5 AGAINST THE HOUSE [1955] [Limited Edition] [Blu-ray] [1955 / 2020] [UK Release] They Hit the Jackpot in the World’s Richest Gambling House!

Four college buddies enjoying a night at a Reno casino are told by a cop that robbing the casino “cannot be done.” That gets the brainiest rich kid among them thinking up a plan for the perfect robbery and convinces the others to join in when they hear that it will only be a college hoax, his plan being to let the police know where the money is afterwards. The thing is, one of his friends has a head injury from the war, and has no intention of returning a dime. Please Note: ‘5 AGAINST THE HOUSE’ was actually filmed in Reno, in the U.S. state of Nevada and on the premises of the Harold’s Club, which is the most fabulous richest gambling house in the world!

FILM FACT: ‘5 AGAINST THE HOUSE’ is a 1955 American heist film directed by Phil Karlson and starring Guy Madison, Kim Novak and Brian Keith. The supporting cast includes William Conrad. The screenplay is based on Jack Finney's 1954 novel “5 Against the House,” later serialized by Good Housekeeping magazine. The film centres on a fictional robbery of what was a real Nevada casino, Harold's Club, which is also spelled Harolds Club. It was actually filmed ln Reno, on the premises of Harolds Club, the most fabulous gambling house in the world! Stirling Silliphant optioned the book himself; using money he obtained for selling the rights to his novel “Maracaibo.” Originally the film was to be made at United Artists with Frank Tashlin to direct with Mary Costa to star. Though not her film debut, this was one of Kim Novak's early screen appearances. Kim Novak was among the final group of actors to be signed to a studio contract and recruited through the previous studio system by Columbia Pictures producer Harry Cohn. Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures insisted that they use Kim Novak. “Who cared?” said Stirling Silliphant later. "She couldn't act but the role didn't require a Shakespearean capability, and all she had to do was slink and roll those eyes.”

Cast: Guy Madison, Kim Novak, Brian Keith, Alvy Moore, Kerwin Mathews, William Conrad, Jack Diamond, Jean Willes, Adelle August (uncredited), Thom Carney (uncredited), Bill Catching (uncredited), George Cisar (uncredited), Eddie Constantine (uncredited), Chuck Courtney (uncredited), Frank Gerstle (uncredited), Kathryn Grant (uncredited), Tom Greenway (uncredited), Jo Ann Greer (singing voice) (uncredited), Geraldine Hall (uncredited), Pete Kellett (uncredited), John Larch (uncredited), Jana Mason (uncredited), Don Oreck (uncredited), Robert Sampson (uncredited), Robert F. Simon (uncredited) and Marjorie Stapp (uncredited)

Director: Phil Karlson

Producers: Helen Ainsworth, John Barnwell and Stirling Silliphant

Screenplay: John Barnwell (screenplay), Stirling Silliphant (screenplay), William Bowers (screenplay), Jack Finney (magazine story) and Frank Tashlin (uncredited)

Composer: George Duning

Costume Design: Jean Louis (Gowns)

Cinematography: Lester White, A.S.C. (Director of Photography)

Image Resolution: 1080p (Black and White)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Audio: English: 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio
Audio Description: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio
English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio

Subtitles: English

Running Time: 83 minutes

Region: Region B/2

Number of discs: 1

Studio: Columbia Pictures / Powerhouse Films / INDICATOR

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘5 AGAINST THE HOUSE’ [1955] is a “film noir” crime thriller and is especially suspenseful and inventively written. It is notable as an early example of a filmed heist and depiction of a casino robbery, though a lot of the film is character and situation led, following the hero Al Mercer [Guy Madison] and his love affair with cabaret singer Kay Greylek [Kim Novak] and Al Mercer’s protective relationship with his damaged buddy Brick [Brian Keith], who saved his life in the Korean War.

