While money has been known to tear families apart, diamonds are what bring criminals together in Giuliano Montaldo’s Grand Slam. The title sounds like a sports movie, but Grand Slam is actually a heist film about a plot to steal ten million dollars’ worth of diamonds out of a safe.
Edward G. Robinson is the professor who came up with the plan, and his role is really limited to putting the team together and one other scene. Those watching the movie for him and because his name appears on the slipcover are destined to be disappointed
Grand Slam was actually a co-production between Italy, Germany, and Spain. Accordingly, the film boasts an international cast that includes Klaus Kinski as a Nazi soldier, Riccardo Cucciolla as an electrotechnician, George Rigaud as the safecracker, and Robert Hoffmann as the playboy assigned to woe Janet Leigh’s Mary Ann. Mary Ann works for the diamond company and has a key they need to access the safe.
Any time a film has an international cast it’s worth remembering that, behind the scenes, most of the cast probably didn’t speak the same language. Sometimes this hurts a film, and the dubbing is distracting. What makes it not as noticeable with Grand Slam is how much the characters communicate silently. Professor Anders makes a point of giving everyone on the job a lighter upon their first meeting, and sure enough, the identical lighters end up being how the team members recognize each other. Not that they seem to have been made aware that this would be the signal (like how a blind date might get told to wear a certain flower in their lapel). The film just lets viewers watch, as these characters silently put the clues together. It’s amazing what can be telegraphed silently, and Grand Slam really embraces that.
It all builds up to the heist, which has to be completely silent or else any noise will trigger an alarm. This is naturally when you get all the fun gadgets, like a zip line and (best of all) a room filled with laser beams that the thieves have to navigate, using red-tinted goggles and a carefully constructed ladder system.
Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray comes with a commentary by film historians, Nathaniel Thompson, Howard S. Berger, and Steve Mitchell where they talk about how hindsight is everything, when it comes to the character of Mary Ann, and how, despite the film spending a lot of time on set-up and showing the team prepare for the heist, it doesn’t feel like a retread when the heist actually happens (in fact, there are quite a few surprises and a-ha moments, where you finally understand why a character did something).
If there’s one thing I could change about Grand Slam it’s that I would’ve loved to have gotten more backstory for Rigaud’s character, Gregg, who starts out the film as a butler. That career transition deserves more attention, but otherwise Grand Slam is a solid entry in the caper genre.
Grand Slam is available on Blu-Ray and DVD now from Kino Lorber.