Sunday, 23 August 2015

A Prize Of Arms (1962)

A Prize of Arms is a rollicking good heist movie co-written by future director Nic Roeg that keeps you gripped with its constant tense atmosphere and has you willing the trio of crooks - Stanley Baker, Tom Bell and Helmut Schmid - on, hoping they'll get away with their audacious plans.

Set a few years earlier in 1956, A Prize of Arms stars Stanley Baker stars as Turpin, a bitter ex-army officer with a dishonourable discharge to his name following some black-market activities in Hamburg just after the war. Determined to put his military experiences to use to exact some revenge, he masterminds the intricate robbery of the paymasters safe inside an Army barracks on the eve of the regiment's embarkation to Suez, enlisting former comrade Swavek, a Polish explosives expert played by Schmid and Fenner, a young mechanic played by Tom Bell.

The trio infiltrate the barracks for the day posing as drivers then, as night falls, they set fire to the pay office and rob the £1m payroll before making good their escape by tagging on to the end of the troop's convoy. That is the plan, and it almost works perfectly were it not for Fenner being attached to cookhouse duty and Swavek suffering a bad reaction to an inoculation. 

This is a cracking, well-paced crime drama from director Cliff Owen who keeps the tension levels high throughout and delivers an authentic depiction of both the crime and the military. The three leads are very strong and there's a plethora of familiar faces along the way too including Patrick Magee as a barking, moustachioed RSM, Michael Ripper as an MO and Stephen Lewis, who died this month, as a redcap.

This nail-biter is an underrated and overlooked 60s heist movie that I thoroughly recommend catching.

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