Once a week or so, I plan to post info on great films that you may not be familiar with. I’m kicking it off with 1972′s The Hot Rock, a comic crime caper from the novel by Donald Westlake. Recently paroled thief John Dortmunder (Robert Redford, in a marvelously understated performance) assembles a team of “pros” to lift a huge diamond known as “The Sahara Stone,” in Manhattan. His team consists of locksmith/brother-in-law Kelp (George Segal, brilliantly neurotic), bomb maker Greenberg (Paul Sand), and driver Murch (Ron Leibman). The plan seems perfect–but where would be the fun in that? Complications, double crosses and lots of plain bad luck plague Dortmunder and his crew, keeping the diamond out of reach. Leisurely paced by director Peter Yates (the man who brought us Bullitt, Krull, Breaking Away and Mother, Jugs & Speed) and scribe William Goldman (the guy who wrote Magic, The Princess Bride, Marathan Man, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, and the supposed actual writer of Good Will Hunting), the engrossing and darkly funny flick is scored in that sweet 70′s crime pic style by Quincy Jones. Don’t miss a cameo by Christopher Guest as a policeman, and a riotous turn by Zero Mostel as a shady lawyer, who’s entrance is on par with that of Harry Lime (Orson Welles) in The Third Man.
It’s amazing to me with the pedigree of the cast, director and writer this film isn’t better known. For those of you in the Los Angeles area, don’t miss your chance to see it on the big screen at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica on Thursday, March 12th, playing alongside Cops & Robbers in their tribute to Westlake, who passed away late last year.