The Big Caper (1957) or “How to Screw Up a Sure Thing”
Rory Calhoun (1922-1999) was a busy man; his acting credits are impressive. Why? Is it the sleazy bedroom eyes, the over-pomaded hair, or the bad-boy air he often exuded? Calhoun was adept at playing the good guys in westerns and the bad guys in film noir, and he was seen all over TV. A former boxer, lumberjack, truck driver, and cowpuncher, he was nearly over-virile, which may have been his appeal.
Recently released for the MGM Limited Edition Collection (DVD/MOD), The Big Caper is not a film about a mutated salad ingredient. It’s a film-noirish, standard heist flick that serves as a how-not-to lesson on bank robbery. Rory Calhoun stars as down-on-his-luck gangster Frank Harper who has found the perfect bank to rob, but he needs his big boss, the ever-smooth Flood (James Gregory), to work out the details and contact the right people. Reluctant at first, since robbing banks is not his gig (he’s into bunko), Flood relents when Harper explains the easy million they will share. Flood then assembles a crackerjack team that includes a veteran safecracker; Zimmer, a demolitions man (Robert Harris); Roy, a body builder (Corey Allen); Harry (Paul Picerni) whose specialty has something to do with interrupting electrical power; Flood’s girlfriend Kay (Mary Costa); and Harper.
We’ve been conditioned to believe that crime bosses don’t get to be in that position by being morons, so--as viewers--we expect that Flood is going to devise a genius plan for this relatively simple caper. His first mistake: Harper and Kay, posing as a married couple, buy a gas station (with $100 down) a big house, and assimilate for four months. This results in Kay’s desire to give up the night clubs, diamonds, and furs that are benefits of her association with Flood, and settle down in a small town as a happily married hausfrau. Can you guess with whom she wants to settle?
Flood’s second mistake: the rest of the robbery crew. The veteran safecracker was a solid choice; he doesn’t want a percentage of the take and a lot of involvement, he wants 15K and to just go in, blow the safe, and be done with it. After the safecracker, the crew is a little shaky at best.Continued on the next page