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Paramount Home Video presents

Man in the Vault (1956)

"Can a man ever be sure?"- De Camp (James Seay)

Stars: William Campbell, Karen Sharpe, Anita Ekberg
Other Stars: Berry Kroeger, Paul Fix, Mike Mazurki, Robert Keys
Director: Andrew V. McLaglen

MPAA Rating: Not RatedRun Time: 01h:13m:13s
Release Date: 2006-06-06
Genre: film noir

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

Here's a film to test even the most devoted noir fan's love of the genre's style, because style is about all you'll find here—it's an extraordinarily confusing movie, and you'd better choose early on in its brief running time not even to try to keep up on all the extraneous strands of plot. But there's some fun moody stuff in here, and some good use of mid-50s Southern California locations—any movie that features Art Linkletter's La Cienega Lanes with some frequency can't be all bad.

We're thrown in immediately with a bunch of petty hoods—there's all kinds of bad blood between De Camp and Trent, only most recently because the latter and his henchmen are taking an uninvited dip in the former's pool when he returns from out of town. For reasons known principally to him alone, Trent vows to stick it to De Camp, with the proverbial one final score—he's going to find some way to bust into the guy's safe deposit box, where $200,000 in cash is stashed.

So what Trent needs now is a locksmith, and that's where our hero, the goofily named Tommy Dancer, comes in. Trent gets the word that Tommy is the man for the job, and he seeks him out at Linkletter's lanes—we know that Tommy is getting set up for something, but he's a little bit lunkheaded, and goes along initially just for a quick ten bucks. He's lured into Trent's world of tough guys and sexy dames—the most smoking here is unquestionably Anita Ekberg, the boss's goomah, but more to Trent's liking is Betty. She's all Beverly Hills in her mink stole, and when she finds her man swapping spit with Ekberg, she's happy to find a little bit of solace with Tommy.

It all really is kind of preposterous, and there's a fair amount of wooden acting and leaden direction—William Campbell is an agreeable dunce as Tommy, and Karen Sharpe is at least adequate as Betty. There's even a cut-rate torch song, called Let The Chips Fall Where They May, which seems to have been included as a favor to someone, or to pad out the movie's running time. Also, the notion that the guy at the corner who made you a spare key for the lock on the garage has the skills to, in a matter of moments, turn into a world-class cat burglar, only adds to the silliness. But if you throw in the towel early and let the story and style wash over you, you'll have fun watching a bunch of guys in hats talking tough, and the women who love them, the big lugs. This film was produced by Batjac, John Wayne's production company, but even the Duke and his most diehard fans wouldn't argue that this movie adds much to his legacy.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.37:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: A good amount of bacterial decay mars the print, but the transfer isn't a bad one—black levels are reasonably steady, but you'll notice a fair amount of scratches, as well.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Fairly muffled from time to time; part of that is that it's an old mono track, but it's been done no favors here. You'll be glad that English-language subtitles are just a click away.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 9 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring The John Wayne Collection
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Only subtitles, chapter stops, and a trailer for a set of higher-profile titles from Batjac.

Extras Grade: D-

Final Comments

A muddled but spirited throwaway film noir, worth a look for stylistic elements alone.

Jon Danziger 2006-06-06