Kerwin Mathews also stars as brainy rich kid Ronnie, who plans a fool proof “perfect crime” heist by himself and his three other college friends Al Mercer, Brick, Roy [Alvy Moore], as well as Al Mercer’s girlfriend, nightclub cabaret singer Kay Greylek, against Harolds Club aka Harold’s Club casino in Reno, Nevada. Al Mercer and Kay Greylek join in the heist unwittingly, joining the others in a caravan on their way to Reno to get married.

The four friends are enrolled at Midwestern University, which was fictional at the time of the film but became a reality in the mid-1990’s. The University of Nevada, Reno, and the campus stands in for the fictional Midwestern University. Obviously the men seem too old to be college students, but at the time, many former G.I.’s were taking advantage of the G.I. Bill and being allowed to go to college.

Based on the story in the novel “5 Against the House” by Jack Finney, this splendid thriller is tautly and tensely directed by Phil Karlson. Brian Keith gives a standout turn as the psychotic Korean War veteran Brick, and former G.I. member of the gang, suffering from what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Brian Keith moves from charming companion and ladies’ man to violent psycho with convincing ease. Alvy Moore’s comedy relief turn as smart aleck Roy is less involving, but the actor does what was required. Sweaty William Conrad makes a dour noir impression as the casino money guard Eric Berg.

Director Phil Karlson impresses with his Reno casino footage, and his imaginative filming in the studio sets, with eye-catching images and exciting tracking shots. Director Phil Karlson is in full control of the material and the production, making the absolute best of it. There is tremendous use of the multi-level parking lot location, which has a crucial plot role in the film. And there is even a Mrs. Robinson-style seductive shot through Kay Greylek’s leg in her dressing room. Also in the cast are Jack Diamond, Jean Willes, John Zaremba, George Brand, Mark Hanna, Hugh Sanders and Carroll McComas.

‘5 AGAINST THE HOUSE’ is directed by Phil Karlson, runs 84 minutes, is made by Romson Productions, and was released by Columbia Pictures, is written by Sterling Silliphant, William Bowers and John Barnwell, based on the novel by Jack Finney, and shot in wonderful black-and- white by director of photography Leslie White, and is produced by Sterling Silliphant and John Barnwell, and there is a wonderful composed film score is by George Duning.

The film features a fictional robbery of a real Nevada casino, Harold’s Club. The screenplay is based on Jack Finney’s 1954    novel “5 Against the House.” Born in 1926, Kerwin Mathews was by far the youngest of the actors playing the four college buddies. The others were born in 1921 or 1922.

Kim Novak’s singing voice is dubbed by Jo Ann Greer (‘The Life of the Party’ and ‘I Went Out of My Way’). It is the 22-year-old Kim Novak’s fourth film. Kim Novak and Kerwin Mathews were among the last actors signed to a studio contract by Columbia Pictures producer Harry Cohn. Jean Willes is also in ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ [1960], which has a similar plot.

It is the first filmed screenplay for screenwriter Stirling Silliphant, who went on to write or co-write 47 feature films, and won an Academy Award in 1967 for his screenplay for In the ‘Heat of the Night.’ Martin Scorsese is a big fan of ‘Murder by Contract’ but has also has said that his 1995 film Casino was influenced by ‘5 AGAINST THE HOUSE.’

Phil Karlson directed a lot of B movies and this one, ‘5 AGAINST THE HOUSE’ is another one, released in 1955. It's notable for having Kim Novak in it just before she hit real stardom, and she's gorgeous. The other stars are Guy Madison, Brian Keith, Kerwin Mathews, and Alvy Moore. The story concerns Korea War vets in college on the GI bill who become involved in the heist of a Reno casino. It's supposed to be a lark by one of the men, Ronnie [Kerwin Mathews].  Just to see if it could be done; he plans on returning the money. Lark or not, Al Mercer [Guy Madison] opts out, but travels to Reno with his girlfriend Kay Greylek [Kim Novak] and the rest of the guys as he and Kay Greylek are planning   to be married there. However, the psychologically unstable Brick [Brian Keith] decides to do the heist for real and forces his buddy Al to go along with it. Brick saved Al Mercer's life in Korea, and Al Mercer doesn't feel he can refuse him, even though the plan now involves Kay Greylek. What the film has going for it is a really neat atmosphere. It was filmed on location in Lake Tahoe and Reno, and that part of it really pays off and adds to the overall performance of all aspect of the outstanding film ‘5 AGAINST THE HOUSE.’


