InsidePulse DVD Review – Man In The Vault

image courtesy of

Andrew V. McLaglen

William Campbell….Tommy Dancer
Karen Sharpe….Betty Turner
Anita Ekberg….Flo Randle
Berry Kroger….Willis Trent
Paul Fix….Herbie
James Seay….Paul De Camp
Mike Mazurki….Louie
Robert Keys….Earl Farraday
Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez….Pedro

Paramount Home Entertainment/Batjac presents Man In The Vault. Screenplay by Burt Kennedy. Running time: 72 minutes. Unrated. Theatrical release 1956. DVD released June 6, 2006.

The Movie
Tommy Dancer, a locksmith, thinks he’s having an innocent night flinging the ball at Art Linkletter’s bowling alley. Between frames he encounters Willis Trent. The strange man offers up bets on Tommy’s rolls. It becomes a profitable night for Tommy. There’s even more money when Trent hires him to open up an old footlocker. Tommy pops it open without any issues. But Trent isn’t done with his services. Turns out the footlocker was a test to bring Tommy into a criminal plot that invoves breaking into a safety deposit box. Tommy’s not interested in busting the locksmith code. But like all gritty crime flicks, there’s a woman that makes him rethink his straight living way. Tommy falls hard for Betty Turner, a simple girl who has got herself tangled up with the mobsters. And it’s hard to keep a woman happy on a key grinder’s wages. What will he do? And what will be done to him if he doesn’t do what Trent expects from him?

The first half of the film looks like it should have been something released by Something Weird Video. There’s a roughie quality in the blocking and camera angles. As the movie goes on, the production matures. By the time we get to a chase scene in the bowling alley, it’s almost a whole different movie on the screen in terms of filmmaking craft. Seeing how the film was produced by John Wayne’s production company, maybe the Duke showed up after the first few batches of dailies to give a little pep talk to the pilgrims. It also doesn’t hurt that the second half of the film also picks up storywise as we delve into the sexual connections between all the players that are screwing each other in this silent bank job.

What makes this movie essential viewing for me is Anita Ekberg. For those who became enraptured by the Danish beauty as she danced through the fountain in La Dolce Vita, it’s fun to see her in a normal film. She’s an intoxicating blonde that flirts with any goon with a handful of brass knuckles. The film also stars Mike Mazurki, the world’s most famous goon. If you look up his resume, you’ll see that he was cinematic muscle from 1934’s Belle of the Nineties to Dick Tracy in 1990. Mazurki intimidated movie heroes for over half a century.

This film is a spin off of John Wayne’s The High And the Mighty. Director McLagen was the Assistant Director on High. Cinematographer Wiilliam Clothier was the aerial photographer. Campbell, Fix, Keys, Sharpe and Gonzalez Gonzalez acted in both films. Although the price of the plane in the first feature probably equaled the budget in Man in the Vault. This is a gritty low to the bone crime flick that’s features a lot of real Los Angeles landmarks including the Hollywood Bowl. I’ve been told that the bank that holds the safety deposit box is now the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum on Hollywood Blvd. I’m not sure what became of Art Linkletter’s bowling alley.

Man in the Vault gets better as it goes on. I was about to give it up for dead after 10 minutes, but it turned itself around. It’s hard to consider this a Film Noir since the story has a John Wayne approved ending. It’s worth a rental if you’re on a binge of black and white crime flicks.

The DVD:

The Video:
The film is Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1

The Audio:
This film is presented in English Dolby Digital mono. English subtitles.

Special Features:

InsidePulse’s Ratings for Man In The Vault
(OUT OF 10)