Kansas City Confidential

Kansas-City-Confidential-1952-1This 1952 film noir/heist flick stars John Payne, Coleen Gray, Preston Foster, Neville Brand, Lee Van Cleef and Jack Elam.

The movie begins with Preston Foster as Tim Foster or “Mr. Big” casing an armoured vehicle, making notes of its regular pickup schedule. He notices that a flower delivery truck always seems to be nearby when it stops at a particular bank.

He cooks up an idea for a heist and needs to recruit a very special gang to carry it out. He needs a group of people who are on the run and people who are looking for a way to get out of the country and fade into the landscape with a comfortable nest egg. In other words, ruthless people with the right motivation.

He assembles his gang from fugitive and gambler Peter Harris (Jack Elam), lounge-lizard Tony Romano (Lee Van Cleef) and gang-banger Boyd Kane (Neville Brand). Foster wears masks while recruiting the men, so that they cannot identify him. Masks would again be used in the actual heist, so the gang members cannot identify each other.

Foster also plans to make the flower truck driver, Joe Rolfe (John Payne) his unknowing fall guy, driving a decoy truck as the real getaway vehicle makes a run for the border.

The heist goes down, and the police do indeed chase down Rolfe in the flower truck. They interrogate him a little too ‘enthusiastically’ and it becomes clear that Rolfe really doesn’t know anything about the heist.

The bank’s insurance company tells Rolfe of a sizeable reward they will offer for the return of the money, and Rolfe decides to hunt down the thieves who framed him and retrieve the money. This is when the movie’s suspense ramps up even more, and the conclusion is, well, let’s just say it’s complicated.

I will leave it to the viewer to watch how the movie plays out. I really enjoyed watching this movie, and I think you will, too.

Kansas City Confidential is considered one of the essential heist movies in the noir genre, and is also cited by directors of the more brutal mob and gang movies that came later as one of the seminal films in the genre. The film features full-on the darker side of life, and plays the Noir elements to the hilt. All of the characters are tragic, from the thieves to the cops who pursue them, and even the fall-guy turned hero.

Kansas-City-Confidential-1952-2John Payne (Joe Rolfe) is best known for his role in Miracle on 34th Street and at 6’4″ is the typical Hollywood “tall dark and handsome” leading man.

Coleen Gray (Helen Foster) passed away just this week, August 3, 2015 at the age of 92. Probably best known for the 1947 film ‘Kiss of Death’, Gray was a Film Noir favourite and every bit the match for her leading man here.

Preston Foster (Tim Foster) was a jack of all trades in the arts. Musician, songwriter and actor, he was mostly known for his ‘manly man’ roles in the ’30sand ’40s.

Neville Brand (Boyd Kane) repeatedly played gangster Al Capone in movies and on television, but his best known role was likely in Stalag 17. He came by his “tough guy” image honestly, being a highly decorated American war hero.

Lee Van Cleef (Tony Romano) became best known for his character acting in spaghetti westerns, but that was later on in his career. This was only Van Cleef’s third movie, but he still cut an imposing figure as a villain.

Jack Elam  (Peter Harris) became known for his character acting for his later roles. His characteristic lazy eye and scruffy appearance made him a popular casting choice as a villain but his roles varied from a couple of parts on the Lone Ranger TV series to Dr. Nikolas Van Helsing in the Cannonball Run movies.

You can watch or download the film for FREE at the Internet Archive.

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