They Came To Rob Las Vegas (1968)
“They? Who the hell is “they?” Being one who loves to borrow lines from movies, I couldn’t help myself starting off with an Edmond O’Brien quote. Anyone know the classic film I lifted it from?
Now let’s get on to this Euro crime thriller that features Sin City as a backdrop. The “they” in this case refers to Gary Lockwood and Elke Sommer.
This heist flick starts off with an aging Jean Servais outrunning dogs and prison guards through a swamp that plays like I’m watching rejected footage from Cool Hand Luke. Unlike Luke, Sarvais has a getaway car awaiting him and his break is a successful one. Cut to a swinging 60’s nightclub and the cool calculating Gary Lockwood. Turns out Gary is the younger brother of our escaped convict who quickly rejects the offer from his older brother to join him in a heist involving an impregnable armored truck. In very little screen time we’ll see Servais and his gang of hoods are all shot down in a clumsy attempt at taking down the truck. Looks like Gary has made the right decision. Or has he?
With location filming in Las Vegas you have to marvel at the billboards. Here’s a sampling of what’s on tap for your entertainment dollar. Just put me in a time machine please.
Dean Martin at the Copa Room. Jimmy Durante at the Desert Inn. Juliet Prowse at Cesar’s. No? How about three topless revues at the Sahara featuring Dolls-A-Go-Go.
It’s at this point we’ll see exactly how Gary’s intending to accomplish what his brother couldn’t. He’s a black jack dealer who’s a mechanic with the cards. In walks Elke and he deals her nothing but winning hands. Turns out they’re lovers. The question is does Gary want her for who she is or rather what she is? She’s also the mistress of wealthy Lee J. Cobb. Cobb just happens to be the owner/operator of the very “War Wagon” like armored truck that handles the hard currency collected at the casinos.
Enter one of my favorite actors who was signed up for this Antonio Isasi directed effort. In a surprisingly good guy role it’s Jack Palance as a Treasury Department Inspector who’s been investigating Cobb’s operation for suspected money laundering. This essentially puts him at odds with Lockwood and Sommer. Both parties want to see what’s inside this super bank on wheels. Little do they know that they are both going to make their play on the same day as the truck makes it’s delivery.
Palance pulls rank and has one of his own men inside the truck while Elke has supplied Lockwood and his gang with the up to date route and timing the truck will be taking on the targeted date. At this point I was a bit surprised that Lockwood would prove to be a rather cold blooded character. He has little problem killing the drivers and any on lookers in the desert backdrop where the heist will ingeniously take place. Lockwood and company have both Cobb and Palance baffled after moving the truck into an underground desert cavern. Now they have to figure out just how to get inside it and convince they armed guards within to give up their weapons. Bloodshed is sure to follow.
Yes it’s got well known English speaking actors taking center stage but don’t let that fool you. Pretty much every other speaking role throughout is dubbed giving this that familiar spaghetti feel that we North Americans had become acquainted with by the time this feature was released to theaters worldwide. The movie also features a jazzy soundtrack from composer, Georges Garvarentz, that earned an LP release for those who may be a collector.
Earlier I referenced the War Wagon and that’s because of the slight similarities to the John Wayne-Kirk Douglas title of the same name where the pair attempt to take down an impregnable armored wagon in a western setting. The reasons for the heist are slightly different and of course there’s no way that Duke and Douglas are going to outright murder any guards. Outdraw Bruce Dern? For sure but it’s a fair fight.
Far from memorable this may be but Lockwood was on roll with three movies in the theaters during the calendar year. This gangland flick, playing a rebellious outlaw under the command of Henry Fonda as they oppose Jimmy Stewart in the underrated Firecreek and of course Kubrick’s 2001. Palance was continuing his appearances in overseas productions in numerous genres from westerns to crime dramas and even a guilty pleasure from Jess Franco. Most slated to be dubbed for the American market. The decade proved to be Elke’s most memorable for my money appearing opposite the likes of Dean Martin, Glenn Ford, Bob Hope, Paul Newman and of course Peter Sellers in the hilarious Clouseau flick, A Shot In the Dark. For more on Elke, here’s a link to her official website.
Lee J. Cobb? His best years were behind him but he’d continue appearing on camera with one major film role still ahead that many will remember him for. That of Lt. Kinderman in 1973’s The Exorcist.
I hadn’t seen this one in years but shelled out a few bucks for a copy via the Warner Archive Collection if you’re so inclined. No original one sheet here in the private collection though there’s always hope. I did however come across this image that caught my eye for an overseas foreign release that I’d openly welcome to the vault here at Mike’s Take that I wanted to share.