Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
United Kingdom, 1960. Allied Film Makers. Screenplay by Bryan Forbes, based on the novel by John Boland. Cinematography by Arthur Ibbetson. Produced by Michael Relph. Music by Philip Green. Production Design by Peter Proud. Costume Design by Joan Ellacott. Film Editing by John D. Guthridge.
Seven different men receive an anonymous package in the mail, which includes within it a copy of a cheap paperback novel, a bank note cut in half and a letter telling them to attend a luncheon at which they will earn the other half of the bill. When they are assembled, they learn from the ex-military official who has gathered them together (Jack Hawkins) that they have been summoned for a reason and for a purpose: they are all ex-military men who left the army in disgrace (theft, sexual misconduct, etc) and have been gathered up to pull off a bank robbery that is made viable thanks to their training and the book they were sent. This leads to a richly enjoyable ensemble film that easily joins the ranks of the best heist movies out there, not as funny as The Lavender Hill Mob but not dark and sinister like Rififi either. A marvelous cast, a wry screenplay by Bryan Forbes (who also appears on screen, just prior to his own terrific career as filmmaker) and some surprisingly ripe references to the various gay characters on screen make for a nostalgic film that also feels, thanks to the marvelous direction, quite modern.