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November 06, 2008

Five Minutes to Live

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Bill Karn - 1961
Critics' Choice Region 1 DVD

Five Minutes to Live would probably be totally forgotten were it not for the casting of Johnny Cash and Ronnie Howard. This tawdry curio also features Vic Tayback in one of his early performances and Pamela Mason, wife of James, as well as Merle Travis, in supporting roles. The actors are generally better than what the film deserves, but Five Minutes to Live is another example of film as entertaining flotsam, in the days before inflated budgets and the claim of being a "major motion picture".

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Neurotic hit man Cash holds the wife of a bank vice president hostage while Tayback negotiates walking out with Seventy grand. This is a low budget film with a low budget ransom. The wife, played by the film's screenwriter, Cay Forrester, attempts to seduce cash with a feathery number from Frederick's of Hoboken. Naturally, things go wrong, both for bank robber Tayback and guitar strumming Cash. Even though most of Five Minutes to Live is predictable, a version of The Desperate Hours produced with pocket change, it's fun to see Cash snarl his way as a small time hood.

The future Oscar winning director proves himself to be the best actor of the bunch. Ronnie Howard essentially is doing a sassier version of "Opie", embarrassing his parents, complaining about breakfast, and showing up the grown ups. Say what you will about Howard's films as director, the seven year old kid figured out the acting game pretty quickly. Clocking in at about 75 minutes, Five Minutes to Live lasts long enough to be diverting, a brief vacation from more meaningful film viewing.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 6, 2008 07:49 AM