Stanley Baker stars in a tense and dramatic Brit-crime thriller from director Cliff Owen. Odeon R2 DVD.
trio of small-fry career criminals, lead by Turpin (Stanley Baker)
decide to go for a big payoff, stealing the payroll from an army base,
destined for soldiers overseas. With a crisis emerging in the
Middle-East the military is in chaos and lots of movements are going on
- the gang disguise themselves as transport corps and drive into the
base, their plan meticulously organised, but soon things start to go
wrong and Turpin has to desperately try and keep them together if they
are to make it out with the loot...
Co-scripted by future director Nicolas Roeg, A Prize of Arms
takes a pretty standard heist story and makes it into some very
impressive cinema. We do not waste any time before the start - a short
sequence during the credits shows the team preparing the night before
and then discussing the job - within 15 minutes it has all begun. By
focusing entirely on the three characters for these opening sequences
we genuinely care about them by the time the job starts, helping to
give the film a real layer of tension throughout. The trio avoid the
usual clichés and are presented as just being three normal men who have
found civvy street not to their satisfaction - none of them are pros,
none are psychotic killers, none are trying to be honest men.
full extent of their plan is slowly revealed as the film progresses and
it is clear that the characters have planned every detail - as expected
though, things go wrong and the film really builds the tension as the
trio try and recover without being exposed. There is a lot of bad luck
and even more good luck, but it always remains realistic and plausible
and there are none of the jumps in logic that ruin many other
thrillers. Once the heist has taken place we are introduced to a
variety of army characters in an effective way - the script never tries
to make them characters but instead lets us see how the investigation
is progressing and again helps to avoid any potential plot holes.
The pacing is on the relatively slow side but the film certainly never
drags and it climaxes superbly - although as seems to have been common
at the time, the very ending is a little sudden.
Cliff Owen was more at home on the television screen but manages to do
some solid work here - he is aided by being allowed to film on what at
least appears to be a real army base and with a budget for plenty of
extras and military equipment that helps to give the film a very
realistic look. Although black and white photography was on the way out
in the early 1960s it is used well and really fits with the generally
grim tone of the film - fortunately, although much of the film is shot
at night, there is no day-for-night photography and no dodgy optical
effects in the driving scenes. Composer Robert Sharples gives an
unusual mute trumpet soundtrack, rather remniscent of the Film Noir days but one that suits the film well.
Stanley Baker was one of the biggest names in British cinema at the start of the decade and Prize of Arms makes
a perfect vehicle for his tough, realist talents and he gives a
typically strong performance throughout. His partners in crime are the
little known German actor Helmut Schmid and Tom Bell who had previously
appeared alongside Baker in Criminal
(1960) - they both give convincing performances. A number of familiar
faces appear in the army ranks, most notably Patrick Magee and Michael
Ripper. All of the military roles are played with conviction and help
the authenticity greatly.
pretty typical heist story gets a uniquely strong and realistic script,
the director keeps it authentic and gritty, while Stanley Baker gives
another superb performance and is well aided by the rest of the cast. A
real gem for fans of Brit-crime, heist films and Stanley Baker -
Anyone famous in it?
Stanley Baker - the very tough Welshborn star of dark Brit-crime Criminal (1960) and Hell is a City (1960) Patrick Magee - a versatile Irish born character actor who also appeared in Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1975)
Directed by anyone interesting?
Cliff Owen - a little known British director who was responsible for the Peter Sellers comedy crime film The Wrong Arm of the Law (1963) and Hammer's rather unimpressive Vengeance of She (1968)
Who else was involved?
The script was co-written by Nicolas Roeg, the future director of Don't Look Now (1973)
Who is it for?
Fans of Brit-crime, heist movies and Stanley Baker will certainly enjoy this.
Cropped ratio - 1.33:1 fullscreen. Black and White. The
print quality is acceptable and always watchable. There is some fading,
often quite noticable in the nighttime scenes and minor damage
throughout. The opening credits are approximately 1.78:1 which would
seem to be the Original Aspect Ratio - cropping is quite noticable
throughout the film.
English mono. Sounds fine.
The disc includes trailers for Odeon's Comedy, Thriller, Mystery and Northern Comedy boxsets.
A booklet is included with three pages of notes about the film and cast.
Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
None known. The print is English language
A solid and realistic crime film, boosted by strong direction and acting. Recommended.
print is not
perfect and the fullscreen cropping is quite noticable but importantly
the film is always watchable and miles better than a PD print or
the VHS transfers that were the only way to see this film before.