Vegas Venue for Rat Pack Robbery
Before we were introduced to George Clooney & Brad Pitt schmoozing their way through the remake of "Ocean's Eleven" and the subsequent sequels there was the original "Ocean's Eleven" from 1960. Sadly the original "Ocean's Eleven", whilst not a terrible movie was to be frank quite an average heist movie with it's only really redeeming feature coming from that it starred the Rat Pack - Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. Take the 5 buddies out of the equation and the original "Ocean's Eleven" ends up quite an unremarkable movie.
With New Year's Eve coming quickly, criminal mastermind Spyros Acebos (Akim Tamiroff) is starting to panic because he has handed over the job to his friend Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra - The Pride and the Passion) who takes pleasure in winding him up at every opportunity. But Danny has done what he has agreed to and put together a gang of his old World War II buddies in preparation to rob 5 Las Vegas casinos using their expert military knowledge. What they weren't accounting on was criminal bigwig Duke Santos (Cesar Romero - The Little Princess) taking an interest in the gangs activities.
Whether it was intended to be or not the original "Oceans' Eleven" comes across as a movie made for Frank Sinatra and his rat pack cohorts, so much so that as well as the main hub of the pack other token members such as Angie Dickinson also get to star. It's actually in some ways not a bad thing because the natural friendship of the cast comes across on film, dialogue for the most flows naturally and often feels unscripted. But it's also its downfall because it appears that the cast are having such a good time, joking with each other that it's impossible to take seriously even though it's not meant to be a comedy.
It also doesn't help that at 127 minutes "Oceans' Eleven" is a long movie with nearly the first half of that dedicated to introducing all the main players. It is slow going especially when the intros fail to really add the back story to each of the characters you would expect. Plus this opening hour is constantly peppered with quick scenes which return to Danny and his constant winding up of Spyros that only act as padding and even more comedy which to be frank wasn't necessary.
But the thing is that despite being over long and full of misplaced comedy "Oceans' Eleven" is surprisingly entertaining and simple to follow. There is no complexity to the movie at all; it's as simple as it comes. And although it really should be a predominantly serious heist movie the fact that the focus whether misplaced or not on entertainment makes it good fun, full of silly scenes. It also features a few musical numbers which are not the sort of thing you would expect from a heist movie, but somehow they actually just add to the movies entertainment rather than actually feeling out of place.
Performance wise well as already mentioned the off screen friendship between many of the stars comes across on screen making it all feel very natural, although a little bit too friendly when it possibly should have been more serious. But it is the supporting cast who actually help give "Ocean's Eleven" some semi seriousness if you ignore the over the top performance from Akim Tamiroff as the slightly camp criminal mastermind Spyros Acebos. Henry Silva as Roger Corneal for the most plays it serious as does Cesar Romero who plays underworld big wig Duke Santos.
What this all boils down to is that whilst the original "Ocean's Eleven" may often feel a little misconceived with its mixture of mirth and music in what traditionally would be a serious movie. The naturalness of the performance, the often jokey dialogue and the occasional musical interlude do make it quite entertaining. It is over long and slow going but "Oceans' Eleven" is fun and if you've only ever seen the remake then it's worth taking a look at the original to see where it all started.