Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Grand Slam" Is Movie That Misses the Target

Cleveland Press March 9, 1968

"Grand Slam" is the son of "Topkapi" and first cousin to "The Caper of the Golden Bulls." It is a suspense-crime melodrama in which $10,000,000 worth of diamonds will be stolen from an impenetrable safe protected by a foolproof protective device all of which are housed in an impregnable building.

It takes place in Rio at carnival time with the street parades and the fireworks camouflaging the break-in, a gimmick borrowed from "Golden Bulls."

IT ISN'T only the fact that "Grand Slam" is derivative that hurts it. Even a good imitation can engender suspense, and this does at times. But at other moments, things simply happen with little or no explanation.

Some of this could be bad editing. The careful rehearsals for the crime are sketched in, but in a limited way. The hazards are casually spelled out, some not explained in advance at all.

Alfred Hitchcock, who had absolutely nothing to do with this movie, has explained in interviews that conditioning the viewer is essential to the building of suspense. That is why the sight or sound of something essential to a climax in his movies is shown in advance, sometimes more than once, so that the viewer begins to anticipate it.

"Grand Slam" lacks anticipation, depends instead on surprises -- some good, some indifferent, some too farfetched.

THE CRIME is planned in terms of specialization -- the world's fastest safe cracker, an electronics expert, an international playboy and an ex-Nazi soldier as team captain are all put to work on a burglary that must be pulled off in 30 minutes.

The playboy is needed because an important employee of the diamond company is Janet Leigh as a spinsterish type who must be romanced so that an important key can be obtained.

There is a surprise ending, topped with another twist and the conclusion explains a few apparent holes in the plot -- but not all of them.

EDWARD G. ROBINSON appears briefly at beginning and end as the mastermind. He is a mild-looking teacher who has just retired after 30 years. But he has spent those years observing the diamond deliveries across the street and planning the crime.

Maybe the movie is a plea for better salaries for teachers.