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Thieves Like Us [DVD]

Keith Carradine , Shelley Duvall , Robert Altman    Suitable for 15 years and over   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: 5.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Thieves Like Us [DVD] + Mccabe And Mrs Miller [DVD] [1971] + Short Cuts [DVD]
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Product details

  • Actors: Keith Carradine, Shelley Duvall, John Schuck, Bert Remsen, Louise Fletcher
  • Directors: Robert Altman
  • Producers: Jerry Bick
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Spanish, English, German
  • Dubbed: French, German, Italian, Spanish
  • Subtitles For The Hearing Impaired: English, German
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: 20 Jun 2005
  • Run Time: 117 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000803PZO
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 66,359 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



Every few years Robert Altman gets rediscovered by critics and audiences, yet somehow this middle-period gem remains underviewed. It's hard to understand why. In 1974, when he made Thieves Like Us, Altman was in top form. He'd recently made McCabe and Mrs. Miller and The Long Goodbye, and the next year would bring Nashville, his touchstone masterwork. As with his other films, Thieves Like Us at first has a homemade immediacy, chugging along like back-porch skiffle music. Set in the Midwest of the 1930s, early scenes between the three thieves (Keith Carradine, Bert Remsen and John Schuck) feel like silent-movie era routines about a trio of affable farm boys turned bank robbers. Altman's subject--the "thistledown" critic Pauline Kael once described as Altman's real material--emerges by degrees. The story of hell-bent innocents devolves into a tale of the spell cast over the boys by the newspaper stories that mythologise them. (They turn a corner when their pictures appear in an issue of Real Detective.) The string of bank robberies, interlaced with episodes of a shy romance between Carradine and his Coke-sucking girl, Keechie (Shelley Duvall), becomes an agrarian noir by way of Madame Bovary. These thieves lived just at the point when American pop culture was emerging; the cities may have had Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra, but in the Altmanesque countryside sheet music was wallpaper and what pulled were radio serials such as Gangbusters. Compared at the time to Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde, Thieves Like Us now seems singular, a fable of fatal crime and punishment amid barbershop-quartet music and cricket song. --Lyall Bush

