Crashout (1955)

Crashout (1955) is a prison break gang-on-the-run rebel romance home invasion film noir from when the prison break gang-on-the-run rebel romance home invasion film noir was at its most popular as a style.

The breakout gang bossed over by the man with the knowledge of the stash in Crashout, the wounded William Bendix starts with six members — no need to guess how many there are at the end.

The gang is a sharp slice of actors of the film noir style, playing thug-jawed mooks and hardened cons, one with psychotic tendencies, and one who is the golden hearted con, in stir for the murder he didn't mean to commit — an Arthur Kennedy of a con — and ready to fall in love.

The gang cross multiple different terrains, each one an arena of its own surviving on the road to the suitcase of loot — each one a prison. First there is the cave in which they live for several days and then the desert — before a tense barroom hostage segment and then on to a moving train with all its noir attractions — a home invasion segment — down on the farm and falling in love — and for an additional bonus a snowy mountain setting, reminiscent of some of the great movies in snowy mountain noir style, most notably Storm Fear (1955) and Nightfall (1956) 

Police manhunt in Crashout (1955)

The gang are:

Later in the drama the gang meet a farm woman (Beverly Michaels), a kidnapped doctor (Percy Helton) and a young woman on a train (Gloria Talbott).

Marshall Thompson in Crashout (1955)

The most enjoyable film noirs are sometimes the ones that cram everything in. While there is psychology and geography and murder at play, along with the murder of innocent cops and desperate hostage scenes, as well as the ubiquity of the prison movie at the start — it's a forty five second prison movie — but watching the amount of men left in the gang count down from six to zero is a game in and of itself.

Prison break movies during the classic film noir cycle tended towards pessimism and summary justice, futile battles with rough terrain and bloodhounds, gunshot wounds, and road-blocks, with few if any of the escapees left standing. 

William Bendix in Crashout (1955)

Crashout is true to the style and profiles a motley crew of lifers with nothing left to lose, led by a brutally efficient con who has some serious loot hidden away.  Crashout fits the bill with interesting twists. Directed with muscle by Lewis R. Foster, who had a hand in the screenplay, and lensed up by noir veteran Russell Metty, the scenario plays out in brutally violent chapters, as each man falls never to get up again, with only one left alive when the story ends during a blizzard atop a mountain.

William Talman and William Bendix in Crashout (1955)

Crashout is a kind of men-together noir, an item of buddies-who-hate-each-other on-the-run movie, where opposites attract and gritted teeth and snarls are the styles of conversation.

The 1950s were a cold and clear watershed in American life as technology and prosperity ushered the culture in one direction while the mushroom cloud of 1945 still hung uneasily in the air, reminding everyone that the world had changed and that innocence had been forfeited in World War II, replaced with knowledge and scientific progress.

William Talman in Crashout (1955)

The 1940s were remote and a part of another era, more similar to the 1930s in mood than the 1950s, and Hollywood was beginning to see the effects of television. The watershed year was 1946, a year when movie theatre attendances reached an all-time high. Technological change in the film industry was as swift and unremitting as it was in every other sphere.

The 1950s brought television, CinemaScope, single-strip colour film, and although films continued to be produced along the old lines, things were changing. 

Crashout (1955) is not a prison escape movie in the normal style and tells a different kind of story, although on the surface all is as it should be.  We don't see the planning for the escape nor do we even see much of the escape itself. The theme in this film noir is purely vital to the noir experience — being out of place and out of time.

None of the convicts in Crashout (1955) belong in the world they traverse, giving a faint science fiction kind of atmosphere to the proceedings, only insofar as these men might as well be underwater for all the troubles they face moving through the real world, the world out with their prison cells. Out here, everything is a danger, and every person is an alien. Everything can and will unfold, and nothing is safe.

William Talman in Crashout (1955)

Hiding in a cave becomes a bizarre nightmare and a perilous trek across a desert leaves them exposed to each other and the possibility of discovery. The momentary respite of first a roadhosue and then a train, and finally a farmhouse — all are broken by the need to keep moving and the fact that covers are blown almost immediately.

In one sense this is also an early stab at something that was to become most popular in the 1960s — the Hollywood men on a mission movie. There are surprise moments which shock if looked at in the cold, such as when one of the men holds a broken bottle right up against a civilian's eye. 

