11 Harrowhouse (1974) / Thriller-Comedy
aka Anything for Love
aka Fast Fortune
aka Eleven Harrowhouse
MPAA Rated: PG for language and some violence
Running time: 94 min.
Cast: Charles Grodin, Candice Bergen, James Mason, Trevor Howard, John Gielgud, Helen Cherry
Director: Aram Avakian
Screenplay: Charles Grodin, Jeffrey Bloom (based on the novel by Gerald A. Browne)
Review published May 22, 2007
11 Harrowhouse is a wryly witty spoof on the heist flick, adapted by star and first-time screenwriter Charles Grodin (King Kong, The Lonely Guy) from a Jeffrey Bloom (Nightmares, Flowers in the Attic) script based on the Gerald A. Browne novel of the same name. Grodin stars as an American diamond merchant named Howard Chesser, who travels to London frequently to purchase wholesale diamonds from a large diamond merchant at 11 Harrowhouse. When a millionaire associate, Clyde Massey (Howard, The Last Remake of Beau Geste), offers Chesser the difference on a million dollars for the purchase of a large diamond, he willingly accepts, only to lose the diamond to thieves while en route to delivering it.
Now he is in over his head, owing a million to Massey, but he is offered a way to get the money back quick, plus more, by figuring out a way to heist the very place he does his business, and one of the richest collections of diamonds in the world, 11 Harrowhouse. With the help of his girlfriend Maren (Bergen, Stick) and an insider employee of the merchant, Charles (Mason, Heaven Can Wait), Chesser's plan is to suck up all the diamonds through a vacuum hose from the roof of the building.
With voice-over work by Grodin that has a post-production feel (indeed, at least one video release is missing it altogether), though it does make the film very different from the rest of the pack, 11 Harrowhouse is a quirky but engaging film about reluctant thieves that may not be essential viewing, but offers enough funny and clever moments to entertain for the moment. Certainly the most memorable aspect of the entire film is the heist itself, which is ingeniously conceived, utilizing such things as painted cockroaches, threads, extra long vacuum hoses and assumed identities, The rest of the action surrounding the heist is hit-and-miss stuff.
It will certainly help if you're a fan of Grodin's subtle, dry sense of humor, and the retrospective narration, while not completely necessary, does evoke a constant sense of irony as he comments about some of the plot's more ridiculous aspects (for example, being chased on horseback on the millionaire's estate has him questioning what sort of people he is dealing with that would chase a speeding car on horses, and with dogs no less ("What are they going to do -- bite the tires?")
Though the set-up is fairly predictable, even if done with offbeat flair, the joys of 11 Harrowhouse lie mostly in the film's cast, particularly Mason and Gielgud (Caligula, Arthur), who are charismatic and lively enough to make watching their characters enjoyable on a level above and beyond the routine parts of the script. Fans of the stars should like this more than most. If you're interested in watching it, the version with Grodin's self-conscious voice-over is the recommended choice among most of the movie's fans -- sadly, it's said to be the harder-to-find version on video.
©2007 Vince Leo