Thief (1981)

R | 120 mins | Drama | 1981

Director:

Michael Mann

Cinematographer:

Donald Thorin

Editor:

Dov Hoenig

Production Designer:

Mel Bourne
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HISTORY

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Tucker Johnson, a student at Emerson College, with Eric Schaefer as academic advisor.

Thief marked Michael Mann's theatrical film debut as a director. He also wrote and executive produced the film. Actors Dennis Farina, William Peterson, Gavin McFadyen and James Belushi made their first appearances in a theatrically released feature film. According to the LAT review on 22 Mar 1981, the character of “Frank” was loosely based on real-life experiences of retired thief John Santucci, who portrays the corrupt police officer “Urizzi” in the film. As reported in a 2 Jun 1980 HR news item, Patti Ross and Nathan Davis were signed to play the lead roles in Thief , but on 11 Jun 1980, HR announced that Rita Taggart was cast in role of “Jessie.” The role was ultimately played by Tuesday Weld. According to Entertainment Today on 9 Nov 1979, production was set to begin 1 Mar 1980 in Chicago, and other locations included Lake Tahoe, Nevada and Los Angeles, California.
       As reported in DV on 8 Apr 1981, Thief opened at the 1981 Cannes Film ... More Less

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Tucker Johnson, a student at Emerson College, with Eric Schaefer as academic advisor.

Thief marked Michael Mann's theatrical film debut as a director. He also wrote and executive produced the film. Actors Dennis Farina, William Peterson, Gavin McFadyen and James Belushi made their first appearances in a theatrically released feature film. According to the LAT review on 22 Mar 1981, the character of “Frank” was loosely based on real-life experiences of retired thief John Santucci, who portrays the corrupt police officer “Urizzi” in the film. As reported in a 2 Jun 1980 HR news item, Patti Ross and Nathan Davis were signed to play the lead roles in Thief , but on 11 Jun 1980, HR announced that Rita Taggart was cast in role of “Jessie.” The role was ultimately played by Tuesday Weld. According to Entertainment Today on 9 Nov 1979, production was set to begin 1 Mar 1980 in Chicago, and other locations included Lake Tahoe, Nevada and Los Angeles, California.
       As reported in DV on 8 Apr 1981, Thief opened at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
25 Apr 1980.
---
Daily Variety
8 Apr 1981.
---
Entertainment Today
9 Nov 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 May 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Apr 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jun 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jun 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jun 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Mar 1981
p. 178.
Los Angeles Times
22 Mar 1981
p. 1, 24.
New York Times
27 Mar 1981
p. 12.
New York Times
3 Apr 1981
p. 6.
Variety
25 Jun 1980.
---
Variety
25 Mar 1981
p. 20.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Also Starring
Also Starring
Also Starring
Leo's people:
The police:
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
Screenstory & Scr by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog by
Spec photog
Cam op
Cam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
2d grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed-Chicago
Chicago ed facilities
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop
Lead person
Paint foreman
Const coord
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Cost
Selected ward of James Caan by
MUSIC
Addl mus
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Cableman
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Sd eff supv
Looping ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Asst sd eff ed
Asst sd eff ed
Asst sd eff ed
Asst sd eff ed
Sd eff processing
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles & opticals by
Titles by
MAKEUP
Make-up artist
Hair stylist
Hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Addl casting by
Extra casting by
Extra casting by
Tech consultant
Tech consultant
Spec projects
Asst to Michael Mann
Scr supv
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Security
Transportation coord
Transportation coord
Transportation co-capt
Transportation co-capt
Prod coord
Michael Mann Co./Caan Productions accountant
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Unit pub
Secy to Michael Mann
Secy to Michael Mann
Asst to the prods
Asst to James Caan
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Craft service-Chicago
Craft service-Los Angeles
Hand guns by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stuntman
COLOR PERSONNEL
Timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book The Home Invaders: Confessions of a Cat Burglar by Frank Hohimer (Chicago, 1975).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
1981
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 27 March 1981
Copyright Claimant:
United Artists Corporation
Copyright Date:
23 April 1981
Copyright Number:
PA100354
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo
Color
Astro Color Laboratories, Inc.
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex camera by Panavision; Prints by Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
120
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26144
SYNOPSIS

