Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

ARMORED CAR ROBBERY. RKO Radio Pictures, 1950. Charles McGraw, Adele Jergens, William Talman, Douglas Fowley, Steve Brodie, Don McGuire, Don Haggerty. Director: Richard Fleischer.

   Armored Car Robbery is a heist film/film noir directed by Richard Fleischer (Fantastic Voyage, The Vikings). Filmed on location in Los Angeles, the film stars Charles McGraw (The Narrow Margin, Spartacus) as Lt. Jim Cordell. He’s tasked with tracking down a gang of four criminals responsible for a fatal armored car robbery. While the film’s acting isn’t particularly memorable, it benefits considerably from a solid plot, believable criminal characters, and its postwar Los Angeles setting.

   William Talman (Perry Mason) portrays Dave Purvis, a greedy and ruthless piece of work who isn’t above murdering anyone who gets in his way. Early in the film, Purvis convinces the down on his luck Benny McBride (Douglas Fowley) to join him in an armored car job. McBride is still very much in love with his burlesque dancer wife, Yvonne LeDoux (Adele Jergens). Problem is: she’s not in love with him. In fact, she’s carrying on a dalliance with Purvis.

   Purvis and McBride, along with two other men, Al Mapes (Steve Brodie) and William “Ace” Foster (Gene Evans) hold up an armored car outside Los Angeles’s Wrigley Field, a baseball stadium. Of course, things don’t go as planned. The timing of the operation is off and the cops arrive on the scene too soon. Lt. Cordell’s partner is killed and McBride is wounded.

   The four ill-fated criminals flee the scene by automobile, driving past the Los Angeles oil fields and toward the harbor. Tensions between the men reach a boiling point. Funny thing: newly, and illicitly, acquired cash seems to do that to a certain class of criminals. Unsurprisingly, Purvis ends up shooting and killing the already wounded McBride. After all, Purvis not only after McBride’s share of the loot; he’s after his cheating wife.

   Soon after, Lt. Cordell and the police arrive at the harbor and begin their extensive manhunt for the criminals responsible for the heist. For a good portion of the rest of the film, we see Cordell and his new rookie partner in pursuit of an increasingly reckless Purvis. This cat-and-mouse chase culminates in an impressive, tension filled showdown at an airfield where the doomed ringleader forgets to look both ways before he runs across a runway.

   Although it’s a relatively short film, running just over an hour, there’s more than enough action and suspense to keep one engaged throughout the film. The Los Angeles settings are spectacular. From the ballpark to the oil fields, from the harbor near the San Pedro to a motor lodge, one feels transported back in time to 1950 Southern California.

   The weakest part of the film is the dialogue. There just aren’t all that many memorable lines in the film, at least none that will stay with you for any considerable amount of time. But then again, one does not watch movies such as Armored Car Robbery primarily for the acting or for the dialogue.

   In conclusion, though, Armored Car Robbery is a real gem. If you haven’t seen it already, it’s definitely worth consideration. If you’ve seen it long ago, it’s worth a second look. It’s definitely a lesser-known film, but it’s one that stands up to the test of time. Armored Car Robbery may not be a classic, but it’s still a perfectly good heist film and one of Fleischer’s earlier works that doesn’t get nearly as much appreciation as it deserves.