Larceny, Inc. Reviews
Between the Christmas season, Pressure's scheming daughter Denny (Jane Wyman) and competing safecracker Leo Dexter (a young Anthony Quinn), the guys are feeling the pinch. Woody Allen (consciously or not) lifted the premise wholesale for his 2000 film "Small Time Crooks".
It's all as broad as a barn and maybe a little too long - even for 95 minutes. But there's loads of funny quips (doubtless from Laura & S.J. Perelman's play) and great character moments. Keep your eyes peeled for Jackie Gleason stealing scenes as a soda jerk!
The source of all comedy is incongruity and "Larceny, Inc." has the incongruity. J. Chalmers 'Pressure' Maxwell (Edward G. Robinson of "The Hatchet Man") is the brains of his outfit. Jug Martin (Broderick Crawford of "Beau Geste") is his muscle. They get out of prison at the outset of the action and 'Pressure' talks the warden out of suit of clothes so he will look good. Pressure plans to rob a bank. He buys a luggage store near the bank and Martin digs a hole in the cellar so that they can break into the bank vault on the other side of the masonry. The humor that grows out of this situation is that Pressure makes a lot of dough selling luggage. In fact, he helps his fellow entrepreneurs who are having trouble with a contractor. The street in front of their respective businesses is being torn up and the contractor is dragging his heels on the project. Pressure steps in and persuades the contractor to complete the project. Presto, the contractor finishes the job and everybody celebrates Pressure's triumph. Meanwhile, Jug has a jack hammer in the basement tearing a huge hole in the floor while Pressure and Weepy Davis (Edward Brophy of "All Through the Night") try to run off customers so they can finish their tunnel to the bank. No longer has Pressure become the toast of the sidewalk than the bank officials pay him a visit and offer to buy his business. At the same time, Jeff Randolph (Jack Carson of "The Male Animal") is a luggage salesman who sells Weepy lots of luggage and he hits it off with Pressure's adopted daughter, Denny Costello (Jane Wyman of "Honeymoon for Three") and they become a couple. Together, Randolph and Costello drum him up more business. Initially, Pressure had planned to rob the bank. Now, he finds that going straight is going to make him more dough than knocking over a bank.
This house of cards collapses when the villainous Leo Dexter (Anthony Quinn of "City for Conquest") breaks out of prison after he learns what Pressure is up to and muscles in on their deal. Pressure had been thinking about letting the bank have the property when Leo shows up with a gun. Years earlier, Robinson would have been the man with a pistol in his fist, but he is the mastermind here. Later, he would reprise this role under different names, but he would play the mastermind of a fabulous robbery as in "Seven Thieves" (1960), "Grand Slam" (1967) and "The Biggest Bundle of Them All" (1968). Lloyd Bacon keeps the action humming in this 95-minute, black & white, mob comedy and the performances are first rate.