Product Description

In 1930s Mississippi, a convicted murderer (Keith Carradine) is serving his sentence on a prison farm when he manages to escape with two accomplices. They go on the run, embarking on a series of violent bank robberies, but it is not long before the police are on their trail. Robert Altman gathers another ensemble cast of all-star names for this Depression set drama.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By K. Gordon TOP 500 REVIEWER
I teetered between 4 and 5 stars on this. A gentle, slow, and moving study of some none-too-bright bank robbers in the 1930s. Keith Carradine and Shelly Duvall are terrific, and their scenes together are alive and wonderful. Some of the surrounding acting and storylines are good, but not nearly as strong as the films center. Beautiful production design, and a feeling, as with `McCabe and Mrs. Miller', of both tremendous reality, of `being there', while still feeling Brechtian and ironic at the same time. There are moments where the radio music in the background -- used in place of score - is a bit on the nose, and a few moments feel forced or slow. But this is a unique, odd and special movie, examining thieves in the depression without any hint of glamorization on one hand, or forced empathy on the other, while still breaking our hearts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All in a days work 28 Jun 2011
By Room For A View VINE VOICE
A key feature, albeit in the background, of this Altman cops and robbers movie is radio broadcasting. Like Woody Allen's "Radio Days", Altman uses the radio programmes of the film's historical context to convey, for instance, some of the popular types of entertainment shows produced during the golden age of radio. Indeed, like Allen, Altman captures time and place with majestic beauty. Radio shows accompany the characters as they weave their way through numerous bank robberies, fall in love and become increasingly menacing to society . For me, however, Altman's sympathetic treatment of the film's three thieves is contagious for I soon dismissed what amounts to a murderous shooting spree, for a feeling of support, wishing success. Perhaps the unbelievable nature of these characters has something to do with it? A dumb and violent alcoholic, a lame older family man and a young murderer played by Keith Carradine, who meets Shelly Duvall's wonderful character and falls in love. Their love apparently oblivious to their reality. Their are a few touching moments in this film, that reveal the human side to these characters, moments of tenderness and concern for others. Underneath the gloss however lies a grizzly world of being most wanted. The cops are their behind the scenes and Altman conveys a sense of dread by slowly ratching up the chase. Newspaper articles, posters, radio news and twitchy companions. There is a certain workman like feel to the professions of cops and robbers and Altman's thieves adopt a certain resignation that somehow excuses their behaviour. Nevertheless the inevitable happens and its interesting to finally seeing the cops at work. My highlight scene was the robbing banks training session, involving two chairs on a table, enthusiastic kids, a freaked out moll, and real guns.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Altman's best.... 10 Feb 2007
A fine movie from master independant film maker Robert Altman, now sadly no longer with us. This one is from right at the apex of his abilities, on a roll with films like MASH, McCabe and Mrs Miller and probably my favourite, The Long Goodbye. Sometimes the sheer quantity of films which Altman put out did impact on the quality. This is another take on the Bonnie and Clyde style story, though the female character portrayed by Shelley Duvall is not involved in the crimes but an innocent bystander who happens to fall for Keith Carradine as he comes to town. The bursts of violence when they come are quite brutal in a way that Altman seems to specialize in. For every truly great Altman film eg MASH,Nashville,The Long Goodbye, there are some curious and strangely unsatisfying ones: Brewster McCloud, Thieves Like Us, Pret-A Porter etc. Worth checking out for fans of the director, but a long way down a list of superb films. Why is Nashville not on reg 2 dvd? or Images?. Much more worthy of re-release than alot of titles around.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A definite gem from Robert Altman. 2 Jan 2003
By Jason Parkes #1 HALL OF FAME
Format:VHS Tape
As with the majority of Altman films, he always makes something of interest- though not everything comes up to the standard of greateness evident in films such as Nashville, The Player, M*A*S*H & Short Cuts. This is an oddity from 1974, and seems at times to be subverting the "Lover's on the run"/road movie archetype (think They Live By Night, Gun Crazy, Bonnie & Clyde) in the same manner that McCabe & Mrs Miller approached the Western or The Long Goodbye approached the crime genre.
Thieves Like Us boasts top performances from Shelley Duvall, Keith Carradine, Louise Fletcher & a young Tom Skerritt; it also lent its title to the great song of the same name by New Order. Which is nice. It's downbeat tone perfectly complements another Lover's on the run movie of the same year: Terence Malick's Badlands (though it's not in the same genius league as that). I think that Thieves Like Us is well worth rediscovering, a most definite influence on The Coen Brothers' O, Brother! Where Art Thou?. It is a potent reminder why the 1970's was such a strong period in American Cinema and why people like Peter Biskind have written frequently about it. A minor classic then...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Depression-era tragic romance that's quintessential Altman 15 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Keith Carradine as Bowie and Shelly Duvall as Keechie inhabit the mouldering hamlets of the 1930s south so naturally and unaffectedly that your throat tightens. This softer, dreamier Bonnie & Clyde-type tale (filmed in 1941 by Nicholas Ray as "They Live By Night")stands, with "The Long Goodbye" at the pinnacle of Robert Altman's extraordinary 1970s body of work -- even above "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" & "Nashville." Shot like old sepia photographs by Jean Boffety, the film boasts extraordinary supporting work by Bert Remsen, John Shuck, the pre-"Cuckoo's Nest" Louise Fletcher, and one unforgettable little girl. Why this masterpiece is all but forgotten is baffling: it's in a royal line of American movies dealing with average men and women trying to live in the twilight between decency and crime.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Altman Effort 9 Jan 2005
By William Hare - Published on
Director Robert Altman accepted a tough challenge in deciding to do a remake of a film noir classic from 1949. "They Live by Night" starred Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell and was directed by Nicholas Ray, who guided James Dean to his biggest triumph in "Rebel Without a Cause."

