Saturday, January 23, 2016
PLUNDER ROAD (1957)
This gripping tale of an elaborate scheme to heist $10 million in gold from a special government train opens with effective graphic title film over the credits as the highway center line weaves back and forth across the screen. The first fifteen minutes will have you glued, what with the driving rain, a meticulous plan and the main character’s inner thoughts as voice-overs. The film is short with little wasted footage. I highly recommend it.
Gene Raymond is the mastermind. He has never pulled off anything like this before. But Raymond is the only one with a college degree, making him highly qualified in the gang's mind. The other four men are from mixed backgrounds, Wayne Morris and Elisha Cook Jr. as the only seasoned criminals. The crooks bring the train to a stop with a series of rail explosions. The engineer and crew are disabled and with a long distance detonation, blow open the car carrying the gold.
Their story then unfolds over 900 miles with Raymond not confident everyone will make it. The gold is divided among three trucks, each going different routes, leaving at precise intervals. The guys patiently wait their departure time just as the viewer has to patiently wait for what comes next. An effective director’s device or not, it works. Transportation buffs will enjoy the realism of location shooting. The single driver, then the duo, eventually get apprehended in toned down fashion compared to the film’s hard hitting opening. It realistically captures how mundane these infallible men can be captured. In a surprise, Raymond’s girlfriend is also in on the heist. She prepared the fake delivery papers and passports for their south of the border rendezvous.
Raymond, his girl and driver make it to Los Angeles and they are feeling pretty smug. In a feat that is a bit hard to believe, they melt down their gold into bumpers and wheel covers to fancy-up their air-suspended Cadillac. The ending is the weak point and a bit laughable. Making a getaway on the LA freeways at rush hour was not as well planned as the train robbery. Then a simple fender bender brings over the police who notice a most unusual Cadillac feature. Solid gold bumpers. This is not going to end well. The three, in typical fashion of the era, run for it. From the overpass, Raymond decides to jump onto an oncoming truck trailer on the highway below. His parkour skills not well polished. What happens next is one of those “whoa” moments. Desperation, thy name in Raymond.