Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Time Table (1956)

Is there such a thing as the perfect crime? Dozens, if not hundreds of movies have been made about people who thought they had found the plan for the perfect crime. 1956's film noir 'Time Table' is one such movie and it hits all the right spots, and we can thank Mark Stevens for that. Not only did Mark Stevens play the lead role in this movie, this movie was also directed by him and was made by his own production company, Mark Stevens Productions. Quite the busy man here! He didn't do everything however, Abel Kandel wrote the script for the movie, based on a story by Robert Angus, Charles Van Enger did the cinematography and Walter Scharf wrote the musical score.

The movie starts off with a  pretty clever heist. In this case a robbery executed on a moving train. Somebody feigns illness on a night train, a doctor who just happens to be on the train checks up on him and finds the patient has a contagious disease, so he orders the train car to be quarantined and the train to make an unscheduled stop at the next station to take the patient to a hospital. He also needs to get his medical bag from the baggage car. But his 'medical' tools consist of a gun, some syringes with a sedative to sedate the baggage car crew with and high-end explosives to blow the car's safe. The doctor, the patient and the patient's wife then drive off in an ambulance waiting at the platform, taking $500,000 taken from the safe with them. Because it's a night train, the robbery isn't discovered until the next scheduled stop a few hours later, and the robbers have of course vanished into thin air by then.

The railroad insurance agency is naturally keen to solve the robbery and retrieve the money. So they put their best man on the job, Charlie Norman (Mark Stevens), much to the chagrin of his wife Ruth (Marianne Stewart), as they were about to go on a vacation to Mexico. Norman's teamed up with his good friend Joe Armstrong (King Calder), who is a railroad detective. But the twist of this movie is that Norman already knows all about the robbery, as he is the mastermind behind it! But as always, there is no such thing as a perfect crime. And at no point in the movie is this made clearer than when Norman is leaning against a wall with a pictureframe mounted on it warning him: 'There is no such thing as a Perfect Crime'. You should've known better, Charlie Norman! Norman is having an affair with Linda Bruckner (Felicia Farr), who posed as the patient's wife. She's also the wife of Paul Bruckner (Wesley Addy), the doctor in the heist. Bruckner lost his license to practice due to drinking problems as well as an insurance claims scam he tried to pull a few years earlier, one which Norman investigated. The original plan for the 3 robbers was to escape to Mexico and meet up there with Norman, who was supposed to be on vacation there with his wife. But during the escape the 'patient' accidentally dies, messing with their plans and forcing them into hiding. Meanwhile Norman has to make sure Armstrong isn't getting any closer to solving the crime...

Mark Stevens liked keeping busy it seems, not just on this movie. He directed himself in a couple more movies including another noir, 1954's 'Cry Vengeance', and was also the producer on a TV show called 'Big Town', in which he also starred. And he was quite a talented and versatile actor. He played tough, hard-boiled men like in 'Time Table' as well as having singing roles in musicals such as 1947's 'I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now' (in that sense he reminds me of Dick Powell, except Powell was an A-list actor, Stevens wasn't). I have to say, he plays pretty well here and his directing is pretty spot-on as well, the movie moves along at a nice pace without really dull or rushed moments. He plays Norman well and you can see him becoming more and more stressed and agitated while trying to maintain his composure, as Norman's 'perfect' plan starts to fall apart.

Wesley Addy is another highlight of this movie in the role of Dr. Bruckner. Good performance and his natural charm and acting ability make him a credible doctor at the start of the movie, a calculating and precise robber during the heist and a drunk who's got no pride left and doesn't even care anymore about Norman's affair with his wife, and he is believable throughout the entire movie.

As mentioned, the movie moves along nicely, it is never breaking any new ground in any shape or form, but it is most certainly entertaining. It has some snappy dialogue, and overall good performances from the actors. Nobody will mistake this movie for a classic film noir, but it will most certainly please any film noir fan.

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