The Burglar (1957)

Dir. Paul Wendkos. Nat (Dan Duryea) is the head of a small gang of thieves he refers to as ‘the organisation’, including two nervous loudmouth lookouts, and his adoptive sister, Gladden (Jayne Mansfield). Like many of the best heist films, The Burglar is as interested in the consequences of, as the actual mechanics of the heist. Made before she became a worldwide phenomenon, Jayne Mansfield exudes the undeniable confidence and charm of a future movie star, and she knows it. Some of the most interesting scenes are the interactions between Mansfield and Duryea, and the unsettling mystery around their character’s shadowy father figure and his malign influence on their dysfunctional relationship. The story is based on a novel by David Goodis, best known for another novel, Dark Passage, later made into the 1947 film starring Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart. First time director Paul Wendkos is clearly an Orson Welles fan, with the opening newsreel montage echoing Citizen Kane (1941), and the final act very similar to The Lady from Shanghai (1947). This ambitious visual storytelling is let down slightly by some over the top performances from Nat’s gang members, but the overall experience is satisfying and surprising.

By Nicholas Hudson-Ellis

Co-Founder & Film Programs Manager of Bangkok Screening Room.

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