It Takes a Thief (1963)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
as Ma Piper
as Bob Crowther
as Detective Sgt. Gitte...
as Mrs. Rick
as Shop Steward
as Nightclub Pianist
as Dr. Westerly
as School Inspector
as Ticket Collector
as Farm Laborer
as Lorry Driver
as Inspector Willis
as Bertie or Birdie
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Critic Reviews for It Takes a Thief
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Audience Reviews for It Takes a Thief
This is a British movie shot in England. It stars Jayne Mansfield but she doesn't play the usually dumb blond. She starts of the movie as a brunette and then becomes blond latter. She had to go to England to get a real acting role. The story is about a woman who seduces a man played by Anthony Quayle in order to get him to drive a getaway truck in an armored car robbery. He is a widower with an infant son living with his mother. Jayne Mansfield has a gang of tough guys who jump the armored car guards who then throw the bags of gold coins into the get away truck and then drive off in a get away car. Strange that nobody had any guns. Anthony Quayle buries the gold in the country. The next day he is arrested. They never explain how the police new he was involved. He spends the next five years in prison. Later in the movie they say the robbery took place in 1955. I don't know English cars very well but they were old cars in the movie. The only car I recognized was a 1959 Ford. It was the only car in the movie with steering wheel in the right place. The cheap DVD copy I got from the Playboy Catalog is in black and white and is dark and blurry with bad sound. While Anthony Quayle is in prison Jayne Mansfield's gang pulls a series of robberies till she has enough money to buy a London night club. When Anthony Quayle gets out of prison she meets him to find out where he hid the gold. Eventually the gang kidnaps his son to hold as hostage until he produces the gold. When he goes to where he hid the gold there is a ton of explosive chemicals piled up on top of where he buried the gold. When he tries to bribe some union truck drivers to move the chemicals they mug him and blow up the chemicals. He then has to follow the gang members to where they have his son. He has to chase a steam engine train through the country. It's amazing that in 1960 England people were still traveling on steam powered passenger trains. After he rescues his son he finds out from the police that they had found the gold three years earlier and they where using him as bait to catch the rest of the gang. They try to spice up the movie with some strange night club acts that I guess was some kind of strip tease. And Jayne Mansfield tries to sing at the night club too. The ending seems a little contrived with everyone showing up at the same place in the country after chasing a train.
Wait, Did She Start the Movie as a Brunette?
Unfortunately, the copy I have just watched of this movie is terrible. It appears, based on the poster gallery on the disc, to be from KOCH Vision's Skanks of the Silver Screen Collection. All of the women in it are shown wearing as little clothing as they do at any point in the film, probably; Jayne Mansfield, who isn't even in half the movie, is shown wearing her underwear, and I don't even remember that scene. It's almost enough to make me wonder if someone didn't just slip a picture of Bettie Page onto the cover when no one was looking, especially given that she also has black hair in the picture. What's more, while Rotten Tomatoes claims this movie is nearly an hour and a half long, the Netflix envelope gives a time twenty minutes shorter. I don't know if it's that Rotten Tomatoes is wrong, which is always possible, or that for some reason, they cut twenty minutes from the DVD, which I suppose is as well.
At any rate, Jayne Mansfield is Billy, a wanton and criminal. She recruits Jim (Anthony Quayle) to join her and Kristy (Carl Möhner) in a spot of light bank robbery. Jim is a newcomer, but he loves Billy, so he agrees to do what she wants. Unfortunately for him; he is the only one caught, and he ends up spending five years in jail. Upon getting out, all he wants is to be reunited with the son whose well-being was the only reason he agreed to the crime spree in the first place. However, Jim is the only one who knows where the money from the last heist is hidden. The cops are following Jim to see where it is. So is Kristy, who has persuaded Billy to get involved with him over the years. Billy is hoping that Jim will get clear, but she's also afraid of Kristy. Who, indeed, arranges for Jim's son, Joey (Peter Pike), to be kidnapped and says that Joey will be killed if Jim doesn't produce the money. The cops, of course, are no help, because they never are in this kind of movie.
The only reason this movie is even a little worth watching is as a data point in Jayne Mansfield's career. She was twenty-seven at the time. [i]Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?[/i] and [i]The Girl Can't Help It[/i] were both years past, and her career was slipping. She did a dozen movies after this one, but if your next film is a Hercules flick, that doesn't bode well for you. She was already doing public appearances for cash; in just seven years, she would be killed in a car accident with three of her five children in the back seat. She seemed to have believed that flashing her breasts was the best way to get publicity, which seems to me to be kind of a shame; she wasn't a bad actress. Yes, the roles she played were limited, but that is often true of beautiful women no matter how talented they are. There seems to be this belief that you can be beautiful or you can be talented, and of course large breasts must always mean a small brain.
Easily the most confusing part of this movie is that Mansfield's character is called Billy, while her male lover is called Kristy. Of course, there are women called Billy; I had an ex-step-aunt (really) with that name, though I believe she spelled it with an "ie." I'm sure there are also men called Kristy, though for some reason my brain is insisting that it's more Eastern European than low-class British. At least with that spelling, anyway; Christy Brown of [i]My Left Foot[/i] fame does also spring to mind. It's also possible that Kristy wasn't as common a name in 1960, so audiences at the time didn't automatically transpose the names. However, I am left wondering, well, why they didn't. If it's unusual to have a woman named Billy and a man named Kristy, doesn't that distract from the movie? Or maybe they thought the movie wasn't good enough that people would bother thinking of such things. And, heck, maybe most people don't. There are all sorts of possibilities to consider on this one.
However, the movie simply wasn't good enough to hold my entire attention. For one thing, while it may well be billed as a Jayne Mansfield picture, this is almost certainly because she was the most famous person in it. (Anthony Quayle would go on to do other things, and he had been in the Olivier [i]Hamlet[/i], but only as the minor character of Marcellus--so minor, in fact, that even I had to double check which character that is.) She was at the time being loaned out by the studio, because she wasn't much of a box office draw and missed a lot of work from being pregnant. (Her third child, Zoltán Anthony Hargitay, was born around the time this came out.) It's an interesting little almost-noir, and I suppose it holds a place in film history for that as well. However, I do not advise going out of your way to seek this movie out, especially if this transfer is the only copy you can find. It may not be a great movie, but it still deserves a better release than this.
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