Sunday, August 30, 2015

Win, Place or Steal (1974)



A comedy without laughs that’s also a heist movie without suspense, Win, Place or Steal contains virtually nothing of merit, except perhaps for a soundtrack filled with jovial country tunes performed by actor/singe Tim McIntire, who does not appear on camera. Pity those who do. The charmless trio of Alex Karras, Dean Stockwell, and Russ Tamblyn play losers who steal a betting machine from a racetrack as part of a scheme to manufacture winning tickets after races have already been run. Unfortunately, all three leading characters are repellant. Karras plays a lumbering dolt, Stockwell incarnates a lazy philanderer, and Tamblyn portrays an angry drunk. (Actors Scatman Crothers and Harry Dean Stanton show up in tiny roles, briefly elevating the piss-poor material.) Stockwell and Tamblyn employ think Noo Yawk accents, so when they share scenes—and they share lots of scenes—their self-centered whining is highly abrasive. It doesn’t help that the script, cowritten by the film’s director, Richard Bailey, is crude and witless. At one point, either Stockwell or Tamblyn makes the following remark about Karras’ character: “That Frank is so horny he’d screw the crack of dawn!” Elsewhere in this painful slog of a movie, onetime M*A*S*H actor McLean Stevenson shows up for a cameo as a queeny insurance-company executive. To cut the filmmakers some slack, it’s possible that the currently available versions of Win, Place or Steal—likely derived from an ’80s VHS release—don’t accurately reproduce the way the picture looked during its original release. Therefore, emphasizing the fact that it’s nearly impossible to parse the visuals during the very long nocturnal heist sequence might be unfair. Nonetheless, the audio in this sequence tells the same damning tale as all of the cinematic information tells elsewhere in Win, Place or Steal. The jokes just aren’t there. On the plus side, fans of the leading actors will undoubtedly find the experience of watching Win, Place or Steal more tolerable than others, and McIntire’s numerous songs have a certain rustic appeal.

Win, Place or Steal: LAME

5 comments:

M W Gallaher said...

I realize your blog is focused on the films themselves rather than the marketing, but I'm almost always as fascinated by the posters, reacquainting myself with the trends and techniques of film promotion of the 70's. I just couldn't let this one pass without comment, since I can't remember ever seeing a film poster bragging about who the stars are friends with! Now *that's* desperation!

By Peter Hanson said...

Noticed that, too. Truly amazing. (And not in a good way.) With any luck, I'll find a movie whose poster mentions that the stars merely live in the same neighborhoods as more famous people...

jf said...

Oh boy. That poster hurts.

Entertaining write-up on one obscure flick, Peter.

Gary R. Peterson said...

I remember seeing this on TV back in the early 1980s. What I remember best is a role played by Putter Smith, who played Mr. Kidd in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. I had never seen him in anything else and here he was, looking exactly as he did in the Bond epic.

Jeffila said...

I Worked on this film back in the early 80's! Although no one ever mentions it, this movie is based on a true story. People went to jail in real life over the heist that is portrayed in the film. I knew the real Frank (Karras's character) and Richard Bailey? The film was poorly done and is so dark on video because it was created from a very dark theatrical print because original elements were lost.