Just twenty-five years after Ray's brilliant triumph Altman scored big with his sequel, which he called "Thieves Like Us," which was the name of the Edward Anderson Depression novel from which the films were adapted. While the earlier drama emphasized the wide open spaces of Oklahoma and the dark, moody noir photography in which Nicholas Ray specialized, Altman put his own stamp on the sequel, moving the action from the aforementioned Southwestern state to the Southeast and rural Mississippi.

Whereas Ray emphasized mood and photography to a greater extent, Altman focused on the social climate of the Depression days in Mississippi. Keith Carradine, the sympathetic figure of the film's bank robbers, as was Farley Granger in the original, tells Shelley Duval, the slender young woman who falls in love with him, that yes, he had killed a man earlier and was sent to prison for doing so, but explains the circumstances.

"He had a gun and it was either him or me," Carradine explains. The statement summarizes the dire circumstances of the Depression in backwoods Mississippi, where survival was the paramount factor. Carradine, who played on the prison baseball team, is saddened that he will never have a chance to test his talents in the professional market. Duval holds out hope that perhaps he can, but he knows better. Carradine realizes he is a pawn of fate, having broken out with two seasoned professional criminals, opposites played by John Shuck and Bert Remsen. Shuck complains about his existence and takes to drinking heavily while Remsen, the oldest of the group at 44, is from New Jersey and lets it be known that he regrets having moved into a life of crime. "I should have been a lawyer and run for political office," he laments at one point.

Remsen's game plan is to engineer enough bank holdups to create a big enough grub stake to enable the team to split up and lead prosperous existences far removed from criminal enterprises. Carradine continue worrying about Shuck as the weak link due to his chronic drinking and complaining.

Eventually, as in the earlier version of the film, the young couple eventually must function on its own. Shelley Duval hopes that she and Carradine can forge a new life but the fatalistic young man who would have preferred playing professional baseball is a fatalist during a Depression filled with fatalists.

One clever element that Altman provides is using radio broadcasts of the period to bring the movie into sociological perspective. We hear the reassuring words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt seeking to bring the nation out of its economic doldrums along with the considerably harsher words of fiery radical Catholic priest Father Coughlin. In one scene Carradine and Duval engage in tender lovemaking during a radio rendition of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, a sensitive artistic touch.

Altman collaborated on the script with noted novelist and screenwriter Calder Willingham and one of the director's regular collaborators, Joan Tewksbury. The script never loses sight of Depression struggles and the solitariness of pawn of fate Carradine and his loyal partner Duval.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars radio fictions 17 July 2006
By Doug Anderson - Published on
Verified Purchase
You can pick this video up, new, for about two bucks. Its like getting a novel for a dime and thats fitting since this is a film set during a time when novels were a dime (and cokes a nickle). This film will make you feel like you are in another time and in another place. I suppose that price tag is proof that this film doesn't get much respect but that lack of respect, that underdog independence that marks so many of Altman's films, is just part of their appeal. I can see why this film is kind of a lost classic, because THIEVES LIKE US takes place in a time and place that you don't want to be in. In the rural Mississippi of the 1930's people don't have many options, everyone's just scraping by. The only glimpse of glamour in this world is provided by the radio. The radio is simultaneously the thing that describes the world and also transforms the world it describes by making everything ordinary seem sensational and larger-than-life. It almost seems that since nothing ever happens in this backwards Mississippi world crime like radio is just a way of relieving the tedium. Many of the radio programs involve dynamic capers and crime stoppers and when the three thieves read about themselves in the newspapers its almost like they have transcended their mundane surroundings and have become part of that glamourous radio world. Of course we can see that they haven't. And of course the Shadow knows it too.