Gloria Talbott in Crashout (1955)

Directed by Lewis R. Foster, Crashout begins with a violent prison revolt beneath the opening credits, some of it put together from footage borrowed from Don Siegel’s Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954) —  crowds of angry men suffer machine-gun fire from the guard towers and rush the prison walls, and a few get over the top and run for cover. Foster singles out six of the escapees with individual close-ups, labelling each with the name of the actor who plays him.

William Bendix is the leader of the pack singles out six of the escapees with individual close-ups, labelling each with the name of the actor who plays him. leads a chaotic prison break that leaves him with a bullet in his chest, a bunch of dead guards and inmates in his wake, and a crew of bickersome convicts to keep in line as they make their way toward freedom and a stash of hidden loot.

Gloria Talbott in Crashout (1955)

Convict Van Duff engineers a large-scale prison break; the six survivors hide out in a forgotten mine working near the prison, then set out on a long, dangerous journey by foot, car, train and truck to retrieve Duff’s bank loot. En route, as they touch the lives of “regular folks,” each has his own rendezvous with destiny.

Beverley Michaels in Crashout (1955)

Crashout lacks in complex plotting it makes up for in macho dynamics and as much brutality as censors and audiences would let you get away with in 1955. Despite some inevitable pulled punches, writer/director Lewis R. Foster (who won an Oscar for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington!) keeps things more frankly violent and cynical than most films of its era. Hostages get offed, wavering allies get knifed, and redemption gets mostly tossed to the curb. Bendix is chillingly believable as the coldly clear-eyed brains of the operation, with strong support from a slate of top-flight character actors, especially William Talman as a killer only slightly less unsettling than his titular role in The Hitch-Hiker.

"Takes all kinds to make a world, especially suckers."

Crashout is structured around names and lists: a later sequence reintroduces the characters with a montage of their individual wanted posters, and as each escapee is brought to earth in turn, the wanted posters reappear, with the word “deceased” stamped across them. The film becomes a grim game of Six Little Indians, as each of the characters is systematically eliminated — film noir fatalism at its starkest.

William Talman in Crashout (1955)

This might be an all-in classic film noir on the run caper with an edge, were it not for the pastoral romantic segments during the late-film in which the gang hides out at single mother Beverly Michaels' farm. Michaels is brilliant but the macho energy dissipates as she, Arthur Kennedy and the film's inherent tensions unwind as she starts to bond with the nice-guy convict played by Arthur Kennedy.

Heavy on grit and lacking in sentimentality for most of its journey, Crashout (1955)  has a companion 1955 gritty and grimy men-on-the-run movie called Yellowneck.

Crashout is a production which is a part of an unassumingly ambitious strain of film noir in the 1950s, most of which was highly if quietly accomplished. The prolific existence of these films contributes in an underpinning and firmly foundational way to the great and unique stature of golden age American cinema. These films were not overlooked precisely in their day, but more taken for granted, or at least taken in the stride of the public viewing programme, and now able to return and offer a lot in terms of our understanding of the cinema as a huge social force at the time.

Arthur Kennedy in Crashout (1955)

The men escape from prison, but only to go into many further confining spaces such as an abandoned mine, a roadside café where they hold the patrons hostage, a crowded passenger train passing on its regular business through the California night. 

It’s on the train that Grant Thompson’s character, a murderer serving a life sentence, gets a glimpse of a possible alternate life in the form of Gloria Talbott who is returning to her hometown after failing in her studies at a music conservatory. 

Impulsively, he decides to leave the scene with her and gets off the train but as the group's determined and super-gritty leader, William Bendix won’t allow this. This leads to a railyard sequence that is stark in the darkness and stark in its silence.

The cinematographer Russell Metty contributes some intense, pore close-ups and there is strong suggestion that black-listed writer-director Cy Endfield (later to be famous for Zulu) contributed to the film, through Hal E. Chester, an old friend and business associate, who had worked on the production of The Underworld Story (1950).

It could also be said that overall, Crashout (1955) ships with the determined hard-line inflexible intransigent obstinate spirit of Ida Lupino, whose production company, The Filmakers, handled the film’s first release. 

Crashout (1955) at

Crashout (1955)

Directed by Lewis R. Foster
Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Thriller, Escape Film  |   Release Date - Mar 1, 1955 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 88 min.  |   Countries - United States
Crashout (1955) at Wikipedia

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