They Came to Rob Las Vegas 

When well-executed, few cinematic experiences can be as pleasurable as the heist film. Consider "The Getaway" (the original), "The Italian Job" (the remake) and this year's "Inception."

Hell, I even harbor a soft spot for the poorly dubbed Italian productions from the 1960s and '70s. One that stands out is 1972's "The Master Touch," which cast Kirk Douglas as an expert thief. Another, now that it's been rescued from oblivion by the made-to-order treasure hunters at Warner Archive is the 1967 thriller "They Came to Rob Las Vegas."

In the caper, Gary Lockwood ("2001") plays Tony, a professional card dealer out to ... well, do just what the title promises. After careful planning, aided by his insider knowledge and his lover (Elke Sommer at her sultriest) who works for the casinos' security company owned by Skorsky (Lee J. Cobb, shorn of his trademark "The Exorcist" 'stache).

With one carefully placed sand dune on the Skorksy armored truck's route to L.A., Tony and his motley crew hijack the vehicle, killing all its guards except the two locked inside its seemingly impenetrable cage with all the dough. Before the authorities can arrive, Tony and company hide the truck in an underground lair they had cleverly dug deep into the sand, where they can hack away at its insides without fear of discovery.

Or can they, what with a shouting Jack Palance on the case and on their trail?

What's most surprising about director Antonio Isasi-Isasmend's film is how a majority takes place not on the neon jungle that is Vegas, but in the middle of nowhere "? a spot that could double in a pinch for "Lawrence of Arabia" exteriors. In that aspect, this isn't the "Ocean's 11" Rat Pack rip-off one initially might expect.

Instead, it stands on its own as a down and dirty Euro-crime effort, albeit one with a swingin' soundtrack, vibrant colors and a loving eye for mid-century modern architecture. Performances aren't the point here "? some, particularly the secondary criminals, are downright cartoonish; it's all about delivering a vice with a vibe, and "Rob" does that in spades. "?Rod Lott

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