Ocean's Eleven (1960) Review
At least remakes ensure that the original film is moved back into the public's consciousness. Tim Burton's remake did it for Planet of the Apes, and now Steven Soderbergh has done it for the original Rat Pack heist flick Ocean's Eleven.
So what was the original like? The 1960 version of Ocean's Eleven has never been considered a classic film, but it certainly is regarded as many people's favourite film, and it's easy to see why. Firstly, it contains Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford - members of the infamous "Rat Pack" outfit that was basically a group of pals headed by Sinatra that indulged in the playboy lifestyle around the glamour of locations such as Las Vegas. Ocean's Eleven even feels like it was originally a serious vehicle until Sinatra and his pals got their hands on it, and it has translated onto screen as nothing more than a jokey piece of fluff. More than forty years after the film was made, it is regarded as nothing more than a vanity vehicle for Sinatra and his cronies. Indeed, many people questioned Soderbergh's desire to remake a film unworthy of such treatment.
Plot-wise, the film takes two hours and ten minutes to unravel a decidedly simple storyline - A few days before New Year's Eve, camp heist-meister Spyros Acebos (Akim Tamiroff) is panicing because he has become too well known by the police to be able to successfully pull off any of his planned robberies himself. Therefore, Spyros hands the reins over to his wind-up merchant friend Danny Ocean (Sinatra) who assembles ten of his ex-Army buddies from the 82nd Airborne Division, the unit he served with in World War II, to complete the heist. The actual robbery involves robbing the vaults of five illustrious Vegas casinos (Desert Inn, Sands, Flamingo, Sahara, Riviera) but hits problems when one of the gang's stepfather Duke Santos (Cesar Romero) an underworld bigwig, exploits the situation to his own ends and begins to investigate the crime.
Ocean's Eleven is merely an excuse for Ol' Blue Eyes and his gang to have a good time. When you get to grips with this notion, there is no reason why you cannot have a good time with them. Frank, Dean and Sammy ooze charisma, even if Peter Lawford appears ultimately pointless in both his appearance in the film and his character's plot importance. Lawford can't even sing for crying out loud, so why he ever became such a prominent Rat Pack figure is anyone's guess, although he was the brother-in-law to JFK! The three leads however, share a fantastic screen charisma and you can tell they are friends off-screen. There's Frank, the minimalist jokey gang leader, Dean the amiable second-in-command and Sammy, the 'pet' like butt-of-all-jokes whom they all adore. It's a pity there aren't more songs in the film, as that would make Ocean's Eleven a true encapsulation of the spirit of the rat pack. Even so, Deano sings Ain't That A Kick In The Head enough times, and audiences are treated to the brilliant Sammy Davis rendering of Eee-O Eleven. Cesar Romero, usually known for playing The Joker in Batman, gives a great performance as Duke Santos, and Angie Dickinson is the token female squeeze as Ocean's estranged wife.
There is a good case supporting the argument that Steven Soderbergh's recent remake is a better film, but despite the differences in plot the two films are virtually similar. They both contain hip, cool acting ensembles, and they both value the idea that the plot is secondary to the attitude of the film. This doesn't mean that they are both structurally weak, just that structure isn't the most important item. The problem with Ocean's Eleven is that it's overlong, under-developed and lacks acting heavyweights. Dean Martin appears subdued most of the time, and Peter Lawford is immensely wooden from the start. Frank is merely going-through-the-motions as Danny Ocean, almost as if he refused to perform for the director. Sammy Davis Jr. is instantly likeable as Josh Howard the demolition expert, although the script for the most part undervalues his character.
Despite the film being mediocre at best, it's fantastic as a piece of relaxing entertainment to watch on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. It oozes coolness, and the final sequence is visually one of the most powerful sequences considering the iconic status the actors have since risen to . Soderbergh turned in a better attempt, but the original Ocean's Eleven is still wonderfully hip.
Presented in widescreen 2.35:1 anamorphic, the picture is very pleasant indeed. There are numerous signs of print defects and scratches, but this never distracts as the colouring of the transfer and lack of digital artefacts more than make up for it.
Presented in the original mono track, the sound is mostly devoid of hiss and has been recorded at an acceptable volume. Sound events are clearly audible.
Menu: Yes, the menu has a few nice group images of the Rat Pack, and is backed with the film's score, but why, oh why does it have to have that horrid green background colour?
Packaging: Available in the infamous Warner snapper case, the cover artwork is a missed opportunity and is uninspired. There are many better Ocean's Eleven images they could have used instead.
The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson With Guest Presented Frank Sinatra - Excerpt: This is a three minute excerpt from the Johnny Carson chat show that was hosted by Frank Sinatra in Carson's absence. Sinatra's guests is co-star of Ocean's Eleven Angie Dickinson, and the two of them reminisce about their experiences on purely a superficial level. The picture quality of the recording is terrible.
Audio Commentary With Frank Sinatra Jr. and Angie Dickinson: A slightly biased commentary being that it features both Sinatra's son and pal Angie Dickinson, but this is surprisingly informative. Sinatra Jr. knows much about the film and the behind-the-scenes events, and he openly discusses them. Subjects such as the race issue crop up with regards to the controversy of having a prominent black member in the Rat Pack and the film (Sammy Davis Jr.). Sinatra Jr. also mentions how Nelson Riddle's brilliant music score was practically unrecognised at the time of the film's release, and how Saul Bass's titles needed redoing six times because of the text being too small to see in cinemas. Dickinson only comments on a few occasions, and doesn't add any noteworthy revelations, other than Sinatra being notoriously against multiple takes on scenes.
Cast & Crew: Essential 'selected' filmographies of five of the film's main stars, presented as text on screen.
Map Of Vegas: Five short featurettes designed to give a brief history of the five Vegas Casinos featured in the film. Each featurette lasts for three to five minutes, and features interviews from people who worked there such as the owners, showgirls etc.
Trailers: Two trailers of the film are presented, one is three minutes long, and the other is only a minute long, and both aim to convey the aura of relaxed coolness the film gives out.
A likeable yet average film given decent picture and sound qualities and most surprisingly a few enjoyable extras, Ocean's Eleven is quite an enjoyable caper film made more collectable by a good DVD package.
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6 out of 10