Saturday, July 23, 2022

Jackpot (1960)

Jackpot is a British crime movie cheapie from 1960. It’s not a particularly good movie but there are two reasons to watch it, which I’ll get to later.

Carl Stock (George Mikell) is a young German who served a prison sentence and was then deported from Britain. Now he’s back in London illegally and he sees himself as a man on a mission. Sam Hare (Eddie Byrne) owes him money. Carl intends to get that money. They pulled off a robbery together and Carl took the fall for it on the understanding there’d be plenty of money waiting for him when he got out of prison.

Carl also intends to get his wife back.

Unfortunately for Carl Sam Hare is now a big time operator. Sam has no intention of giving Carl a penny.

And Carl’s wife Kay (Betty McDowall) is now a successful model and she doesn’t have the slightest intention of going back to hm.

But Carl just can’t see any of this. As far as he’s concerned he’s entitled to the money so Sam will just have to pay up. And Kay is his wife so she’ll just have to take him back.

When it becomes obvious that Sam isn’t going to pay up voluntarily Carl decides to steal the money. There’s plenty of money in the safe in the Jackpot night-club (one of Sam’s business ventures). Carl decides he’ll persuade Lenny Lane (Michael Ripper) to crack the safe for him. Lenny is as hopeless as Carl. He’s gone straight and he’s doing OK and he has a moderately successful cafe but Carl talks him into the hare-brained scheme.

As you would expect, Carl and Lenny manage to make a total mess of the robbery.

They not only have the police closing in on them, they have Sam Hare’s goons after them as well. It took Sam about thirty seconds to work out that Carl was the one who robbed his safe but it never occurred to Carl that Sam would figure this out. And it never occurred to Carl that the police would very quickly latch onto him as the prime suspect.

Crooks just don’t come any dumber than Carl. He’s bungled everything he’s ever done. He’s a loser. Everyone knows he’s a loser. Everyone but Carl. Carl thinks he’s going to be a success. He’s never actually managed to come up with a workable plan for becoming a success. He thinks that because he wants it to happen it will happen.

Montgomery Tully was usually at the very least a competent director (and sometimes a pretty good one). He doesn’t really shine here. I suspect that he was shooting on an incredibly tight schedule (this is clearly a very very low-budget movie) with no time to do anything except make sure the camera was in focus. Visually this movie is pretty basic.

It’s a movie that has perhaps a very very slight noir flavour. There’s certainly a feeling of inevitable doom. This would have been more successful had Carl been made a slightly more interesting slightly more sympathetic character. But as it stands he’s just too dumb to make us care about him. And George Mikell’s performance is just too one-note.

But as I said earlier there are two reasons to watch this movie. The first is William Hartnell’s delightful performance as Superintendent Frawley. He’s wonderful. The second is Michael Ripper as the hapless Lenny. Michael Ripper is best remembered for his many appearances in Hammer horror movies. In Jackpot he gets a meatier rôle and he’s terrific.

The problem is the pedestrian script. It’s creaky and it’s sorely lacking in unexpected twists. It’s just not a terribly interesting script.

This is one of the ten movies in the Renown Pictures Crime Collection Volume 2 DVD boxed set. It’s an uneven set but it does include a couple of neglected gems such as The Third Alibi (1961) and Impulse (1954). The transfer for Jackpot is watchable but it’s not great and there’s quite a bit of print damage.

Jackpot is a very routine crime melodrama. If you buy the boxed set (and you should buy it) then it’s worth giving this movie a spin if you’re a fan of Hartnell or Ripper.

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