Vintage Pulp Jun 10 2024
THE FURIOUS 5
Don't push them 'cause they're close to the edge.


Sizzling is a good word for Kim Novak. In her fourth film, 5 Against the House, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1955, she wasn't quite a star yet, but her backers at Columbia Pictures had tabbed her for the Hollywood firmament. They placed her in this drama about a quartet of men who've spent a few years in the Korean War (Novak makes the 5 of the title but she spent that time on the home front) and are back to finish law school. Distressed by their lack of resources and opportunities, one of them, who's a gambler and dreamer, convinces two of the others they can rob a Reno casino. Guy Madison, top-billed, has no idea what's occurring, at least at first, and Novak plays his girlfriend and has even less of an idea. They figure it out, though, while the group are road-tripping to Nevada. Madison and Novak want out, but both are blackmailed into participating.

The movie has an interesting tone. They guys are all quipsters, and some of their Rat Pack interplay is legitimately funny, but their simmering disaffection eventually comes to the fore as they amp themselves up for the robbery by talking about all they've lost having been sent to war. Most of all, they've lost time. That idea makes narrative sense, but the actors are a little old for the roles. Madison, Alvy Moore, and Brian Keith are all in their mid-thirties. How long did they spend in Korea—a decade? Kerwin Matthews is twenty-nine, which maybe works, but Novak, as Madison's college sweetheart, is in her early twenties. How the hell did that happen? Did he start dating her when she was thirteen? Maybe their ages are minor points, but we noticed, and you will too.

In any case, the guys resent being years behind law students who avoided the war, and figure the country owes them something, even if it's only cash. Later, though, right when it looks like they might get smart and back out, Keith shows that he had a screw knocked loose by combat and manages to force the issue. The subsequent robbery involves fake mustaches and a misdirection play, but it's never the point. The movie is really a sympathy piece for the boys who fought overseas and a mild remark about the psychological cost of warfare. All fine, but—and it pains us to say this about any Novak movie—it's weak, entirely unrealistic, and climactically ludicrous. Ultimately, 5 Against the House is probably only worth seeing for the banter between the fellas, and a gander at captivating Kim. She's hotter than Reno in July. You can bet on it.
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 19
1953—The Rosenbergs Are Executed
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted for conspiracy to commit espionage related to passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet spies, are executed at Sing Sing prison, in New York.
June 18
1928—Earhart Crosses Atlantic Ocean
American aviator Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly in an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean, riding as a passenger in a plane piloted by Wilmer Stutz and maintained by Lou Gordon. Earhart would four years later go on to complete a trans-Atlantic flight as a pilot, leaving from Newfoundland and landing in Ireland, accomplishing the feat solo without a co-pilot or mechanic.
June 17
1939—Eugen Weidmann Is Guillotined
In France, Eugen Weidmann is guillotined in the city of Versailles outside Saint-Pierre Prison for the crime of murder. He is the last person to be publicly beheaded in France, however executions by guillotine continue away from the public until September 10, 1977, when Hamida Djandoubi becomes the last person to receive the grisly punishment.
1972—Watergate Burglars Caught
In Washington, D.C., five White House operatives are arrested for burglarizing the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Hotel. The botched burglary was an attempt by members of the Republican Party to illegally wiretap the opposition. The resulting scandal ultimately leads to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, and also results in the indictment and conviction of several administration officials.
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