11 Harrowhouse (1974)
If you happen to be a member of my demographic, chances are the words “Charles Grodin,” “sexy blonde” and “diamond heist” lead you to think of only one movie. Yes, The Great Muppet Caper is awesome and probably the best example of the Muppets’ cinematic oeuvre. That said, it turns out those very same words can be applied to another film — you just have to imagine Candice Bergen in the place of Miss Piggy.
11 Harrowhouse stars Grodin (who also scripted) as a small-time diamond broker who is hired by Trevor Howard to buy and cut a stone worth $1 million. His entry into the big time is cut short, however, when he and his wealthy, widowed girlfriend, Bergen, are robbed before they can deliver the jewel.
Unwilling to accept her help to pay back the money he owes, Grodin decides to relieve John Gielgud and the market-controlling “System” of their hidden stash of diamonds, with the help of a cancer-stricken James Mason and a painted cockroach.
As directed by Aram Avakian, 11 Harrowhouse moves with a confident, restrained sophistication currently absent in present-day productions. Grodin’s work on the script is clearly evident in his character’s narration and the film’s dry, but often hilarious humor (Bergen especially benefits from the lines she’s given). The heist itself is simple, but ingenious, and bears better scrutiny than those found in similar films.
A genuine underrated classic, this is the kind of movie that keeps you smiling hours after it has ended. —Allan Mott