Harry in Your Pocket (MGM LE Collection) Review

James Coburn is, as usual, great as the title character in the pickpocket film Harry in Your Pocket. He's aloof, well-dressed, professional, and very, very adept at his work. The trouble is that the movie isn't really about Harry despite its name and Coburn's top billing. It's instead mostly concerned with the younger, greener and far less interesting Ray (Michael Sarrazin), whose path to joining up with Harry is patently unbelievable. Trish Van Devere, as Ray's pop-up girlfriend Sandy, and a teddy bear Walter Pidgeon, playing the older gentleman of the thieving ring, come along for the ride, which passes through Seattle and Victoria, BC before settling in Salt Lake City.

Things begin for Ray without much promise. He's at a train station, looking for marks. He takes wallets and watches from unsuspecting bystanders. Or tries to, at least. It's immediately established that Ray is not particularly accomplished as a pickpocket, fitting since his portrayer Sarrazin, who passed away only a few months ago, resists being an especially good film actor. In this very waiting area Ray fingers Sandy's watch. Not only does she decline to find the police, instead simply approaching Ray to ask for the watch back, but she eventually sleeps with him a little while later. The seventies were apparently even more amazing than advertised. From here on, Sandy is Ray's girl and they are in it all together. Steal a gal's watch, steal her heart, as the saying goes. Another chance encounter, where Ray tries to sell some of the other watches he'd picked, leads the couple to Harry via Casey (Pidgeon).

The film uses Ray as its primary perspective but it doesn't strictly adhere to that choice, also allowing for a number of moments with the others. Generally, Sandy is always shown as an extension of someone else, and that prevents her from attaining any real dimension beyond being an ornament. That's unfortunate since Van Devere has an interesting face and ably plays the character as wobbling back and forth between free spirit and clever semi-bad girl. Coburn's Harry, in addition to his various other attributes, fancies himself as a ladies man. His obvious pursuing of Sandy creates tension with Ray, which hardly bothers Harry. An eventual acquiescence sort of turns the viewer against her and, in the process, the film, even though there's absolutely no good reason Sandy would be with Ray under the circumstances shown. But why is this even an issue? Shouldn't a film about pickpockets actually involve a good amount of, you know, pickpocketing?

Harry in Your Pocket discovers that, despite a pair of world class examples on the topic in Pickup on South Street and Pickpocket, the act of pickpocketing is woefully uncinematic at its core. Even with the delicate finesse involved, it occurs as quick as a hiccup, reaps minimal rewards and requires little elaborate planning. Putting a pickpocket on screen is at least partially dependent on how developed and interesting the characters are. Of the four seen here, the two least distinguished are given the main spotlight while Harry and Casey exist more in the periphery. As played by the veteran Pidgeon, Casey is shown to be a charming accomplice in his twilight years, who also happens to favor a snort of cocaine every so often. The watery-eyed Pidgeon clearly relishes his role, and in a better film he might've received more recognition. The bond between Casey and Harry is one of the most pleasing aspects of the movie.

Meander awkwardly as it may, Harry in Your Pocket nonetheless has a very watchable quality owing most likely to its era of origin. The 1973 film was the only theatrical feature directed by Bruce Geller, probably best known for creating the Mission: Impossible television show. Its two credited writers were also TV veterans, and maybe that explains some of the film's poor ambitions. A confused concession of an ending aside, its focus on such a foursome does once again support the idea that American film during this decade was at its peak in presenting interesting and flawed characters. When else could you find thieves of wallets and watches being depicted, absent any subversion, as ostensible heroes?


The Disc

Harry in Your Pocket seems to be just the sort of under-the-radar film appropriate for a made-on-demand service like the MGM Limited Edition Collection. The single-layered disc is burned at someone else's leisure and available at online U.S. retail outlets like Amazon.

The progressive transfer shows the film in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for widescreen televisions. It looks sufficiently cleaned up, scrubbed nicely and natural. Colors appear true, though generally a little faded and in the spirit of seventies film stock. Detail could look better, especially in darker scenes, but this is adequate given the circumstances and the usual warning about the film having been manufactured from the "best source material available" that appears at the start of the movie.

English mono audio sounds fine, though understandably with limited ambition. Dialogue and effects are easily made out and present no concern. A light hiss can be heard over the soundtrack at times. There aren't any subtitles offered.

A trailer (1:59) accompanies the film and tries to play cute in selling it.


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