Sunday, May 26, 2024



There have been a number of films titled THE SQUEEZE. This one is an Italian-German co-production, made in 1978 and filmed mostly in America. The movie was directed by the prolific Antonio Margheriti, under his pen name Anthony M. Dawson. 

Lee Van Cleef plays Chris Gretchko, an expert safe cracker who has retired and now lives in seclusion on a ranch in Mexico. The son of one of Chris' former partners, a young man named Jeff (Edward Albert), tracks him down and convinces him to take part in one last score. The job consists of robbing a safe full of diamonds located in a New York City warehouse. Chris has suspicions about the deal, and has Jeff set up a place for him to hide out in for a few weeks. Chris also convinces Jeff to get himself arrested for a minor crime in order to be safe in jail while the heist is going on. The heist goes wrong, and while Chris gets away with the diamonds, he's shot in the leg. Chris makes it to the prepared hideout, but he learns once again that when it comes to the criminal lifestyle, absolutely no one can be trusted. 

THE SQUEEZE (which also has several other titles) has a number of plot elements familiar to anyone who has seen plenty of movies and TV shows. Lee Van Cleef is the grizzled, veteran con who has the smarts and know-how to recognize and stay out of trouble, while his younger partner/friend is more emotional and hotheaded. Despite all the precautions and pre-planning, the heist goes badly. (Has there ever been a heist movie where the job goes perfectly, and there are no repercussions??) Van Cleef is an independent con who has his own sense of honor, and he winds up dealing with major criminals who are far more dangerous and deadly than he is. These well-known elements are presented efficiently, but there's nothing really notable about them. 

As a matter of fact, for most of the running time I thought this movie was a bit underwhelming--that is, until the climax, which throws up a couple of double-crosses that I was totally unprepared for. The ending redeems the movie from being a slow-moving but predictable crime drama. 

Lee Van Cleef gets a great role as the no-nonsense Chris. He's backed by a better-than-usual cast for this type of feature, with Edward Albert, Lionel Stander as an old buddy of Chris', Robert Alda as a police inspector, and Karen Black, who makes a major impact in the second half of the film as the kooky woman living next door to Chris' apartment hideout. 

THE SQUEEZE was mostly filmed at New York City and New Jersey locations, and the types of sites used are not the ones familiar to viewers of 1970s productions. The story also takes place in the middle of winter, and because of the weather and the locations THE SQUEEZE has a grittier, more realistic look and tone. The only major action sequence is after the heist, where a car runs into a train causing explosions that ignite a nearby oil facility. (It appears that Antonio Margheriti used stock footage from other films to make this sequence even more explosive.) 

The best thing about THE SQUEEZE is the last part of it, but Lee Van Cleef makes the entire film watchable. One thing you can take from THE SQUEEZE is that sometimes it pays to stick with a movie that you might find not all that impressive. 

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