5 Against the House (1955)

  |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir


5 Against the House (1955) Poster

Four vets attending college on the GI Bill and a cabaret singer try to rob a Reno Casino and pull off the perfect crime.

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5.9/10
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  • Kim Novak in 5 Against the House (1955)
  • Brian Keith, Kim Novak, Guy Madison, Kerwin Mathews, and Alvy Moore in 5 Against the House (1955)
  • Kim Novak, Kathryn Grant, Guy Madison, and Kerwin Mathews in 5 Against the House (1955)
  • Kim Novak in 5 Against the House (1955)
  • 5 Against the House (1955)
  • Brian Keith, Kim Novak, Guy Madison, Kerwin Mathews, and Alvy Moore in 5 Against the House (1955)

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14 August 2008 | dougdoepke
First Rate "Buddy" Picture
Uneven heist film. Making 30-somethings Madison and Keith into college students is a bit of a stretch. But I guess pairing them with the youthful Moore and Mathews presented a problem that a college dorm room could solve. Screenplay is by the celebrated TV writer Stirling Silliphant who, nonetheless, can't seem to script a line without a wise-guy quip. It's clever, but does get tiresome.

The movie has two things going for it. First is an absolutely superb performance by Brian Keith. Few actors could get more mileage out of a squint and a cigarette than this low-key tough guy. His final descent into battle-shock madness is both persuasive and oddly touching. The entire movie turns on an ability to convey the required changes and he brings them off beautifully. The other plus is the location photography in Reno. It's entertaining to watch the crowds milling around the casinos, circa 1955. How the production crew got the crowds to act so natural, without acknowledging the camera, amounts to a real feat. Also, the parking garage makes for good staging, but apparently is a commercial novelty that never caught on.

At the time, Columbia's head Harry Cohn was promoting Novak into the studio's newest sex goddess. Novak is okay in the role, but unfortunately her scenes with Madison slow down the pacing. Her role here looks like a rather awkward add-on to the main plot. In fact the heart of the film is neither the casino heist nor the Madison-Novak romance. Rather, the emotional center is the solid bond between the two Korean war vets. The chemistry between the two older men strongly portrays the kind of special kinship forged only in combat

Certainly director Phil Karlson knows his way around action movies as proved by his gripping Phenix City Story. I suspect that had he a freer hand here, a leaner, sharper, more coherent movie would have resulted. As it is, the 90 minutes is entertaining, but not front rank. As a heist movie, it's so-so; as a buddy film, it's first rate. (In passing-- Looks like the producers of Oceans 11 {1960} sat through this film more than once.)

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