Riviera,France
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Lions at the Kill by Max Catto (London, 1959).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Costume Design

1960
Bill Thomas

Articles

Seven Thieves (1960)


A disparate collection of crooks, small-time hustlers, and disreputable characters knocking around Monte Carlo are brought together to rob a casino in an elaborate heist in Seven Thieves (1960), an unshowy caper film from Hollywood veteran Henry Hathaway. Edward G. Robinson plays the mastermind of the job, Theo Wilkins, a once-respected scientist whose career foundered after serving time for theft, and Rod Steiger plays his loyal friend, partner, and right hand Paul Mason, a sophisticated career criminal brought over by Theo to run the untrustworthy crew.

The film was promoted by Fox as "Little Caesar meets Al Capone," referring to the pairing of old school gangster star Robinson with method actor (and Al Capone star) Steiger. In fact, Theo is much closer to another Robinson role from his gangster past: The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938), where Robinson's titular doctor joins a criminal gang to research his book and ends up plotting their robberies. Theo could be Clitterhouse twenty years later, an old pro more interested in the mechanics and execution of the perfect plan than the money.

Joan Collins plays the key to their scheme, a stripper in a second-rate nightclub where the nervous assistant director of Monte Carlo's biggest casino arrives nightly to watch her dance, and Eli Wallach is her mentor and mother hen Poncho, who blows the saxophone (and at one point becomes a partner in her routine) in the club's jazz combo. The team is filled out by Michael Dante as the grinning safecracker, Berry Kroeger as the driver and team muscle, and Alexander Scourby as the reluctant partner inside the club, the casino assistant director pressured by Collins to be their inside man.

Collins doesn't actually take anything off on screen, but her skimpy, form-hugging dance leotards (they could double as lingerie) and her flamboyant dances are plenty suggestive, showing off her legs and putting every curve on display. Her other outfits were no less modest -- the gown she wears for the casino heist scene was so tight that she couldn't sit down -- and they helped the film earn its sole Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design, Black and White.

Collins was personally tutored for her dance numbers by Candy Barr, "the best stripper in America," as Collins writes in her autobiography. "For two or three hours every day she taught me how to move and dance, bump and grind, and strip.... She taught me more about sensuality than I learned in all my years under contract." Their rehearsal sessions, needless to say, made Stage 6 at Fox the most popular spot for most of the men on the lot.

The Monte Carlo setting may evoke the sophisticated continental heist movies coming out of France at the time, such as Rififi (1955) and Bob le flambeur (1956), but this production is pure Hollywood all the way, from the sturdy direction of veteran filmmaker Henry Hathaway to the "location" scenes filmed in the studio against back-projection beach scenes (according to the studio press release, Hathaway personally oversaw the location shooting of establishing shots and background footage). For the heist itself, a 15-ton safe was built into the vault set and Robinson and Dante were taught to actually crack the safe on camera. Hathaway directs with the clarity of an old school Hollywood pro. This isn't about tension or suspense or down-to-the-second last-minute saves, but about the mechanics of combining all these individual pieces and fallible players into a single machine with many moving parts.

Robinson and Steiger are the cool heads who stay on top of it all with clear thinking, strong nerves, and quick wits. The two actors are study in contrasts, the studio-trained old-school star Robinson with his easy, precise delivery and confident control of every scene, and the unexpected bounce of method actor Steiger's approach, like a classical musician carrying the melody and a bebop soloist improvising around him. Yet for all differences in style, the two actors establish an unforced affection beyond friendship and loyalty between their two characters, and that relationship ultimately grounds the film.

Producer: Sydney Boehm
Director: Henry Hathaway
Screenplay: Sydney Boehm (screenplay); Max Catto (novel)
Cinematography: Sam Leavitt
Art Direction: John DeCuir, Lyle R. Wheeler
Music: Dominic Frontiere
Film Editing: Dorothy Spencer
Cast: Edward G. Robinson (Theo Wilkins), Rod Steiger (Paul Mason), Joan Collins (Melanie), Eli Wallach (Poncho), Alexander Scourby (Raymond Le May), Michael Dante (Louis Antonizzi), Berry Kroeger (Hugo Baumer), Sebastian Cabot (Director of Casino), Marcel Hillaire (Duc di Salins), John Beradino (Chief of Detectives)
BW-102m.

