RogerBW's Blog

Ocean's Eleven (1960) 02 March 2019

1960 crime/drama film, dir. Lewis Milestone, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin; IMDb / allmovie. Old war buddies from the 82nd Airborne get together again, to rob five Las Vegas casinos in one night.

To a modern viewer like me who doesn't spend a lot of time watching films of the fifties and sixties, there's an odd lacuna as each character is introduced, which is clearly meant to be filled by the viewer saying "oh, wow, it's (Frank|Dean|Sammy|etc.)" and hoping they do some musical numbers (some of them do, but briefly). I get the impression they're mostly playing stage personas that would already be familiar to the audience, as characterisation is often thin; but even so there are various wives and ex-wives and such like hanging about, and there's some attempt to explain why these basically good people would turn to crime (a combination of missing the excitement of the war and a civilian world that has no place for them). Mostly, though, this is about eleven men who, having been through hell together, now trust each other absolutely, and no outsider can come close.

And of course this is the 1950s version of Las Vegas as its friends wished to present it, wholesome family entertainment and not a mention of the Mafia. Which means that there's no hissable villain; when the casino bosses get together after the robbery, they talk about insurance and minimising their losses, not about concrete overshoes.

The focus is definitely on the cast joshing around (indeed, most of the lines in the group scenes were improvised), not on the heist itself; there's a Cunning Plan, but it's been put together by someone who's not doing it himself (Akim Tamiroff as a stock comic-relief cowardly guy), and there's never any sense that anything's going wrong or needing improvisation.

As with many films from before the 1980s when focus-groups became supreme, these film-makers aren't afraid to have a downbeat ending; in the original script, according to Sinatra's son, they all got away on a plane and died in a crash. This isn't quite as grim as that, but it's certainly not suggesting that crime pays.

Cesar Romero has a splendid scenery-chewing role as the retired real gangster who can take on these amateurs with one hand behind his back, but in the end this is a Rat Pack film first and a heist film very much second. It's amusing, if a little slow by modern standards, but very rarely tense or dramatic.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2022 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1