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I Died a Thousand Times

The Story Behind The Terrifying 60-Day Hunt For Desperado 'Mad-Dog' Earle!
I Died a Thousand Times
I Died a Thousand Times is essentially a remake of the 1941 crime-drama classic High Sierra. Jack Palance steps into the old Humphrey Bogart role as Roy "Mad Dog" Earle, the ageing bank robber who intends to pull off one last heist before retiring. Sprung from prison by likeable crime boss Big Mac (Lon Chaney Jr.), Earle is commissioned to mastermind the robbery of a resort hotel. His partners in crime include the hotheaded, immature Babe (Lee Marvin) and Red (Earl Holliman), as well as "inside man" Mendoza (Perry Lopez). Also along for the ride is Marie (Shelley Winters), a dance-hall girl whom Babe has picked up. Marie falls in love with Earle, but he has eyes only for Velma (Lori Nelson), the club-footed daughter of a farmer (Ralph Moody) whom Earle had earlier befriended. While the 1955 film cannot match the excellence of its 1941 role model, I Died a Thousand Times works quite well on its own terms.


John Chard
Famed Bandit, Former No 1 On FBI List, Pardoned After Eight Years. I Died a Thousand Times is directed by Stuart Heisler and adapted to screenplay by W.R. Burnett from his own novel High Sierrra. It stars Jack Palance, Shelley Winters, Lori Nelson, Lee Marvin, Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, Lon Chaney Junior and Earl Holliman. A CinemaScope/Warnercolor production, cinematography is by Ted McCord and music by David Buttolph. It will always be debatable if remaking the excellent High Sierra (Raoul Walsh 1941) was needed or wanted by a 1950s audience? Especially since Walsh had himself already remade it as a great Western with 1949 film Colorado Territory, but taken on its own terms, with great production value and Burnett's personal adaptation taken into consideration, it's a very enjoyable film. Set up is simple, it's one last heist for Roy "Mad Dog" Earle (Palance) before going straight, but as his attempts to break free from his emotional loner status fall apart, so does the heist and his future is written in blood right up there in the mountains. Heisler and Burnett put Earle up front for character inspection, easing in sympathetic tones whilst ensuring he remains a big physical threat. The air of fatalism is pungent enough and the finale is excitingly staged by Heisler. Cast performances are more than adequate if not comparing to the likes of Bogart and Lupino, while the Warnercolor is gorgeous and the photography around the Alabama Hills in Lone Pine is superb. While not in the same league as High Sierra or Colorado Territory, that doesn't mean this is a wash out, more so if you haven't seen either of the Walsh movies. If you have, like me (High Sierra is one of my favourite Bogart performances), then comparisons and a feeling of deja vu will obviously infiltrate your viewing experience. That said, there is more than enough here to make it worth your time regardless of comparison and familiarities. 7/10

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