Ocean’s 11 (1960)

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Trying to win in Las Vegas has been something that most of us have not been able to do. Face it, the place wouldn’t exist if the odds weren’t in their favor! The spin of a wheel, the flip of a card or the roll of the dice has changed many people’s lives in an instant. So one might come to the natural conclusion that the best way to win in Las Vegas is the old-fashioned way…steal the money! Of course, this isn’t an easy task, even forty years ago when Ocean’s 11 took place. Trying not to be just "another Rat Pack" movie, Ocean’s 11 is regarded as one of the better movies featuring Frank, Sammy and Dean-O. And it’s no small secret that this movie has just been made in to a more commercially successful (fact) and better (opinion) movie than the original, complete with star-studded cast that includes George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts. But, as always, a re-make has to credit the original in some sense of the word and in this case, it’s The Chairman and his gang. We’ll see if robbing a casino has ever been possible and if so, this much fun.

Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra) and his group of World War II buddies seem to have a lot of time on their hands. Sam Harmon (Dean Martin), Josh Howard (Sammy Davis Jr.) and Jimmy Foster (Peter Lawford) are all friends of Danny’s and it’s not long that they are devising a scheme to rob five of the casinos in the Las Vegas strip. Beatrice Ocean (Angie Dickinson) is the on again/off again wife of Danny who wants nothing to do with him really, but still has a bit of love for her husband. Still, as Ocean does his very best to gather up the crew, we are treated to some song and dance numbers by Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin (what were you expecting…they were singers). The actual robbery itself kind of fizzles out, as most of the planning takes the majority of the movie. Set against the stage of New Year’s Eve (as opposed to the re-make is set against a boxing match), the crew’s plan is to cut the power on Las Vegas and simultaneously rob 5 of the casino’s. Does it work? You figure it out.

As I mentioned before, this may be a rare exception when the re-make of the movie is better than the original. Stephen Soderbergh has taken a story and somehow manages to gather five of the biggest movie stars on the planet and make not only a very entertaining, but well-made movie. The original isn’t a bad movie, per se, it’s just not as good as the newer version. Maybe I’m just a child of the newer movies (as this was made some 13 years before I was even born), so I’m used to the faster-paced flicks. Still, the original must be credited here and it is nice to see the Rat Pack in all of their glory. No group of men could slug down drinks or treat women like Frank and his boys!

Video: How does it look?

Ocean’s 11 is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic image. While the movie may be some 40 years old, the picture actually looks quite good. Frank’s orange sweater practically leaps off the screen! Some scenes seem to suffer from a bit of edge enhancement, but the detail is clean and the black levels are right on target (that could possibly be a joke in the movie at the expense of Josh). There seems to be no real issue with the transfer, taking into account the age of the film. It’s another testament to DVD’s being anamorphic though, as I did see this on TV the other day and it looked awful compared to the way it looks here.

Audio: How does it sound?

There’s not a whole lot to say when you’re dealing with a mono soundtrack. All of the information is crammed into one of your 5.1 channels. Still, the dialogue does sound very clean and natural, you’ll get plenty of chances to hear Dean-O and Sammy croon, and they don’t sound too bad. Unlike most modern movies, sound isn’t as important as it is now, and this is a testament to that. This track gets the job done, I wish this could be said for the characters in the movie!

Supplements: What are the extras?

While not featuring a plethora of extras, Ocean’s 11 does have a couple of features that are a nice touch. A screen-specific commentary by Frank Sinatra Jr. and Angie Dickinson is the most abundant feature you’ll find. Sinatra Jr. does seem to know a lot about the movie and all that went on and around at the time. Kind of makes you wonder. Dickinson isn’t nearly as talkative, as her part wasn’t one of the major ones in the film. Still, she does offer some insights and it’s not a bad track to listen to. A "Then and Now" Las Vegas map is a handy little feature that shows the five casinos that were robbed in the movie and how they looked then and now (actually, most are gone now). An excerpt from The Tonight Show features some of the worst video footage I’ve seen on DVD to date, but it does have Sinatra and Angie Dickinson (it appears to be dated around the late 70’s) talking of their times on the movie. It doesn’t last that long, but just to hear Sinatra is worth it. Two theatrical trailers are also included as is an Easter egg that I found. Click on one of the casino chips on the side, and you’ll be treated to a four minute feature that tells of how Las Vegas has been featured in the movies and the museum of the original props from the casinos that were used. Some cast bios are also included.

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