THE LIFE OF THE PARTY (uncredited) (Written by Hal Hackady and Billy Mure) [Sung by Kim Novak] (dubbed by Jo Ann Greer)

I WENT OUT OF MY WAY (uncredited) (Written by Helen Bliss)

ANGRY CRICKET (uncredited) (Music by Leigh Harline)

LOYAL SONS OF LEIGHTON (uncredited) (Written by Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin)

FORBIDDEN LOVE (uncredited) (Written by George Duning and Tom Glazer)

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Blu-ray Image Quality – Columbia Pictures, Powerhouse Films + INDICATOR presents us the film ‘5 AGAINST THE HOUSE’ with a wonderful black-and-white pristine image and also shown in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This is another presentation which features a rather heavy grain field, and there are also a few passing issues with damage down the right side of the frame as worth the opening credits. This has some impressively deep black levels, however, and detail levels are often quite satisfying, especially when close-ups are employed. While there are some weirdly recurrent white specks, one of them, in a scene with Kim Novak reclining, I'm assuming is actually a small piece of glitter or something on Kim Novak's temple, since it kind of fades and disappears when Kim Novak moves her head. Some of the process photography can look a bit ragged, and the entire presentation looked just a bit dark to me. But despite that, overall it is a very good wonderful black-and-white image. So all in all, Columbia Pictures, Powerhouse Films + INDICATOR have done a really good image transfer. Please Note: Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – Columbia Pictures, Powerhouse Films + INDICATOR brings us the film ‘5 AGAINST THE HOUSE’ that features a 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio track that is rather full bodied throughout, and which provides a nice accounting of the jazz inflected composed score by George Duning that gives a nice atmospheric with the setting inside the casino with also the frequencies of the omnipresent sounds of chips and background chatter in some of the casino scenes. Kim Novak hadn't quite mastered the art of lip syncing, as evidenced by her song in the film, but the music itself sounds warm and definitely distortion the audio is clear and stable. However, there are a couple of sequences with all with indoor dialogue where balance is slightly uneven. This is the type of unevenness that is not part of the original sound design, so a new remaster/remix will surely eliminate it. There are no audio dropouts, pops, hiss, distortions, or other similar age-related imperfections to report.

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Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

