Combustible Celluloid
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With: Guy Madison, Kim Novak, Brian Keith, Alvy Moore, Kerwin Mathews, William Conrad, Jack Dimond, Jean Willes
Written by: John Barnwell, William Bowers, Stirling Silliphant, based on a novel by Jack Finney
Directed by: Phil Karlson
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 84
Date: 06/10/1955

5 Against the House (1955)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Keen-o in Reno

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The name Phil Karlson almost guarantees a sturdy little film noir, and that is the case with 5 Against the House (1955). The film' strongest suit is the friendship between its four college buddies, and their comical banter that serves as kind of shorthand to their bond. Roy (Alvy Moore) is the short, nerdy one, the one with the quickest quips. Ronnie (Kerwin Mathews) has great ambitions. Brick (Brian Keith) is the big, sturdy meathead, who served in Korea and occasionally suffers from violent episodes. Al (Guy Madison) is the sensible one, and Brick's closest friend (they served together). Al has fallen for the gorgeous singer Kay (Kim Novak), and wants to get married, which will break up the group. But Ronnie has a great idea, a foolproof plan to knock over a Reno casino and get away with it. It's foolproof except for the fact that Al has to be tricked into going along, and except for the fact that Brick can no longer be counted on for sanity. Karlson saves the actual heist until the end, and it's a bit of a letdown next to the excellent character byplay. Even Novak gets an actual character; she's hesitant to settle down with this one joker since she has been dating college boys for years. It's a bit hard to believe that Brick's insanity could lead to an act so coldly calculated, but the picture holds together on the basis of its strong characters and Karlson's tight direction. It was based on a novel by Jack Finney, who also wrote "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

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