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Tagline: You wouldn't call it a gang. Just Danny Ocean and his 11 pals - the night they blew all the lights in Las Vegas!...

Pizza: Little Toni's

Preshow Entertainment: None


Los Angeles has some eateries that people swear by, like hot dog landmark Pink's, where at any hour of the day and night lines snake down the block. The truth is, Pink's makes a good doggie, but it ain't the king of the pack. Not even close. People have an innate desire to attach themselves to both history and tradition, even though they weren't there for either. And that's how I feel about the Rat Pack movie OCEAN'S 11 (1960). It's all about the time period and the personalities, because if you stripped those away, you're left with a truly terrible hot dog.

It's not just that the plot is ridiculous, it's that the movie itself is, well, not really a movie. No drama, suspense, action, romance or even humor. It's two hours and change of people talking and nothing happening, which is a no-no since this is meant to be a caper movie. Confounding me more than anything...how can a Rat Pack movie be so swaggerless?


Frank Sinatra, Sr. plays Danny Ocean. Good thing his name wasn't Danny Mandelbaum, or we'd be watching a movie called MANDELBAUM'S 11. Danny's a wiseass WWII vet who, a la the Blues Brothers, is bringing the band back together again, this time for a heist...a heist that any living organism right down to a cell on a cuticle of a schnauzer would realize is impossible to pull off. At best, it's an insane notion. Not only that, but their sliver of a plan, which would require years of prep, is to be executed in the next few days. Maybe their stint in the army has left them with Post Dramatic Stress Syndrome (Rimshot!). The plan is to rob five casinos...in one night...at midnight...on New Year's Eve...all in 10 minutes. But while the players casually yap about this heist, we realize we're the ones being robbed. Why? Because they're cocky and bratty and spoiled, and...they are criminals. Now I'm all for rooting for criminals (Go Leon, Luke, Butch and Clyde!), but there needs to be something about them to like, or at the very least, understand. All we know about these guys is that they're entitled idiots. It's my least favorite type of person in the real world as well as movies, so why would I want to watch them get away with a theft?

There's so much margin for error in nearly everything they do, like sneaking into the back rooms of all five casinos to rewire their alarm systems, but they never address any of that. They're betting against the house, and you know what that means. And again, these guys are dopes. Case in point; while the whole city is looking for them, they decide to smuggle money out in a coffin. So to keep their plan a secret, they call it...Operation Pinebox. They might as well have called it Operation We Are The Thieves And The Money Is In The Coffin.

Okay, I'll stop getting mad about being insulted by O11's plotless plot. Now I'll move on to this; where the hell is the entertainment in this movie? What's that you say? It's the Rat Pack and they can make any movie they want and get away with it? No one will care? Well I care. And just like their screen characters, they can rob anyone they want and get away with it. So now I'm calling them out on it, easy for me to do now that they're all dead, I suppose.


The rest of the Rat Pack is on board. Sammy Davis, Jr. plays garbageman Josh, who, on a break, manages to sing to his fellow workers (EE-O-LEVIN, one of the only highlights of the film). Peter Lawford is Jimmy Foster, still living off the money of millionaire mommy. Joey Bishop plays Mushy Connors...I'm not sure what his story is. Dino gets to sing AIN'T THAT A KICK IN THE HEAD after somehow getting a job as a singer at a casino on New Year's Eve (I guess they had no one booked for New Year's Eve). Others get jobs as porters, collecting ashes from ashtrays. Ya know...it's not that easy to get these jobs the day before New Year's. Sadly, what could have been a smart and fun caper movie is nothing more than an Elvis movie. And it's top-heavy beyond belief. It's nearly one hour into O11 before they ever mention what the plan is.

So they knock out a power line which will black out the casinos for a full ten minutes (that's enough time, right?). All I kept thinking of is that when Sinatra died, they blacked out the strip in his honor for ten minutes, and how cool it would have been for someone to have robbed some casinos during that honorary blackout. Anyway...