Late night in Chicago, Illinois, a safe is cracked by a team of thieves. The next morning at a coffee shop, Frank delivers diamonds from the heist to Joe Gags, who agrees to sell them for $185,000. Gags tells Frank that the buyers want to meet him and suggests that Frank reinvest his earnings on the street, but Frank insists on putting his money in the bank and says that his associate, Barry, will collect the cash that afternoon. Paying the bill, Frank reminds the restaurant hostess, Jessie, that he will pick her up in the evening for their date. Back at his car dealership, Frank receives a letter from his jailed friend, Okla, who asks to see him. At a bar, Frank calls Barry, who tells him that the cash pick-up was unsuccessful because Gags fell out of a twelve-story window to his death. When they meet, Barry informs Frank that Gags was investing money in illegal street deals for a businessman named Attaglia, but Attaglia discovered that Gags was pocketing the “principle” and had him killed. Barry reports that Gags sold the diamonds earlier in the day as planned, but died with Frank’s money in his pocket. At Attaglia’s plating company, Frank explains to Attaglia that Gags’s cash belongs to him and demands it be returned. When Attaglia claims ignorance about Gags, Frank holds him up at gunpoint and arranges to meet in three hours for the delivery of his money. In the meantime, Frank visits Okla in prison. Frank tells Okla that his marriage fell apart when his wife discovered his criminal dealings and affairs, and ... +


