'A Prize Of Arms' is a 1962 crime thriller directed by Cliff Owen, starring Stanley Baker. A taut, taciturn heist film, there's no big build up, no villains pushing toy cars around a map. Instead, three men, who we will learn virtually nothing about, will rob the Army of £100,000 of pay, using a well thought out plan which we do not know in advance. It's an interesting and intriguing take on a familiar set up.
|Baker, left profile.|
The magnificent Stanley Baker plays Turpin, the leader of the men. He used to be a soldier, until he was caught operating a black market Coffee scam in Hamburg with Con (Helmut Schmid), a Pole, and the second member of the group. Turpin was given an immediate dishonourable discharge - no pay off, no pension, no nothing - 'just three holes on each shoulder where the pips used to be'. 'Did you used to be an officer?' says a surprised Fenner (Tom Bell), the third man in the gang, 'I bet you were a right bastard'.
Con is a long time associate and friend of Turpin. Fenner is new to the gang and we find out very little about him other than he carries a hip flask and loses self control very easily under pressure, something of a disadvantage for a career criminal.
The job is to rob the payroll for an Expeditionary Force about to be shipped overseas to deal with one of those international incidents that Britain seems to constantly find itself embroiled in. The gang have the uniforms and the ordnance to slip into the camp where the money is held, and then try not to make themselves conspicuous until the right moment. The Army mentality, which Turpin clearly knows inside out, helps them along - squaddies mind their own business, and are forever being messed about by things they had no prior knowledge of. Paperwork is always wrong, unneccessary work is always being carried out, you're always being interrupted by some bloke you don't know, so the gang are able to make their preparations avoiding suspicion, although not avoiding vaccinations and washing up duty.
|Two determined men, one moaner.|
The camp itself is a fantastic place to spot emerging British talent. Well, let's amend that to emerging British actors, as not all of them are much cop. As well as the splendidly indecipherable Patrick Magee (actually Irish, but we'll claim him), there's also Rodney Bewes, Fulton MacKay, Jack May, Dave out of 'Minder', Haskins out of 'The Sweeney', Geoffrey Palmer, Stanley Meadows, Hammer favourite Michael Ripper and Arthur AND Inspector Blakey out of 'On The Buses'. Marvellous.
|Magee shouts something, not sure what.|
|'I'll get you, Baker!'|
|'Yes, bit of a flap, I'm afraid, some bounders gone orf with all the wages'|
|He's enjoying that.|
|Love Is In The Air? No, Death.|
'if you want something in this world, you just have to go and take it'.
As he finds out, taking it is one thing; keeping it entirely another.