But can they be stopped? Or caught? Even with the police setting up a city-wide dragnet? And ex-gangster/current fiance to Jimmy Foster's mom Duke Santos' (Cesar Romero) promise to the casinos that he'd get their money back?


Also included in this great cast is Angie Dickinson as Danny's wife (backstory that doesn't quite help the film at all). There are also some great cameos, like George Raft as a casino owner and the great Red Skelton (one of two cast members who go by "Red," vibe man Norvo being the second) who plays himself. Shirley MacLaine shows up during a quick break on THE APARTMENT to do a few minutes of screen time. It's said Jack Warner gave her a car for that.


I did love the way the various casinos' names and logos were written on the insides of all of the safes as well as on the garbage cans (cans that you'd find on a suburban street rather than a casino's maintenance area, you know, the kind Top Cat and Oscar hung out in). But the love of a couple of garbage cans doesn't a good movie make. I mean, the film didn't really kick in until maybe an hour and forty five minutes. And we only laughed once all night - when reporter Don Murphy (Tom Middleton) came on sporting his hipster beard. We all lost it.

There are those who love O11. I'm sure Tarantino's a fan (see above). Many love the O. Henry ending, which I saw as a rip-off of Kubrick's THE KILLING, released four years earlier. Others just like the time period and the Vegas travelogue, an argument that seems thin, as there are documentaries on old Vegas that have much better footage.

Like their characters (once again), the Rat Pack were often spoiled brats who used Vegas as their sandbox. Yet somehow they're now romanticized. This is not to say they weren't talented. They all had amazing amounts of talent. Sinatra? Sammy? Wow. Man, I even love Joey Bishop. So it's weird for me. I love the Rat Pack, yet I hate the Rat Pack. But getting back to them being babies; it's widely known that the only reason they made this movie was so they could hang out with each other, drink, chase women and make a lot of money. They had the power to do so, but if that's your reason to make a movie, you're in danger of making a bad movie. Cases in point, when a scene was taking too long, Sinatra actually tore pages out of the script. He was also notorious (though not exclusive to O11) for doing just one take. Add to this that all of them were doing two shows a night (for under $6, you got to see them in a small room...and that came with dinner!) at the Sands. They'd get off work at 2am and be shooting by 3am. Then they'd gamble, drink and play around. Okay, okay, I guess I'm just jealous.

O11 was directed by Lewis Milestone (ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT), who had to concede on creativity more than once just to keep the kids happy. But who wrote OCEAN'S 11? Well, that depends on who you ask. Frank Sinatra, Jr. (who actually calls his dad "Sinatra") says it was a book (untrue). Others say a gas station attendant gave the script to Frank Sinatra when he was getting gas. Others will tell you that Peter Lawford bought the idea for 10K (from either said gas station guy or from producer Gilbert Kay, again, depending on who you ask). But I believe the true story to be that it was a spec written by George Clayton Johnson (Yep...he of the TWILIGHT ZONE scripts) and Jack Golden Russell (sounds like a dog pedigree breed name to me). It was rewritten by others, including (supposedly) Billy Wilder. That breaks my heart. Really, Billy?


One of the highest grossing films of the year, OCEAN'S 11 is more of a testament to who they were and the times they were in. People were becoming looser, less square. The Civil Rights Movement was brewing. Change was in the air. There was an audacity of hope. Camelot was approaching and the Rat Pack was part of it, as Lawford married Kennedy's sister and Sinatra pimped for Kennedy.

So yes, you can tell me that OCEAN'S 11 is an important movie for its time. And you can tell me that it's the Rat Pack and they are ring-a-ding cool cats. And you can tell me it's great to see Vegas in its heyday. I'm with you on all that. But don't you dare tell me OCEAN'S 11 is a good movie. Because it's not. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to Pink's for the best hot dog around.

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