On your Marks – Rediscovering ‘Harry in Your Pocket’ (US 1973 – 103 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - June 29, 2015
On your Marks – Rediscovering ‘Harry in Your Pocket’ (US 1973 – 103 mins)

A film that used to play regularly on late-night TV but rarely gets screened these days, ‘Harry in Your Pocket’ is a diverting drama of how pickpockets and their crew operate together. While there’s no major plot here, the joy of the film is seeing the cult cast engage in their four-way routines of marking their victims before going in for the ‘kill’.

Seasoned pickpocket Harry Durbin (James Coburn) and his aging friend Casey (Walter Pidgeon) employ a young couple; Ray and Sandy (Michael Sarrazin and Trish Van Devere) to be the ‘stalls’ in their pickpocket operation. Targeting mainly businessmen in the major cities, things soon fall into place, before Ray’s rookie errors and Harry’s attraction to Sandy threaten to derail their steady operation.

‘Harry in Your Pocket’ has all the elements of a gripping thriller, but while there is no central plot as such, it does have its moments and benefits from a terrific three-generation cast. Walter Pidgeon had one of his last great roles as an aging cocaine-snorting pickpocket, and James Coburn had one of his ‘cool’ roles as the laid-back and no nonsense Harry. Worried-looking Michael Sarrazin was ideal as the keen-but-green rookie often out of his depth, and beautiful Trish Van Devere had one of her best parts as Sarrazin’s flighty girlfriend, and looked great in her hot pants and boots!

This was writer and composer Bruce Geller’s sole feature and he does a good job with the material without taking a flashy approach to the subject. Tragically Geller was killed just five years later when a small plane he was piloting crashed into a canyon outside Santa Monica. He was just 47 years old. The pedestrian script was by television writing team; James Buchanan and Ronald Austin, and prolific composer Lalo Schifrin contributed a rather catchy piano soundtrack.

As well as the various street scenes showing the gang at work, the standout sequence for me is when Walter Pidgeon teaches Michael Sarrazin how to become a master pickpocket by setting up a dummy rigged with tiny bells that ring out every time you make contact with the inside of the jacket pocket, as you attempt to lift the wallet.

Although it’s an engaging movie ‘Harry in Your Pocket’ has no real moments of suspense, which is strange given the subject matter. Still, with its excellent cast and a handful of entertaining scenes showing how pickpockets operate, it’s a decent drama and one that doesn’t let all of its thieves win by the very end.

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