Movie: Payroll (1961)

Heist, British, early 1960’s, crisp black & white photography.  1961’s Payroll would have to be spectacularly bad to disappoint me.  I won’t bury the lede: this movie definitely did not disappoint. 

The film opens with what appears to be an armored car heist but is actually a test of a new security system.  I found it interesting how a ton of people ran to the sounding alarm, as opposed to the complete apathy anybody today would display.

Of course, it isn’t long before the armored car is in a real heist.  The method of attack is interesting.  Thieves sandwich the truck between two vehicles and ram it until it breaks open.  Oh, and civilians rush to try to intervene in the robbery, with one even jumping onto the back of the getaway car.  Damn, people were seriously civic-minded back then.

The armored car driver dies in the heist, as does one of the thieves.  You think they would just call it even but no, the driver’s widow (Billie Whitelaw) isn’t down with that and she goes on a mission of revenge. 

Unlike how this would unfold today, Whitelaw coldly and systematically performs her own detective work.  This film definitely embraces the old adage about revenge being a dish best served old.  Just watching her as she silently observes and connects the dots is more fulfilling to me than wielding a shotgun and cracking skulls all over town as she pursues her leads.

In a parallel storyline, the thieves bicker and undermine each other.  Basically, Tarantino would remake this later as Reservoir Dogs.  In something curiously prescient, a squeeze of one of the criminals tells him repeatedly she isn’t willing to go with him unless he shows her the money.

For what I assume was a low-budget movie, it is very well-done.  I didn’t recognize any actors except Whitelaw, but every performance rang true.  The music is also good, with a recurring piece that is like a more muted version of the Peter Gunn theme.  Overall, there are pretty good production values from Anglo Amalgamated, a company I don’t recall hearing of before.  And that name, isn’t that like naming your organization United White People?

Payroll is a very good heist movie, though not among the best I have seen.  Mildly recommended for those who aren’t specifically fans of the genre, more highly recommended for those who are.

Dir: Sidney Hayers

Starring Michael Craig, Françoise Prévost, Billie Whitelaw

Watched on StudioCanal blu-ray (region B)