Seven Thieves (1960)
While it’s true Eli Wallach never got to be a member of the Seven in the now classic John Sturges western of 1960, The Magnificent Seven, (his consolation prize was to be cast as the villain) he could at least take solace in the fact that he did make it to the gang of Seven Thieves put together by Edward G. Robinson in this Henry Hathaway caper released in the same year.
With a jazzy score and a roulette wheel for a backdrop, the credits roll and introduce us to the actors cast as the group of seven who will come together to steal a casino’s nightly take in Monte Carlo. In order of billing we have Eddie G, Rod Steiger, Joan Collins and Eli scoring above the title billing followed by the remaining three thieves, Alexander Scourby, Michael Dante and Berry Kroeger.
While Eddie scores top billing, perhaps out of respect, it’s Steiger who commands the screen and runs the show once he agrees to join Eddie’s foolproof scheme to score a four million dollar take on the night of a Governor’s Ball at the Monte Carlo casino run by Sebastian Cabot. Before committing to the heist, Steiger, will test each of his new partners by playing it tough and mean in the clinches. He’s not exactly lovable but maybe, just maybe Miss Collins can breakthrough that tough exterior Steiger exudes.
Each member will have a part to play if the heist is to be successful. For her part, Collins, is a sexy club dancer who is leading on Scourby, an assistant to Cabot at the casino to assist with the required RSVP’s and his working knowledge of the casino that they’ll need to time the operation in a military like fashion. Dante is the safe cracker who will need to remain sober if he’s to be of use to Steiger. Kroeger supplies the get away vehicles and muscle when needed. He’s at odds with Steiger right from the start prompting a great one liner from the method trained actor …. “You quit staring and I’ll quit jabbing.”
Wallach will play the part of a phony Baron in a wheelchair and Eddie G. his personal physician. And Steiger? He’ll call the shots and demands obedience. Of course that is sure to be called in to question as the plot develops.
Unlike that other heist film of 1960 starring Frank and the boys, this one’s in black and white and plays it more serious. Especially where Steiger is concerned. He’s coming off a three year stretch and it would appear as if it was one of Eddie’s plans that got him stung. Each of the characters have their own personal demons that they’ll be looking to overcome and when it comes to the acting department it should come as no surprise that the old pro, Eddie G. hits it out of the park. His aging criminal is just looking for that one great score that people will remember. For him it’s not the cut he’ll walk away with that’s all that important but what it represents in the public eye.
Not looking to play spoiler but will state that Steiger gets his big scene late in the film when he’s overcome with grief on the night of the heist.
Under Hathaway’s direction a good cast have been joined together and the scenes between Eddie and Steiger are the highlight of the film. On that note I’m curious if the two clashed in acting styles. Eddie of the old guard and a consummate pro whereas Steiger was of the new breed along with Brando and company. If they did clash you can’t see it on the screen. As polished as Eli was at this time it’s hard to believe looking back he was pretty much just getting started in his movie career. This was just his third movie role after a lengthy run on both stage and the small screen.
Joan Collins was at this time on a solid run of appearing opposite top leading men of the day. She was coming off a pair of 1958 titles opposite Greg Peck (The Bravados) and Paul Newman (Rally Round the Flag Boys). I’m no expert on Joan’s career but her run of big screen roles came to an abrupt halt after Road to Hong Kong in ’62 and the vast majority of her work over the following years was mainly on television with some theatrical releases of varying quality mixed in.
Still Joan’s movie roles are surely regarded as popular enough by 20th Century Fox to have released a box set of her early titles. Along with Seven Thieves the set includes Stopover Tokyo, Sea Wife, Rally Round the Flag Boys and The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing. Aside from Seven Thieves, all the films are from the 1950’s. While it’s no classic I do believe it’s this Hathaway title that’s the highlight of the set and that’s in large part to Eddie G. Robinson.
While I’d seen this film many years ago when first purchasing this set of Joan’s titles, I was reminded of it recently after acquiring the original one sheet which prompted my revisit. Not a great film but a good one and for fans of the top billed actors, well worth a look.