Special Feature: ‘5 AGAINST THE HOUSE’ Audio Commentary with David Jenkins [Audio only] [2020] [1080p] [1.85:1] [83:59] With this featurette, we get to hear this audio commentary with Film Critic David Jenkins who is here to talk in-depth about the 1955 Columbia Pictures ‘5 AGAINST THE HOUSE’ and as the film starts David Jenkins introduces himself and informs us that he is the editor of Little White Lies, a bi-monthly movie magazine powered by illustration which has just reached its 60th issue and appears to be a fan and he does a pretty solid job going over the stronger aspects of the film and talking about its construction in relation to plotting and foreshadowing scenario of the overall film and also says he wants to give us some in-depth titbits information about this film and also expand with lots of information that we may not of heard of before and try to expand lots of hidden information about all aspects of this film that you may not of heard of before. David Jenkins now wants to talk about the people behind the scene who were involved with the making of the film which he wants to impart this information as the film progresses. At 1:22 David Jenkins mentions that the film opens at the gambling city of Reno, which he feels is a picture post card setting and a place that attracts 5 million tourists every year who like to gamble in the hope of winning big money and at the same time we meet the four protagonist actors in their automobile in the hope of beating the system with their so called fool proof scheme of robbing the gambling establishment and David Jenkins starts to name the four actors and they are Guy Madison, Kerwin Mathews, Brian Keith and Alvy Moore who are basically students who think they can beat the system at the gambling establishment, but of course well into the film, things do not go to plan in a very dramatic way and before they enter the building, they watch their white convertible is being taken away via the mechanical car parking set up, which near the end of the film will be very pivotal with the final showdown with the main belligerent character who is mentally unstable and was cause with fighting in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. Now Kevin Jenkins talks about the scene outside with the four actors outside the establishment entitled Harold's Club, which is spelled as Harolds Club which is the casino in Downtown Reno, Nevada that was established in 1935 and also appeared in the 1960 film ‘Ocean's 11’ and David Jenkins goes into the history of the venue and points out the massive 70 foot x 35 foot porcelain mural on the front of the building and is a tribute to the pioneer settlers of the Old West and dates from 1949 and the artwork was crafted into a sculpture in metal by Sargent Claude Johnson who was a African American artist who hung out in San Francisco's bohemian North Beach. But next we among the hundreds gamblers and we see the Brian Keith character sees a woman gambling and being totally sleazy trying to pick her up in his so called charming way, but to me I found his tactic very uncomfortable, but in the end the women realises what he is trying to do and decides to go somewhere else in the gambling establishment to try her luck and suddenly Brian Keith’s character realise he is not that good really in chatting up a female and all due his stint in the Korean War who we find out is a very psychotic unstable character as we get to view throughout the film where at one point loses his mind in a very violent way and gets his character into very serious trouble with the law. When we get to 7:34, David Jenkins says, “Here is an interesting part of the film, where we have the two guys Roy [Alvy Moore] and Ronnie [Kerwin Mathews] mentions the mirrors above them in the casino, where certain casino security people view the customers that they are suspicious about, which we get to see happen in the film, and we see a female cashier who is suspicious of a casino punter and with her foot presses a button on the floor and this alerts the casino security people and we see the police arrest this man, but unfortunately Roy and Ronnie were standing next to the suspicious guilty man who tried to cash a cheque for $5,000, and because of circumstances, Roy and Ronnie also get arrested, but after some discussion Roy and Ronnie are released and now they are even more determined to pull off their scheme to rob the casino, but unfortunately later on in the film things do not go to plan. Now as we go through David Jenkins audio commentary, he goes more into detail more about the film and especially the main five characters in the film and the flaws in their characters and of course that includes the actress Kim Novak and David Jenkins talks in-depth about this actress’s acting film career and also mentions some of the titles of the films Kim Novak has appeared in, but on top of all that, David Jenkins mentions a New York Times quote on Kim Novak performance in the 1955 film where they say, “Kim Novak as the blond songstress who can’t quite in the film ‘5 AGAINST THE HOUSE’ make up her mind about her man, where it is a tempting dish that has been set before a viewer this evening,” and David Jenkins also says, “You of course could not get away with quote now.” As David Jenkins carries on talking about the 1955 Columbia Pictures film, tends to go on a tangent and talks of other comments not related to the film itself and is not worth mentioning. David Jenkins also talks about the unlikely influences the film has had, like how it probably inspired the film ‘Casino’ in at least one small way since Director Martin Scorsese is a big fan of the film. David Jenkins also talks about the book on which the film is based, and making comparisons, even explaining how the narrative was cleaned up to make certain parts of the film less convoluted. Now as we get near to the end of David Jenkins audio commentary, he now comments on the climax of the film and the thwarted casino robbery that has horribly gone wrong, and also about the gripping tension building up to the point when the Brian Keith character has a gun and is willing to shoot someone who tries to stop him getting away the heist of the massive amount of cheques he has stolen, but is again all down to his very serious mental state because of severely being affected by the Korean War and now he is totally vulnerable and we see him in the automated car parking facility hiding in a car and is seriously aiming his gun out of the car window at people who want to arrest him to stop his madness and especially by the police and eventually Brian Keith’s character ends up on top of the casino roof and is getting more desperate in trying to stop the people who are closing in on him and he knows that if he gets arrested he will end up back in the mental hospital, but eventually one of his friends helps Brian Keith’s character realise he is not going to win and hands the gun to him and of course the police eventually arrest him and reluctantly is taken away with the police back to the mental hospital and again David Jenkins says that part of the film was the big showdown and was a very dramatic setting. As we get near to the end of David Jenkins audio commentary, points out that the four characters thought might get arrested because of thinking up this terrible heist that went terribly wrong and of course get a slap on the wrist because they inform the police it was college stunt and they now realise they were very naïve. All in all, is another audio commentary I didn’t expect much from but it ended up being a rewarding listen and now David Jenkins says, “Thanks for listening,” and at that point this David Jenkins audio commentary comes to an end.

