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5 Against the House (1955)

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5 Against the House (1955)

Postby moira finnie » January 6th, 2013, 3:46 pm

5 Against the House (1955), one of director Phil Karlson's small, noirish gems, is being broadcast on TCM on Wed. Jan. 9th at 4am (ET) along with several other heist flicks.

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Based on a story by the gifted writer Jack Finney (The Body Snatchers, Time and Again), the film was adapted by Stirling Sillipant, John Barnwell and the legendary Bill Bowers (who was probably responsible for some of the sharply amusing remarks that pop up). The story concerns four young men who are attending college and getting restless. They are a bit old for college and understandably antsy after their experiences in the Korean War in various branches of the service. A weekend road trip to the then relatively small city of Reno to gamble and blow off steam turns into something else.
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The young men on this road trip are Guy Madison, a decade after Since You Went Away and still the handsome lad with an air of a lucky amateur pushed into the leading role in his high school play because the costume fit; the brooding and fascinating Brian Keith; the bright, wealthy Kerwin Mathews whose character seems devious yet likable and fatally naive, convinced of his own invincibility; and the companionable Alvy Moore, whose name may not ring a bell, but believe me, if you know the fifties on film, Alvy's buzz cut and his wiseguy mannerisms are all too familiar. William Conrad plays a casino employee with his customary dash of saltiness and resignation (See Cry, Danger later this month on TCM for another fine turn by Conrad).

The sharp eye for detail by Karlson (with certain scenes reminding me of the best moments in Kansas City Confidential) and the black and white cinematography of Lester White give this film an interesting look. It is not a perfect film, but it is quite memorable for the tightening pace as it draws to a close, engaging a viewer--even if we know that most heist films are about audacious endeavors and human frailty, not success.

Some reasons to watch:

Kim Novak, plays a singer with a husky vibrato and oozes screen presence. This film was made just after Pushover (1954), her great intro as a dangerous gal to love opposite Fred MacMurray as a troubled cop, and before her strong work in Middle of the Night, Bell, Book and Candle, Vertigo, etc. I like her world weariness in this role tossing off comments like "I've been dating college boys all my life" and it is fascinating to see what was a conscious studio effort to build her up as an iconic figure, beginning with her first appearance in silhouette.

Brian Keith, as a quietly troubled man whose response to a different environment and pressures brings out his darker nature in unexpected ways. Keith, who spent quite a few years appearing in interesting B movies before his breakthrough role in The Parent Trap confined him to family friendly fare, was a much better actor than many films and television shows deserved. He should have had a much bigger film career if talent was the only measure and he dominates the screen effortlessly in every scene.

The technical audacity displayed by Karlson in his depiction of the setup of the heist concocted by the quartet at a casino, encompassing security, a garage mechanism, and the front and back of the house activities probably influenced every film from Milestone's Ocean's Eleven to Scorsese's Casino and beyond. Much of the film is simply a leadup to this conclusion, but the shifting nature of fate, the enormous pressure on men to succeed, the nature of friendship are all tangled up with the pursuit of loot as well.
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Re: 5 Against the House (1955)

Postby Rita Hayworth » January 6th, 2013, 4:02 pm

This looks like a great movie to watch ... I'm definitely watching this movie on Wednesday Morning ... I'm a night owl by design. Thanks for sharing this Moira.

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Re: 5 Against the House (1955)

Postby RedRiver » January 6th, 2013, 4:52 pm

I saw this interesting crime story for the first time a couple of years ago. It's baffling that Guy Madison didn't have a more impressive career. Hell, I'm a man. Even I think he's gorgeous!

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Re: 5 Against the House (1955)

Postby Western Guy » January 6th, 2013, 7:50 pm

I like this film but somehow, for me, it just misses the mark. I do agree, however, that Brian Keith does a great job in a somewhat complex role.

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Re: 5 Against the House (1955)

Postby ChiO » January 7th, 2013, 6:50 am

One of Karlson's four films of '55. I'd put it at No. 2 of the year after THE PHENIX CITY STORY. But Karlson, to me, is always worth watching for a quick, taut story that will sometimes hit Noir gold, and 5 AGAINST THE HOUSE does find some gold.
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Re: 5 Against the House (1955)

Postby Rita Hayworth » January 9th, 2013, 3:13 pm

My first impression of
5 Against the House (1955)


To me, it is a poor man's version of "Ocean Eleven" and I was a little disappointed of this movie for not showcasing Kim Novak because her role in this movie was rather small for the female lead in this movie. I watched this movie with an open mind and I for one ... felt that four college guys had too much of a role in this movie ... and the rest including Novak weren't. To me, I know it is a film noir in more ways in one but it was an average one but had good drama built into it. To me, the best actor in this movie was Brian Keith and his performance as Brick was outstanding. William Conrad and Kerwin Mathews were marginal at best ... but did a good job anyway.