Late night in Chicago, Illinois, a safe is cracked by a team of thieves. The next morning at a coffee shop, Frank delivers diamonds from the heist to Joe Gags, who agrees to sell them for $185,000. Gags tells Frank that the buyers want to meet him and suggests that Frank reinvest his earnings on the street, but Frank insists on putting his money in the bank and says that his associate, Barry, will collect the cash that afternoon. Paying the bill, Frank reminds the restaurant hostess, Jessie, that he will pick her up in the evening for their date. Back at his car dealership, Frank receives a letter from his jailed friend, Okla, who asks to see him. At a bar, Frank calls Barry, who tells him that the cash pick-up was unsuccessful because Gags fell out of a twelve-story window to his death. When they meet, Barry informs Frank that Gags was investing money in illegal street deals for a businessman named Attaglia, but Attaglia discovered that Gags was pocketing the “principle” and had him killed. Barry reports that Gags sold the diamonds earlier in the day as planned, but died with Frank’s money in his pocket. At Attaglia’s plating company, Frank explains to Attaglia that Gags’s cash belongs to him and demands it be returned. When Attaglia claims ignorance about Gags, Frank holds him up at gunpoint and arranges to meet in three hours for the delivery of his money. In the meantime, Frank visits Okla in prison. Frank tells Okla that his marriage fell apart when his wife discovered his criminal dealings and affairs, and he is hoping to have a future with Jessie. Asking Okla if he should tell Jessie about his work, Okla advises Frank to never lie. When Okla confesses that he is terminally ill and will not survive to the end of his ten-month sentence, Frank promises to get him released early. Later that evening, Attaglia plots with his men to kill Frank at the delivery location. As undercover police survey the scene and Barry watches from afar with a rifle to protect Frank, Attaglia’s associate, Leo, hands off the cash. Before Frank leaves, Leo identifies himself as the man who buys diamonds from the “fence” middlemen who worked with Gags and offers Frank employment as a contractor. Although Frank is reluctant, Leo tells him that the heists are thoroughly researched and that he will be provided with all the tools required to pull them off successfully. When Leo assures Frank that he will quickly become a millionaire by working for him and that he will be given legal protection, Frank agrees to consider the deal. Arriving at a club two hours late for his date with Jessie, Frank finds her angry. He forces Jessie into his car and argues that his work as a thief sometimes prevents him from keeping outside commitments. Frank tells Jessie that he is no longer married and wants to pursue their relationship. At a coffee shop, Jessie tells him about her troubled past relationship with a Colombian drug dealer and says that she now appreciates her solid and boring life, but Frank insists that she is still unhappy and describes how his eleven years in prison taught him to be emotionally detached. He shows her a self-made collage of things he cares about, which includes pictures of her with a child and Okla, who, he explains, is a father to him. Jessie is skeptical about Frank’s work and worries for his life, then admits that she is unable to have children. Frank says that they can adopt and implores her to have a future with him to mend the hardships of their lives. Later, Frank calls Leo and agrees to conduct a heist. On a rooftop in downtown Los Angeles, Frank is briefed about his assignment and learns that there are five alarms protecting diamonds worth $4 million. Frank tells Leo that the custom safe will have to be burned, not drilled, estimating that it will take up to eighteen hours to complete the job, and Leo offers $830,000 compensation. Although Leo has blueprints of the building and detailed plans about its security, he is unable to provide information about the fifth alarm. Back in Chicago, Frank consults with a steel specialist about the safe and commissions a welding tool that can cut through the vault’s door. At a hearing for Okla’s release, the judge grants a writ of habeas corpus while Frank receives two forged California identification cards for the heist. When Barry returns from Los Angeles and visits Frank at his new suburban house, he informs Frank about the fifth alarm, which is a radio transmitter tripped by a sonic detector. When the alarm is set off, there is a ten second delay for employees to call the alarm company with a code word. Frank instructs Barry to bug the office to access the code. Happily settled with Jessie, Frank tells Barry that this will be his last heist. Meanwhile, Frank and Jessie have trouble adopting a child because of Frank’s past imprisonment. Some time later, police Sergeant Urizzi pulls Frank over and asks to partner in his deal with Leo, but Frank refuses. Returning home, Frank discovers his phone is tapped. In a meeting with Leo, Frank questions why he has been under scrutiny since he began working for him and Leo promises to take care of it. Frank deceitfully tells him that no progress has been made on the fifth alarm. Inquiring about Frank and Jessie’s adoption problems, Leo offers to buy a Frank a son on the black market. Later, Frank and Jessie visit Okla in the hospital. Just before he dies, Okla whispers his appreciation to Frank for getting him released from jail and Frank decides to name his baby David, which was Okla’s real name. In Los Angeles, Barry discovers the code for the fifth alarm and calls Frank to report that they are ready to proceed, but, before leaving, Frank is again accosted by the police, who beat him up and demand a cut from the heist. Frank throws off the police, arrives in Los Angeles and starts his operation with Barry. They break into the building through the elevator shaft and disable the first four alarms. When Frank enters the office, he successfully uses the code word to stop the fifth alarm. With the custom-built welding tool, Frank and his team cut through the safe door and steal the diamonds. Back in Chicago, however, Frank finds that Leo has shorted most of his payment, but Leo argues that the remaining money has been invested. Although Leo assumes Frank will continue their relationship because he has provided a house and family for him, Frank insists that he is done and demands payment in twenty-four hours. While Frank drives to meet Barry at his car dealership, Barry is accosted by Leo’s henchmen; and, when he runs to warn Frank about the set-up, Barry is shot dead. In a warehouse, Leo threatens to kill Frank’s family if he does not continue to work for him and claims that he owns Frank’s life. Barry’s body is dumped in a vat of chemicals. Back at home, Frank orders Jessie to leave and gives her $410,000. Despite her resistance, Jessie and David drive away with Frank’s associate. After setting off explosives in the house, Frank blows up Leo’s bar and sets fire to the cars at his dealership. Throwing away the collage of his loved ones, Frank breaks into Leo’s house, beats up Attaglia and shoots Leo dead. Outside, a gun battle ensues between Frank and Leo’s henchmen, and Attaglia is killed. Although Frank is shot, he fends off his attackers and wanders off into the night. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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