Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Anderson Tapes

I love caper films. If you have read my earlier blogs this comes as no surprise. I have previously reviewed 'The Taking of Pelham One Two Three', 'Thunderbolt and Lightfoot', 'Charlie Varrick' and others. Director Sidney Lumet turns master crime writer Lawrence Sander's novel into a fast-paced caper film extraordinaire. Sean Connery stars as 'Duke Anderson'. Just released after 10 years in prison, Anderson decides to rob an entire upscale apartment building. He brings in a crew of specialists that is headed by Martin Balsam and Christopher Walken. Balsam is an antiques expert that scouts the apartments for paintings, jewels and other valuables. Walken, in his film debut, is a pal of Connery's from prison who works with phone lines and other electronics. Anderson uses various contacts to plan and orchestrate this robbery deluxe.

Little does he know that almost every action he takes is being taped. Either the IRS, FBI, CIA or other government agency is following many of the people with whom he meets. These are the tapes referenced in the title. Even his long-lost girlfriend, played by the very attractive Dyan Cannon, is being watched. Since there are many parties to such a robbery it is complex and time-consuming. Can the crew pull off such a mighty feat of crime? Will one or more of the agencies taping Anderson realize what is going on and prevent the robbery?

Sander's novel and the screenplay by Frank Pierson provide many unique twists and turns. I can not think of another caper film that has the feel of The Anderson Tapes. Lumet's direction, as always, is first-rate. He moves the setting of the film back and forth from pre-to-post robbery throughout. This makes it both easier and more difficult to predict the outcome. I found it to be a master stroke of direction. But it is the always attention-grabbing Sean Connery that carries the film. He is likable enough to root for the criminals, but dark enough to be believable. Balsam is also good. His slightly over-the-top portrayal of the antiques dealer is quite endearing. And Walken shows some of the brilliance that we will see later in his long career.

Whether it is for the intelligent caper, the fine script and direction or the terrific cast, The Anderson Tapes should keep you entertained. There is also the Quincy Jones soundtrack. It is an intriguing combination of early disco with electronic music. Everyone either loves it or hates it. Personally, I think it's great.

Filmed in 1971, directed by Sidney Lumet, written by Frank Pierson, starring Sean Connery, Martin Balsam, Christopher Walken, Dyan Cannon and Alan King. For all the Saturday Night Live fans, look for original cast member Garrett Morris as one of the police officers.

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