Friday, January 18, 2013


Last night, I watched a movie that had Gert Frobe, gold bars, a bank vault and an ingenious robbery plan in it. And no, I didn't watch GOLDFINGER for the eleventy-seventh time.
The film was $ (DOLLARS), a 1971 caper flick starring Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn. I remember seeing this film on first release at the Fox Theatre on Airport Blvd. I recall going to see the movie with my sister and her husband and their married couple friends. That's right, I was the tag-along little brother. While I remember seeing the film, I recalled practically nothing about it except for the climax which takes place on a frozen lake with Beatty being pursued by a car. So, when this film, unseen by me for forty-two years, showed up on TMC recently, I recorded it and gave it another look.
Filmed entirely on location in Hamburg, Germany, $ was written and directed by Richard Brooks, who gave us such great films as THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, IN COLD BLOOD and THE PROFESSIONALS (one of my all-time favorite "guys-on-a-mission" movie). Beatty stars as the head of security for an international bank in Hamburg. The bank, managed by Gert Frobe, is fully equipped with state-of-the-art security systems and is considered to be 100% robbery proof. Beatty, of course, has figured out an ingenious way to rob the bank.
Using help and information from his prostitute girlfriend (Hawn, in full ditz mode), Beatty plans to steal money from three specific safe deposit boxes, all of which contain "dirty" money deposited there by three different criminal factions: an American mob money man (Robert Webber), a crooked U.S. Army black-marketer (Scott Brady) and a German drug/money courier. Beatty figures if he steals from crooks, they can't go to the police for help.
The plan involves staging a fake bomb threat at the bank during which Beatty winds up locked in the safe deposit vault in order to safeguard one of the bank's signature gold bars. While in the vault, he robs the three boxes and puts all of his ill-gotten gains in another box belonging to Hawn. The next morning, Beatty and Hawn put the contents of the box into a shopping bag and walk out of the bank while the three crooks all open their now empty boxes and discover the thefts. They are not happy.
Brady and the German courier team-up to get Beatty and the final act of the film is comprised of one long running chase across Hamburg and most of Germany. Beatty runs. And runs. And runs. And runs. And....this just in from Reuters: Warren Beatty is still running somewhere in Germany. Of course there's a twist at the end (we all saw that one coming didn't we?).
$ is light-hearted, escapist fare, played as a mix of romantic comedy and crime thriller. Beatty and Hawn are fun to watch and the on-location photography adds to the atmosphere. Director Brooks keeps things moving briskly and handles the intricate robbery scheme and subsequent get-away well. A great film? No. An entertaining one? You bet.

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