Wednesday, August 19, 2015


I don't know about you, but I find it impossible to resist a movie with such an evocative title as THEY CAME TO ROB LAS VEGAS, a 1968 caper film. And the movie poster, pictured above, only adds to the appeal of this film.

I watched this one for the first time yesterday (recorded off of TCM). About halfway through the film, I realized that the title was incorrect and somewhat misleading. A more accurate and truthful title would be THEY CAME TO ROB AN ARMORED CAR IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT BETWEEN LAS VEGAS AND LOS ANGELES, but I guess that wouldn't fit on the theater marquee.

Gary (2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY) Lockwood, stars as Tony Ferris, a thief who works as a blackjack dealer at the Flamingo hotel in Las Vegas. He and his gang hatch a plan to rob a heavily armored van, outfitted with all of the then state-of-the-art technology, that makes regular runs between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The van is owned by the Skorsky Company, which is headed by Steve Skorsky (Lee J. Cobb). The vehicle is supposed to be impregnable but Tony and his men have devised an ingenious plan to hijack the truck and get the goods.

Trouble is, there's more than just money on board because Skorsky is in bed with "the organization" (aka The Mob) and he uses his super van to transport more than just money. There are bars of gold on board on this run and when the van goes missing, the organization desperately wants its' money back.

To complicate matters even more, Treasury Agent Douglas (Jack Palance, in a rare good guy role), is on the hunt to bust Skorsky and his connections and needs the van and the contraband as evidence to arrest him.

Tony doesn't know about the gold until he finally breaks into the van. But with the mob, the feds and a couple of turncoat members of his outfit on his trail, he's in a race against time to try and get away with the loot and just stay alive. He's aided by Ann Bennett (the lovely Elke Sommer), who works for Skorsky (she's his mistress) and provides Tony with inside information about the van's scheduled routes and security measures.

THEY CAME TO ROB LAS VEGAS was filmed on location in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Spain. Director Antonio Isasi does a good job but the running time of 129 minutes is just a bit too long. The film could benefit from some cuts here and there but that's a minor quibble. Only Lockwood, Sommer, Cobb and Palance speak in their own voices as every other character is either a Spanish or Italian actor speaking in badly dubbed English. It's a essentially a foreign film, even though much of it was shot in the United States.

Aside from the caper plot, THEY CAME is worth watching to see what Vegas looked like in 1968. There are a lot of scenes of downtown's Fremont Street but it's the shots of the strip that are fascinating. In one scene, Lockwood exits the Flamingo at dawn and walks to his vintage Ford Mustang in the parking lot in front of the casino. Across the street is the brand new Caesar's Palace. Now, the Flamingo has grown and morphed it's way right up to the street while Caesar's has undergone multiple expansions adding more towers of rooms, a gigantic casino, a shopping mall and a huge theater.

THEY CAME TO ROB LAS VEGAS is a good little B-movie caper film that's worth seeing at least once if you're a fan of this sub-genre of crime films. Check it out

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