I like the backdrop of Reno and the filmography of this film and give you a feel what was Reno was like in the fifties of which I truly enjoyed seeing. The Casino was very realistic and they pay a lot of attention to details and so forth.

The first 30-40 minutes of this film was not as good as the last 30-40 minutes of this film. To me, this 84 minute film should been cut down to 74 minutes and that would been better. I was surprised how fast the film was in the last 15-20 minutes of it and that was the best part of the movie. It was like Night and Day ... First Half Bad, not good ... Second Half Good, and powerfully good.

I would give this movie 2.5 stars out of 5 ... for seeing it for the very 1st time.

SPECIAL NOTES
If I were to go back in 1955 and I was an honorary director and/or producer ... I would make Henry Cohn to add 10 more minutes to the film to showcase KIM NOVAK more in this movie ... but they failed to do that. This disappointed me a lot ... and its bothers me. If they did that and did it good ... I would give this movie a 3 star rating instead.

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Re: 5 Against the House (1955)

Postby Jacqueline T. Lynch » January 11th, 2013, 2:15 pm

Interesting film. Note scene where Guy Madison enters Kim Novak’s dressing room, and we see him in the doorway, framed under her leg in the foreground, a provocative shot that pre-dates the famous Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman shot in “The Graduate” (1967) by 12 years. I wonder if this is where they got the idea?
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Re: 5 Against the House (1955)

Postby Rita Hayworth » January 11th, 2013, 5:09 pm

Good Observation ... I did see that and I can see what you are thinking about Jacqueline! Thanks for sharing that.

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Re: 5 Against the House (1955)

Postby movieman1957 » April 23rd, 2013, 9:01 pm

I'm more with "Western Guy" on this one. After "99 River Street" and "Kansas City Confidential" I noticed his name. I thought it a bit slow at the beginning. Everyone is such a smart guy. They all try and out do each other with being cute that I started to get a little bothered by it. It takes a bit for the characters to come out but they become distinctive and more interesting as they get to the meat of the story, which incidentally doesn't really start up until about the 50 minute mark.

Though they got into this because they were bored they all seemed to go along with the idea a little too easily. Even with Al finding out late no one thought it would be too big a problem. Matthews character thought it would be oh so easy and then you just give the money back and go home. No big deal.

The actual process of the heist at first seems a bit silly. You don't get a lot of details until they are there and you get to watch it happen but it plays better than it sounds. It's a decent drama but I don't think it comes as close as I would like to the other films I mentioned.

For someone my age once I got past the idea of watching a TV Nirvana with Uncle Bill, Mr. Kimball and Cannon (yeah, I know they are much more than that) it settles into a decent film. Fine job especially by Keith. And yes that was a nice framing of Madison with Novak's leg. A nice leg helps.
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Re: 5 Against the House (1955)

Postby RedRiver » April 24th, 2013, 4:48 pm

a TV Nirvana with Uncle Bill, Mr. Kimball and Cannon

Let's not forget young Madison as Wild Bill Hickock!

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Re: 5 Against the House (1955)

Postby movieman1957 » April 24th, 2013, 8:54 pm

I thought of that but Madison's time as Hickock was over just as I was learning to walk. I guess Novak was the only one that didn't have much TV.
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Re: 5 Against the House (1955)

Postby RedRiver » April 25th, 2013, 1:22 pm

I was a tiny little cowpoke at that time too. All I remember is Andy Devine as Jingles!

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Re: 5 Against the House (1955)

Postby Rita Hayworth » April 26th, 2013, 11:52 am

movieman1957 wrote: I guess Novak was the only one that didn't have much TV.


As I recall, Kim Novak (kind of) regretted that she did not get into Television during her acting career. I wished she did ... I wonder that all the time and what you written here made me think twice about it. I think she would had made a wonderful actress in the world of prime-time television.

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Re: 5 Against the House (1955)

Postby RedRiver » April 27th, 2013, 5:08 pm

There was a sequel to this movie with Mister Ed. FIVE AGAINST THE HORSE!


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