5 Against the House (1955) – Phil Karlson

The stunning Kim Novak joins Guy Madison, Brian Keith, Alvy Moore, and Kerwin Matthews in this noir thriller, 5 Against the House. Once again, this was a film I hadn’t heard of, but rather enjoyed it as I settled in for it.

A group of Korean war vets are getting the most out of the GI Bill, their working on setting goals and future careers for themselves. There’s Brick (Keith), Roy (Moore), Ronnie (Matthews), and Al (Madison), who just happens to be in love with lounge singer, Kay (Novak).

The mid-semester blues hit, and they wonder if they can amount to anything, and want to be the first to do something, even as some of them wrestle with the demons of their past experiences during the war.

After a recent trip to Reno, Ronni begins working on a scheme, a scheme to knock over Harold’s Place, a big casino, for a million dollars. But things aren’t going to go smoothly for these characters, as they transition from a group of fun-loving guys, to a collection of doomed souls, as some darker natures take over.

The thing I liked most about this one, was the way that they set up the characters’ friendships, there’s some wonderful banter, and sense of play between them, or at least one is attempted. There’s some fun dialogue, but sometimes the actors don’t seem as at ease with one another as they should be. You don’t always buy their history together.

But if you accept it, and settle in, it’s very enjoyable.

Brick is the wild card in the group. He’s haunted most by his time in the war, and will occasionally strike out violently, and when he seizes on Ronnie’s plan, the rest can only buckle up, and hope things play out as well as they can.

As things escalate, Ronnie’s plan hijacked by Brick, things get risky for the entire group, but will they be willing to follow Brick through it all, or has he gone too far, and is unable to let his past horrors go.

The film rockets along, filling it’s hour and a half runtime with some fun dialogue, and enjoyable performances, and Novak looking simply stunning, especially in her performance numbers in the club she works in.

The campus stuff is a lot of fun, and like I said the camaraderie suggested by the script, that doesn’t quite come to fruition in the performances makes for some crackling dialogue that have a real sense of friendship and play about them, making the final act of the movie so much more troubling for all of them.

It’s enjoyable, not as strong as it could have been, considering how quickly the studio turned films like these around, but definitely worth a watch.

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