Wednesday, March 23, 2022
Five To One (1963)
This one is a heist movie. Not a spectacular heist movie (not on a low Merton Park budget), but a clever one. Larry Hart (Lee Montague) runs a betting shop. It’s a lucrative business and he does a bit of money laundering on the side. Alan Roper (John Thaw) makes an arrangement with him. Roper is going to pull off a robbery which will net sixty thousand pounds. Hart will give him twelve thousand pounds in clean money in exchange for the sixty thousand in hot money. That’s a five-to-one ratio which is the going rate, hence the film’s title.
These elements are the components of a single plan which Alan has cooked up. It’s an elaborate plan but something goes wrong. Alan decides that that’s no problem. He comes up with an even more elaborate variation on the original scheme, a variation which is based not just on meticulous preparation but also on psychology. The victim will set himself up to be robbed.
It’s a clever scheme but it’s extraordinarily over-complicated. Alan just assumes that because he’s so clever everything will naturally go according to plan. Of course we know that it won’t. What’s impressive about this movie is that the things that go wrong really do make sense, rather than just being plot devices. They’re the natural consequences of a plan that is too elaborate for its own good. There is one piece of bad luck but mostly the setbacks to Alan’s plan are things he should have anticipated.
Roger Marshall wrote the script. He want on to have a great career in television, most notably as the creator of the best-ever British private eye series, Public Eye. It’s no surprise that his script for Five To One is so well thought out and that it has some nice touches of irony.
Solo for Sparrow.
John Thaw also had a very distinguished career in television, most famously as the star of The Sweeney. Remarkably he was just twenty-one when he made Five To One but you can still see glimpses of his future acting brilliance. He wasn’t there yet, but there are glimpses. The other cast members, as is the case for most of these Edgar Wallace movies, are very solid.
Five To One has a nifty plot and it’s generally a successful and very well-made crime thriller that doesn’t suffer at all from its low budget. There’s plenty of entertainment value here and this film is highly recommended.
Seriously, if you’re a fan of crime B-movies or of British crime films and you haven’t checked out the Merton Park Edgar Wallace films you should so. And the DVD sets are great value for money.