By Sean Axmaker

Sources:
IMDb
20th Century Fox press release, reproduced on the "Seven Thieves" DVD. Fox Home Video DVD, 2007.
"Past Imperfect," Joan Collins. Simon and Schuster, 1978.
"The Complete Films of Edward G. Robinson," Alvin H. Marill. Citadel Press, 1990.
"The Good, the Bad, and Me: In My Anecdotage," Eli Wallach. Harcourt Inc., 2005.
Seven Thieves (1960)

Seven Thieves (1960)

A disparate collection of crooks, small-time hustlers, and disreputable characters knocking around Monte Carlo are brought together to rob a casino in an elaborate heist in Seven Thieves (1960), an unshowy caper film from Hollywood veteran Henry Hathaway. Edward G. Robinson plays the mastermind of the job, Theo Wilkins, a once-respected scientist whose career foundered after serving time for theft, and Rod Steiger plays his loyal friend, partner, and right hand Paul Mason, a sophisticated career criminal brought over by Theo to run the untrustworthy crew. The film was promoted by Fox as "Little Caesar meets Al Capone," referring to the pairing of old school gangster star Robinson with method actor (and Al Capone star) Steiger. In fact, Theo is much closer to another Robinson role from his gangster past: The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938), where Robinson's titular doctor joins a criminal gang to research his book and ends up plotting their robberies. Theo could be Clitterhouse twenty years later, an old pro more interested in the mechanics and execution of the perfect plan than the money. Joan Collins plays the key to their scheme, a stripper in a second-rate nightclub where the nervous assistant director of Monte Carlo's biggest casino arrives nightly to watch her dance, and Eli Wallach is her mentor and mother hen Poncho, who blows the saxophone (and at one point becomes a partner in her routine) in the club's jazz combo. The team is filled out by Michael Dante as the grinning safecracker, Berry Kroeger as the driver and team muscle, and Alexander Scourby as the reluctant partner inside the club, the casino assistant director pressured by Collins to be their inside man. Collins doesn't actually take anything off on screen, but her skimpy, form-hugging dance leotards (they could double as lingerie) and her flamboyant dances are plenty suggestive, showing off her legs and putting every curve on display. Her other outfits were no less modest -- the gown she wears for the casino heist scene was so tight that she couldn't sit down -- and they helped the film earn its sole Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design, Black and White. Collins was personally tutored for her dance numbers by Candy Barr, "the best stripper in America," as Collins writes in her autobiography. "For two or three hours every day she taught me how to move and dance, bump and grind, and strip.... She taught me more about sensuality than I learned in all my years under contract." Their rehearsal sessions, needless to say, made Stage 6 at Fox the most popular spot for most of the men on the lot. The Monte Carlo setting may evoke the sophisticated continental heist movies coming out of France at the time, such as Rififi (1955) and Bob le flambeur (1956), but this production is pure Hollywood all the way, from the sturdy direction of veteran filmmaker Henry Hathaway to the "location" scenes filmed in the studio against back-projection beach scenes (according to the studio press release, Hathaway personally oversaw the location shooting of establishing shots and background footage). For the heist itself, a 15-ton safe was built into the vault set and Robinson and Dante were taught to actually crack the safe on camera. Hathaway directs with the clarity of an old school Hollywood pro. This isn't about tension or suspense or down-to-the-second last-minute saves, but about the mechanics of combining all these individual pieces and fallible players into a single machine with many moving parts. Robinson and Steiger are the cool heads who stay on top of it all with clear thinking, strong nerves, and quick wits. The two actors are study in contrasts, the studio-trained old-school star Robinson with his easy, precise delivery and confident control of every scene, and the unexpected bounce of method actor Steiger's approach, like a classical musician carrying the melody and a bebop soloist improvising around him. Yet for all differences in style, the two actors establish an unforced affection beyond friendship and loyalty between their two characters, and that relationship ultimately grounds the film. Producer: Sydney Boehm Director: Henry Hathaway Screenplay: Sydney Boehm (screenplay); Max Catto (novel) Cinematography: Sam Leavitt Art Direction: John DeCuir, Lyle R. Wheeler Music: Dominic Frontiere Film Editing: Dorothy Spencer Cast: Edward G. Robinson (Theo Wilkins), Rod Steiger (Paul Mason), Joan Collins (Melanie), Eli Wallach (Poncho), Alexander Scourby (Raymond Le May), Michael Dante (Louis Antonizzi), Berry Kroeger (Hugo Baumer), Sebastian Cabot (Director of Casino), Marcel Hillaire (Duc di Salins), John Beradino (Chief of Detectives) BW-102m. By Sean Axmaker Sources: IMDb 20th Century Fox press release, reproduced on the "Seven Thieves" DVD. Fox Home Video DVD, 2007. "Past Imperfect," Joan Collins. Simon and Schuster, 1978. "The Complete Films of Edward G. Robinson," Alvin H. Marill. Citadel Press, 1990. "The Good, the Bad, and Me: In My Anecdotage," Eli Wallach. Harcourt Inc., 2005.

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Although a July 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that Anne Bancroft was to play the female lead, and an Los Angeles Examiner news item adds that offers were made to Fredric March and Richard Widmark to play the two top male leads, none of these actors appeared in the film. A February 1959 Los Angeles Examiner news item notes that Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons were also considered for the leads. Although May Britt is listed in an early Hollywood Reporter production chart, she does not appear in the released film. A Hollywood Reporter production chart places Thayer David in the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. The Variety review states that backgrounds were filmed at the French Riviera and Monte Carlo, Monaco.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States on Video December 6, 1990

Released in United States Winter January 1960

CinemaScope

Released in United States Winter January 1960

Released in United States on Video December 6, 1990