Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Bob le flambeur

(Bob the Gambler, France, 1956)

One of the seminal caper movies, like Rififi the previous year. I must say right off that I don’t think I ever encountered a Frenchman named Bob, in all my reading and viewing. Considering they call Robert “roh-BARE,” I don’t see how the diminutive could happen in their language. I assume they’re imitating Americans, which was a hip thing to do in France in the ‘50s. And this is a very hip film. Bob is a middle-aged man that everybody knows, a compulsive gambler, a man who wouldn’t pass up a chance to make a quick franc illegally. In bad need of cash, he comes up with a scheme to rob the casino in Deauville of 800,000,000 francs (knock off about three zeros for the dollar amount). He assembles a crew of eleven—and in fact this film was an inspiration for the Rat Pack Ocean’s Eleven—and they make their plans, rehearse … and naturally, something goes wrong. But it’s a really odd something that makes this no ordinary heist film. You can’t say it breaks all the rules, because at that point there really were no rules. But I’ve always been a huge fan of heist and con films, and this is one of the best that wasn’t actually written by the master, Donald E. Westlake.