Posted: 06/13/2011

 

Harry in Your Pocket

(1973)

by Jef Burnham



Now available on on-demand DVD from the MGM Limited Edition Collection.


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If you’ve ever had Harry in your pocket, you surely never knew. For Harry is a professional dip/a pickpocket/a thief; and he’s the absolute best there is. In this film from producer/director Bruce Geller (creator of Mission: Impossible), James Coburn stars as Harry Durbin, a career pickpocket looking to assemble a “wire mob.”

In a wire mob, the dip, aided by a series of stalls and handlers, lifts the wallet off a mark unaware and passes it off to his associates for disposal. Joining Harry is his aging, cocaine-addicted friend and handler, Casey, played by two-time Academy Award-nominated actor Walter Pidgeon (How Green Was My Valley); Ray (Michael Sarrazin (They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?)), an eager but inexperienced thief prone to mistakes; and Ray’s girl, and one-time mark, Sandy, the perfect stall in a short skirt, played by Trish Van Devere (The Changeling (1980)). The bulk of the film revolves around Harry’s gang working the major cities of the United States and Canada, and the tensions that rise as Ray fails to pull his weight and a subtle romance develops between Harry and Sandy.

Indeed, there is little by way of plot in Harry in Your Pocket, but to see the gang in action under Geller’s direction is a thing of beauty. Sure, it may not be a great film, but Harry in Your Pocket is an extremely solid pickpocket picture in the tradition of Robert Bresson’s definitive Pickpocket (1959). Not only do you get the obligatory training sequence, in which a master of the trade trains an ambitious youth in the way of thievery to the delight of the audience, but with so much of the film’s running time devoted to wholesale pickpocketing, it is downright bloated with the inherent suspense such endeavors offer on screen.

As for the quality of the release itself, one is encouraged by a disclaimer preceding each film in the Limited Edition Collection to consider, before making any judgments, that this is an on-demand DVD-R format disc produced from the highest quality sources available. With that in mind, I must say that in my experience with the Limited Edition Collection, this disclaimer is hardly necessary and Harry in Your Pocket is no exception. Aside from the occasional visual curiosity, the film looks and sounds great in this release.

Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.



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