I Died a Thousand Times (1955)

I Died a Thousand Times (1955)

Synopsis:

A notorious ex-con, Roy “Mad Dog” Earl (Jack Palance, Shane and City Slickers), wants to do one last job before retiring for good. Earl comes up with a plan to rob a Casino & Hotel. It seems like a fool-proof plan, but Earl doesn’t count on the ineptitude of his inexperienced motley crew. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong and Earl tries to stay one step ahead of the cops.

Reaction & Thoughts:

The invention of widescreen gave many studios an excuse to recycle old material. The new aspect ratio made the old look new again. This is a remake of Raoul Walsh’s 1941 classic High Sierra (with Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino), shot in widescreen and color by Ted D. McCord (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre). Despite a few good performances, the cinematography is the true star of the film.

Directed by Stuart Heisler (Tulsa and The Star), I Died a Thousand Times is an enjoyable but flawed crime drama. First, it’s too long. The first half is particularly slow and uninteresting. Too much time is spent setting things up. The film does pick up speed in the second half — the climax is very good.

Jack Palance is great if a tad young for the role of an aging criminal. Bogie was about the same age as Palance when he played Earl, but they did grey his hair. It’s not a big deal. Palance is one of the most intimidating-looking actors so I had no problem embracing his characterization. He succeeds in creating a multi-dimensional character — the actor allows you to see the human side of a dangerous and vicious man.

Shelley Winters’s (A Place in the Sun) gun-moll is not very convincing, though. She has no chemistry with Palance either. Pre-stardom Lee Marvin (The Dirty Dozen) is nearly as good as Palance — he always played a great baddie. Lon Chaney Jr. (The Wolfman) has some good scenes as a dying kingpin. You do get to see future stars Robert Davalos (East of Eden), Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider) and Nick Adams (No Time for Sergeants) in tiny roles. Mae Clarke (Frankenstein) has a cameo.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

I Died a Thousand Times is an entertaining movie, but the original was much, much better (the 1949 western Colorado Territory is also based in part, apparently, on the 1941 Bogie movie). Not essential, but good nevertheless. Color, 107 minutes, Not Rated.

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