Bank Shot (1974)
Sporting perhaps the bushiest set of eyebrows worn by what I would call one of the more macho actors of his generation, George C. Scott lands above the title billing for the lead role in this atypical film for the Oscar Winner. Scott is an actor probably best known for his riveting performances of aggression (Patton) as opposed to the straight man he’ll play here to a set of bumbling crooks and F.B.I. agents in a role that would normally be reserved for someone like Peter Sellers.
Our tale of Scott’s master criminal begins with our leading man in prison for life. His time on the inside is overseen by warden and good ole boy, Clifton James. James may be best known for his two appearances in the Bond franchise as Sheriff Pepper, but for me he’ll always be Carr the Floor Walker in Cool Hand Luke. “I hope you ain’t going to be a hard case. ” Scott’s working a road crew construction site when his sham lawyer appears with a sure fire bank heist. All Scott needs to do is break out. No problem.
The laughs are supposed to kick in as Scott hijacks a heavy bulldozer type of machine and hits the highway with James’ tailing him in his golf cart. It’s one of many clips that will come off as a bit of a yawner. Scott will meet up with his soon to be romantic interest Joanna Cassidy and before we know it, he’s off to meet his new gang that includes Bob (billed as Robert) Balaban, Frank McRae, Don Calfa, Sorrell (Boss Hogg) Brooke and the previously mentioned Miss Cassidy, Scott’s in for a surprise when he learns that it’s the female member of the gang who is actually fronting the money.
When the gang show Scott the intended Bank, he knows he’s working with amateurs and thinks it might be best he just turn himself back in to the authorities. “I’m going to get up from this table. I’m going to walk to the nearest police station, and I’m going to turn myself in. And they will take me back to Stryker’s funny farm, where at least I was safe… and sane. And I pity the poor schmuck who tries… to stop me.”
Warden James has teamed with members of the F.B.I. and while they seem to be closing in on the Scott gang, they continually miss the mark due to their inept skills of policing. Scott who has been brought in as the mastermind hits upon the perfect plan. Seeing as the bank is a former trailer park home on blocks, why not just reinstall wheels and haul it away.
That’s the plan and the final half of the film will feature numerous comedy of errors on both sides of the law. In fact most of the enjoyment one might get from the film aside from seeing Scott on camera, are the amount of near misses that are to come between James and law enforcement officials narrowly catching Scott and his gang of wannabe bank robbers. It’s all been done before and better but there is something to be said for seeing George C. Scott playing straight man while every other character around him are practically idiots. Scott gets to throw on a few disguises throughout the proceedings which might explain my Peter Sellers comment earlier. As a matter of fact, check out a similar idea that featured Sellers successfully breaking out of jail to stage a heist in the 1966 comedy After the Fox.
While this may not be the best example of introducing Scott to a younger audience these days, he still stands taller than the rest in this film directed by Gower Champion. It’s worth noting that Mr. Champion never directed another film after this comedy which tries way to hard to produce some laughs ala a later day Jerry Lewis. Sorry Jerry, still love yah.
For fans of the volatile George C. Scott like yours truly, Bank Shot turned up on blu ray courtesy of Kino Lorber that features the original trailer which is kind of fun and bit of a novelty featuring leading lady Cassidy in a bath tub full of money narrating the proceedings for the coming soon promo.