I Died a Thousand Times (1955)

“Nobody ever left this world alive.” If you ever had a perverse desire to watch Shelley Winters dance with Dennis Hopper, now is your big chance. A remake of the 1941 film noir classic, High Sierra (based on a novel by W. R. Burnett), which starred Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino, I Died a Thousand Times features an eclectic cast that includes Jack Palance as paroled bank robber Roy “Mad Dog” Earle, Shelley Winters (as the obnoxious and loyal dance-hall chick “Marie”), Lee Marvin (as “Babe”), Earl Holliman (as “Red”), Lon Chaney, Jr. (as “Big Mac”) and Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez (as “Chico”). Earle travels West after getting paroled in order to orchestrate a hotel heist for his buddy “Big Mac” but he is appalled when he discovers the young, stupid thugs that make up the inept gang. In addition, Earle has delusions of quitting after the heist and traveling around the world with Velma (Lori Nelson), the clubfooted daughter of farmer “Pa Goodhue” (Ralph Moody, looking like a refugee from The Grapes of Wrath) he has befriended. Palance is quite effective as Earle even though he still gives off that creepy vibe. We actually feel sorry for this poor guy since we know that despite all of his dreams, he’s going to end up in the dung heap (and to make matters worse, the only one who gives a shit about him besides the faithful mutt “Pard” is that annoying presence Marie/Winters!). Nick Adams (Rebel Without a Cause) appears uncredited as a bellhop and Hopper can be seen as “Joe” for about 50 seconds in the infamous house party scene where Earle gets dumped by Velma. Film was directed by Stuart Heisler (Among the Living). If you have never seen High Sierra, watch that film first and then check out this interesting variation. Palance and Winters (along with Lupino) also appeared in another decent film released the same year, The Big Knife, which was directed by Robert Aldrich. If you only remember Palance from City Slickers and have never seen him in a leading role, these two flicks would make an excellent double feature.

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