Wednesday, May 04, 2011
Forgotten Films: Odds Against Tomorrow
Ed here: William McGivern was one of the dominant voices of hardboiled crime fiction in the Fifties. He was reviewed widely and well.Dorothy B. Hughes no less compared him to Graham Greene. Several of his novels (including The Big Heat) became major movies. Today his books are nowhere to be found except on used book lists. A humber of them are well worth reading, including the basis for this movie, Odds Against Tomorrow.
As as Robert Ryan fan I have to say that the opening shot of Ryan walking down a city street toward us is one of the saddest and most disturbing moments in his film history. No male actor could look as psychotic or (as here) as physically and spiritually lost.
It took me a few viewings to appreciate how good Harry Belafonte is in the film; Ed Begley is straight from a Richard Stark novel.
If you're interested, here's an extraordinary interview with Harry Belafonte at Eddie Muller's celebration of Robert Wise. Belafonte talks about the movie, Robert Ryan, Marlon Brando, Martin Luther King and many other subjects. He also gets off some friendly jokes about Sydney Potier's squeaky clean image. I really enjoyed it and I think you will too. Belafonte's definitely a cool guy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-h0xyWRct4k
As always, Noir of The Week not only reviews the film but puts it in context of its era.
Noir of The Week:
Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)
Released by United Artist in 1959, Odds Against Tomorrow is the compelling story of three diverse men and a “One roll of the dice and we’re through forever” heist that brings these unlikely bedfellows together.
This is the third film in Robert Ryan’s bigotry trilogy, the others being Crossfire and Bad Day at Blackrock. Odds Against Tomorrow, with screenplay by Abraham Polonsky pits Earl (Ryan), Dave (Ed Begley) and Johnny (Harry Belafonte) in a plan to regain the lives they all knew in better times. Each of them is burning in a private hell. This is brought on by them selves and, of course, the road to salvation is paved in money, lots of money by means of a “can’t miss” bank job orchestrated by Dave.
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Watched this one a couple months ago and really appreciated it as both noir and social commentary. Beautifully photographed on location, too.
This remains the film with the most over the top ending of the '60s, or any film I've seen till OTT became standard operating procedure in the last decade or so (compare DOMINO, for example). It seems the essayist wants to credit Polonsky with the story, which I suppose is a step up from attempting to credit Robert Wise with everything in the film...despite loving this film for more than a decade, I've still not read McGivern's novel, something I really have to do, sooner rather than later.
The book was horrible compared to the movie. Belafonte's character in the book was an utter coward, and actually allowed Earl to continually call him "Sambo" and at one point said to Earl who asked him if he didn't mind calling him Sambo, Ingram said; "I guess its as good a name as any." I believe Belafonte, had something to do with the utter change of his character in the film. There is nothing redeeming about Ingram's caracter in Mcgivern's book...i was disgusted. But please, read for yourself. The movie is quite powerful...and actually surpasses the book on so many different levels.
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