16 May 2009 | bkoganbing
A Bold And Audacious Caper
The Anderson Tapes occupies a great place in the career of Sean Connery, it is one of the films he likes best in his career. And with good reason, it was the first film for which he both drew good reviews and clicked with the public not playing James Bond. Connery could finally be taken seriously as an actor, not just an international sex symbol.
The film itself draws from elements found in The Asphalt Jungle and The Desperate Hours. There's no planner character in this film, Connery himself is both the planner and enforcer in the crew he's put together for a job. But he does need a backer and that's where organized crime boss Alan King comes in.
Connery is a Duke Anderson, a con just recently released from prison and he's got some attitudes similar to that other Connery character from Family Business has Jesse McMullen. Not surprising since both films were directed by Sidney Lumet. Like McMullen he feels that stealing is the most honorable profession going if you're not a hypocrite since all successful people engage in some kind of crookedness. And since he's done the full ten year bit with no parole and no strings attached to him, there isn't anything that the criminal justice system can do to him.
When he sees how well former girl friend Dyan Cannon is doing as someone's kept woman in a very ritzy apartment on New York's Upper East Side, Connery conceives a plan to take down the whole building. And bit by bit he assembles his crew.
Young Christopher Walken gets his first big screen role of notice as a young convict released with Connery from the joint. Another con released at the same time is Stan Gottlieb who's spent most of his life in stir and is thoroughly institutionalized. With his character, Lumet makes a powerful statement about institutional acclamation, in Gottlieb's case, it's an act of cruelty almost to let him out in society, he knows no other way of life.
Since there's a lot of merchandise to move from these rich folk's apartments, Connery needs someone along who knows the value and how to get the best value when fencing. Martin Balsam who's an antique dealer and fence on the side gets brought in on the job itself. Balsam has one of the earliest post Stonewall portrayals of a gay man and while sadly he does conform to stereotype, still it's a fine piece of work. And he's crushing out on Connery big time.
Alan King makes an unusual condition on Connery. He wants the crew to take along mob hood Val Avery on the job and arrange for his demise on same. Avery is something of a loose cannon, the powers that be want him eliminated without their fingerprints on it. When Avery arrives you can see why he's such a liability. He's an out and out racist and drivers Garrett Morris and Dick Williams would gladly do it for nothing.
Connery and his crew take the entire exclusive apartment building hostage, just like the family in The Desperate Hours. And the film itself has an Asphalt Jungle feel to it, both in the planning stage and in how it all turns out.
The title comes from the fact that several government agencies are actually taping this whole proceeding from many different angles, the FBI, the IRS, Immigration, etc. But since it's all quite illegal, none of them can really step in to put a halt to the criminal enterprise. It's a nice touch, but quite superfluous, the film works beautifully as a straight out caper film.
Sean Connery and the rest of the cast play this thing to perfection. Two of the best performances are from a pair of little old ladies, the shocked Margaret Hamilton and feisty Judith Lowry who just loves being taken hostage and robbed, it's the most excitement she's had in years.
As for Connery he could finally put James Bond to rest, after just one more film. His next role, 007 in Diamonds Are Forever.