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USA 1971
Directed by
Sidney Lumet
98 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Anderson Tapes

This entertaining heist movie has a post-Bond Sean Connery as Duke Anderson, a Limey safe-cracker about to knock over an up-market Manhattan apartment building with his hand-picked team of villains. What he doesn’t know is that his activities are being watched by a raft of legal and illegal snoops who for one reason or another are taping the various goings-on. Not that this seems to make much difference in the final analysis (except for Anderson's hooker girlfriend Dyan Cannon’s jealous sugar daddy) and the various tape machines, cameras and spying devices seem more typical accoutrements of 1970s' Big Brother hypersensitivity, more skilfully evidenced in the following year's, The Conversation, than anything to do with the film’s narrative.

As a career criminal Connery’s Anderson is a kind of manic incompetent. He puts together a team of A-grade amateurs including a gay fence (Martin Balsam in a deliciously unusual role) and a frightened rabbit of an ex-con (Stan Gottlieb) who’s been in jail for the past 40 years and only wants to got back there. Other oddities include a mobster who submits himself to self-analysis and a police captain given to loquacious directives to his obviously long-suffering men, not to mention the opening scene with Connery comparing his criminal activities to sexual penetration.

Director Lumet films proceedings in a straightforward realist style but throws things off-centre by endowing them with a near absurdist undercurrent. Exactly what he was trying to achieve with this approach is not clear but it is fun and it's surprising that no-one has tried to re-make it because it certainly could be more than it is. The décor of some of the apartments is outrageous and the technology is laughably dated (although the police “computer”, the Randomizer, has to be a joke) giving film a very good retro-ranking. If all this is not enough, there’s a funky score by Quincy Jones and Christopher Walken makes his screen debut as a fresh-faced kid.




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