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The Big Steal (1949)


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I guess he really is just happy to see us.



Bob's back and Jane's got him, or is it the other way around? I haven't seen

The Big Steal in years, but caught up with it again recently on YT, and it's

still as good as ever, a sunny side antidote to the much darker Out of the Past,

from two years earlier. Mitchum and Greer are back together, but in a much more

positive frame of mind, no longer up the existential creek without a meaning.

Patrick Knowles plays the dirty double-crosser, who stole a large Army payroll from

Mitchum and "borrowed " $2,000 from Jane. As he takes off through Mexico, the

two team up in an initially uneasy alliance in order to get their monies back. They are

also being chased by William Bendix, doing his usual tough guy thing, as Mitchum's

superior officer, who thinks Bob was in on the heist. As they follow Sir Patrick through

the back roads of Mexico, they gradually warm up to each other. This time Jane is still

making with the wisecracks, but she's a good girl who gives Bob a run for his money,

and Bob returns the favor by calling her Chiquita. After many twists and turns south of

the border, things end up well for both Bob and Jane, and by the end of the film they are

no longer a bickering twosome, but have fallen in love. My, what a surprise! John Qualen

has a supporting role as a bad guy, something I can't remember him doing very often. He

was in a zillion movies, so maybe he played that part before, but it is a big change from

his usual meek and mild Scandinavian eyes cast down type.


There's plenty of action and witty dialog along the way, and though the film zips by in 71

minutes, it never feels rushed. It's one of the most lighthearted and relaxed noirs to come

down the road.

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I first saw this movie on TCM a few years ago, and it is definitely a favorite for me. This is the film made right in the middle of Mitchum's "brush" with the law. I think it is very entertaining, would be a great "date" flick. Being an old car buff, I spent some time trying to identify the car they drive. Its a 1934 Buick. Now when I go to shows, if I see one I tell the people thats "A Big Steal Car".

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I should have mentioned Don Siegel directed it in my original post. He did a

superb job of keeping things on pace and mixing the romance and action

in just the right proportions. Whatever the car was, it sure took a beating.

Great car chase along those winding roads, though some of the more hairy

shots must have been back-projection. Too bad Bob couldn't make it to the

border before his pot arrest. The movie had a lot of fun with most of the

Americans not being able to understand much Spanish. Bob had to rely on

Jane, who was pretty fluent, to know what was going on sometimes. Luckily,

she was trustworthy (this time).

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Not to give too much away, I have the DVD and it has commentary. The original script was a much tougher story, but with the circumstances involving Robert Mitchum's personal life at the time they lightened the story up considerably to help his public image. And Jane Greer was pregnant during the filming, of course they had to accommodate her with wardrobe, etc.

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This fine chase film was a frequent feature on late night TV in Chicago. It was in that venue that I first saw this and OUT OF THE PAST. As for Mr. Siegel, if you directed INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, you're A-OK in my movie guide. His THE KILLERS stands tall in the shadow of its superior predecessor. I like DIRTY HARRY and THE SHOOTIST. And I would give a month's supply of Raisinets to see THE VERDICT! I may have seen it years ago. If I don't remember, it doesn't count!

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one of the best of the 1950s sci-fi films, with

or without the possible red subtext. And while it's very different in subject matter

from The Big Steal, it has a few similarities: A playful romance between the

two stars, and the taut direction of the main action plots of both movies.


I saw Siegel's version of The Killers many years ago and don't remember much

about it, except that Lee Marvin was one mean dude. Would be great to see it

again, but it doesn't seem to show up on TCM too often that I can recall.

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A couple of years ago, I saw a film on TCM titled ?The Captive City? (1952). It was about a newspaper reporter in a small town who learned that there was some organized crime group in his town that was controlling some of the businessmen and the police department.


Some old private investigator first learned about it and told the reporter. When the private investigator later was killed by a hit and run driver, the reporter began investigating and asking questions around town, and soon he found that the local police were following him and spying on him.


This movie gradually unfolded very much like ?Invasion of the Body Snatchers?. So much so, that I would bet that the Body Snatchers writers and director studied this film.


Even the ending was very similar, and the ending started out first, then the film went to flashbacks, just like in Body Snatchers.



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Don't think I've ever seen The Captive City, but it sounds like a neat little movie in its

own right. Since The Invasion of the Body Snatchers was based on a story by Jack

Finney which first appeared in Collier's magazine in 1954, I guess it's possible he

could have seen the movie and copied it, but that doesn't sound very likely. It's also

possible that Siegel saw the movie, and used it, though he already had a script. That

seems like a stretch. Perhaps the most plausible connection is that Siegel saw the

movie and unconsciously used some small bits of it, but even that's just speculation.

I'll have to look out for The Captive City and make up my own mind.

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