Special Feature: The Guardian Interview with Kim Novak  [1997] [1080p] [1.78:1] [66:47] With this featurette, we get to view an archival video recording of the celebrated actress Kim Novak in conversation with film critic, historian, author and director of the Pordenone Silent Film Festival David Robinson at the National Film Theatre, London on the 2nd February, 1997. The conversation ends up being a journey through her acting career, from her early days at Columbia Pictures where she would meet her future fiancé, Richard Quine through her various works, commenting on some of the roles and Kim Novak hated her role in ‘Pal Joey.’ Kim Novak also talks quite a bit about ‘Vertigo,’ particularly her famous grey suit in the film, which she loathed. She also takes questions from the audience (which have been subtitled by INDICATOR since they are very hard to hear). It's a wonderful interview, Kim Novak being especially funny, and I wholly recommend watching it because Kim Novak is on fine form playing to the crowd and has plenty of fascinating things to say about her acting career. Image quality is very standard definition and decent enough considering it's from a good Hi8 camcorder source; the sound appears to be in stereo and is always clear. Where the audience asks Kim Novak questions, white subtitles appear at the bottom of the screen that was supplied by Powerhouse Films Ltd.

Special Feature: Theatrical Trailer [1955] [1080i] [1.78:1] [1:53] With this featurette, we get to view the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘5 AGAINST THE HOUSE.’

Special Feature: Image Gallery: With this featurette, we get to view 34 wonderful 1080p black-and-white and colour publicity and promotional material for the film ‘5 AGAINST THE HOUSE.’ To advance the images, you have to press the fight hand NEXT button on your remote control. To EXIT this featurette, you have to press either MENU or TOP MENU buttons on your remote control.

Special Feature: Sweet and Hot [1958] [1080p] [1.37:1] [17:00] With this featurette, we get to view another so comedy starring the Three Stooges, in which Nightclub performer Larry / Uncle Louis [Larry Fine] wants Joe / Uncle Joe [Joe Besser] and his sister “Tiny” Landers [Muriel Landers] to join the act. The only problem is that “Tiny” Landers is afraid to sing in front of people. They take “Tiny” Landers to a psychiatrist Dr. Hugo Gansamacher / Horace [Moe Howard] who cures her, and the act is a great success.

Finally, ‘5 AGAINST THE HOUSE’ [1955] has two things going for it. First we get to view an absolutely superb performance by damaged buddy Brick [Brian Keith], and few actors could get more mileage out of a squint and a cigarette than this  low-key tough guy and his final descent into battle-shock madness is both persuasive and oddly unsettling, but is equally a brilliant performance. The other plus is the wonderful location photography in Reno. It's entertaining to watch the crowds milling around the casinos, circa 1955. How the production crew got the crowds to act so natural, without acknowledging the camera, amounts to a real feat. Also, the car parking garage makes for good staging, but apparently is a commercial novelty that never caught on. Certainly director Phil Karlson knows his way around action movies as proved by his gripping Phoenix City Story. I suspect that had he had a freer hand here, a leaner, sharper, more coherent movie would have resulted. As it is, the 83 minutes is entertaining, but not top rank. As a heist movie, it's so-so; but more as a typical buddy film. Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso
United Kingdom

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