HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

It's a familiar story: aging crook gets idea for the perfect score that'll set him up for life, then puts together a crew composed of the wrong guys and it all threatens to blow up in their faces. 

In the 1959 noir thriller ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW (Olive Films), Ed Begley, Sr. is the old, broken-down ex-cop with dollar signs in his eyes.  The guys he never should've invited onto the same team are a struggling young black man (Harry Belafonte) who owes a loan shark big-time, and an ex-convict (Robert Ryan) with a serious anger management problem and an even more serious hatred of blacks.

But Begley won't be put off--his simple plan for knocking over a smalltown bank after closing time on payday is just too "foolproof"--and he eventually coaxes the unwilling odd couple into joining up. 

Harry, a divorced father who loves his little girl (he gains our sympathy when we see them having a fun Daddy-Daughter Day together) must act when that powerful loan shark threatens both her and his ex-wife. 

Ryan, on the other hand, wrecks what sympathy we might have for him with his race hatred and general hostility, yet we feel sorry for his needy girlfriend Lorry (an excellent Shelley Winters) whose desperate love and financial support keep him afloat even as he cheats on her with the hotsy-totsy married woman upstairs (Gloria Grahame in fine form).

Director Robert Wise (WEST SIDE STORY, THE SAND PEBBLES, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE) works wonders with his low budget in establishing a somber, reflective, sometimes ominous mood (he often pulls back the pace to let us drink in the atmospheric visuals and noirish ambience), with stark black-and-white photography that's crisply, achingly evocative. Both gritty urban and folksy small town milieus are equally well-rendered. 

We want to linger on such things early on because the intimate scenes are so well acted and written, and because the story deftly and gradually builds its suspense without rushing things toward what we know will be a devastating climax. 

There's even a long, pregnant lull before the bank job during which the ill-fated trio wait for sundown while quietly pondering what's in store for them, each in his own deeply contemplative way, as Wise indulges his keen eye for moody visual storytelling.

Performances are uniformly flawless--I was reminded just how solid an actor Ed Begley was, with equal honors going to top-billed Harry Belafonte and, in a real tough-guy role, the venerable Robert Ryan.  All play complex and conflicted characters, as do Winters and Grahame. 

Look for bit parts by young up-and-coming actors such as Wayne Rogers ("M*A*S*H"), Cicely Tyson, Zohra Lampert, Mel Stewart ("All in the Family"), and Richard Bright ("Al Neri" in all three GODFATHER films) as an effeminate muscle man for loan shark Bacco (Will Kuluva). 
The film's finale lives up to its meticulous build-up in ways that are both expected and surprising.  Director and writers handle it in consistently interesting ways, right up until a final irony that's startlingly apropos. 

Without undue sensationalism, ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW tells its tragic tale with a kind of sordid elegance and leaves us sad but satiated. 

Buy it from Olive Films

Rated: NR (not rated)
subtitles: English (optional)
Video: 1.85:1 aspect ratio; b&w
Runtime: 96 minutes
Extras: none


No comments: