Film Noir Classics: KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL
A mysterious masked man (Preston Foster) planning a robbery is putting together a special trio of underworld thugs to help him pull it off. First on his list is Pete Harris (Jack Elam) a murderer on the lam who he promises $300,000 dollars. Tony Romano (Lee Van Cleef) is his next pick, a getaway driver who should be in prison for life but is on the run. The third and final man is Boyd Kane (Neville Brand) a cop killer who’s wanted for a jewelry store robbery.
The three hold up an armored car stealing over $1,000,000 dollars and take off in a fake floral delivery van. Meanwhile, the cops pull another floral delivery van over thinking the guy driving Joe Rolfe (John Payne) is part of the robbery. The men, who don’t know each other and are wearing masks to hide their identities, are given playing cards and tickets to foreign countries then told to wait until they get the call to pick their money up. They are ordered to jump out of the getaway truck at different spots on the road so they won’t run into each other.
Meanwhile, Joe is grilled by the cops but doesn’t know anything. We find out he is a World War II veteran and went to jail for a petty crime. They hold him thinking he was in on the job but when the cops find the other abandoned delivery van they have to let him go. When he gets out of jail his face is all over the news.
Joe is understandably angered for his false incarceration and wants revenge. His old war pal who works at a diner informs him he may be able to get some info regarding the guys who took part in the robbery. He gets word that Pete Harris might’ve been part of it since he took off to Mexico right after it occurred. Joe immediately travels to Mexico to look for him. He checks out a bunch of seedy poker parlors and finally runs into Harris. Joe seething with anger stares at him too intently letting Harris know somethings off. Harris confronts Joe to find out what he wants, but Joe says Harris is just imagining things. Harris gets a telegraph with a destination to pick up the money: Borados but before he can leave, Joe barges into his room, beats him up and tells him who he is. Not wanting to be picked up by the cops or killed, Harris tells him what really happened and Joe goes with him to get his cut of the cash.
At the airport some American Police escorting another criminal back to the States recognize Harris and they shoot him then try to get info on who he’s with but he dies leaving Joe to go to Borados alone. Joe arrives at the exotic hotel where Romano and Boyd are already there hanging around, none of them realizing they’re connected.
It turns out the man who set up the robbery is Tim Preston an ex cop who was forced into retirement and living in Mexico. His daughter Helen (Colleen Gray) is studying to be a lawyer but doesn’t have any idea what he’s up to. Things get more complicated when she begins to hit it off with Joe/Harris. The situation turns into a slow burning powder keg as the three men must wait to receive their cut of the money while staying at the same hotel none knowing that Tim Foster is the one behind it or of his real motivation.
An interesting detail about the film is the fact it is titled Kansas City Confidential but actually takes place almost entirely in Mexico. It was also an early showcase for the three featured character actors Neville Brand (Eaten Alive), Lee Van Cleef (The Good the Bad and the Ugly) and Jack Elam (Hannie Caulder) all who went on to regularly play heavies in genre films. Kansas City Confidential is an exceptional 50s noir heist potboiler that classic cinema fans will want to see.