The three thieves are just ordinary guys (no Clyde Barrow among them). In fact they are each almost painfully plain and they all seem to know it and this is part of their rebellion against not just authority but against life itself. Bowie (played by Altman staple Keith Carradine)is the only one of the three who has any imagination; but his imagination is awash in youth and vague dreams of romance and of playing pro baseball. He was convicted of killing a man when only in his teens but its like nothing ever seems to bring this dreamy kid with his head in the clouds to earth. After he escapes from prison he gets separated from the other two and spends the night beneath a bridge cuddled up with a dog. Its his boyish ordinariness and innocence (despite what hes done) that gains and keeps our attention. When he meets Keechy he seems oblivious to the fact that she is the very embodiment of depression era squalor, all he sees is romance. And its to the sound of radio programs that these two consummate their union. With the equally hopeless and equally dreamy Keechy its like he's finally encountered someone who allows him, even encourages him, to dream. But we know there is too great a distance between the dream and the reality and that the two will eventually prove to be incommensurate.

This is a movie about a younger America (c. 1930's) but its an America that feels old before its time. Its a depression era crime story that takes place around drug stores and gas stations and musty hotel rooms. Its about an America without hope. The radio programming is a constant reminder of the contrast between "America" the self-aggrandizing propaganda machine and "America" the fallen, corrupted, and squalid realm of broken dreams. The whole film--from prison escape to final showdown with the law-- feels muddy. The divide between what we hear on the radio and what we see with our eyes puts a constant strain on us. We know that the thieves must perceive it as well and this is why we end up rooting for them; we want something in reality to equal the fiction.

THIEVES LIKE US provides a strange contrast with THE LONG GOODBYE which is about another 1930's archetype (detective Phillip Marlowe) adrift in an always sunny 1970's California. I think the 1930's attract Altman because they mark the end of that organic America, the America that existed before the crass commercialization of the American soul was complete. Altman characters (Keith Carradine in Thieves Like Us and Nashville, Elliot Gould in Long Goodbye) are anachronisms; they each are possessed by a kind of nostalgia for a simpler time, and, for a while anyway, they seem to be capable of living in a cocoon world of their own making, but whether they realize it or not they are caught up in the same web of corruption that snares everyone.

Between THIEVES LIKE US and THE LONG GOODBYE I would say I prefer the latter but these two films should be viewed together. The one seems to lead to the other and both lead to NASHVILLE.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Altman Classic 17 April 2007
By Art - Published on
Nice to see this classic finally get a DVD release in the US. Altman was at the top of his game in the early 70s (between MASH and Nashville) and this movie fits in perfectly alongside such classics as McCabe & Mrs Miller, The Long Goodbye and California Split. Great performances from Shelley Duvall and Keith Carradine dominate this gangster film that's much more interested in the two young lovers than in bullets or blood.

A must-see for all Altman fans. For collectors, be forewarned by the short shelf-life of the California Split DVD and grab your copy now.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the reasons Altman's considered a genius..... 9 Dec 2006
By Photoscribe - Published on
Verified Purchase
This movie, a better rendition, if you ask me, of the whole "Bonnie & Cllyde" type of story, with Shelley Duvall practically owning the movie as Keechie, the quirky love interest of Keith Carradine's Bowie in this film, was made THIRTY-THREE YEARS AGO by the late, legendary Robert Altman. All things seem to come together nicely in this film: the art direction, something which Altman and his protegé Alan Rudolph were noted for on generally small budgets; the acting, by Duvall, Carradine, Remsen, Schuck and Fletcher; the cinematography, which is flawless and denouement, which flows like clear water to its final destination.

Remsen, Carradine and Schuck play bank robbers in this movie, but Altman takes pains not to portray them as monsters, with the possible exception of Schuck's character. Bowie is parlayed by Carradine as a sensitive, good-humored, "aw shucks" type who woos the rail-thin, down-home Keechie all through the movie. Remsen's character, "T-Dub", is portrayed as a bit of a randy old man, but essentially good natured. It is only Schuck's character that gets the standard "criminal [...]" treatment in the film, as a drunken, abusive and violent type. The upshot of this all is, BOWIE is the one who's a convicted murderer, but in the film, he's as gentle as a lamb with Keechie and the children he comes in contact with, all related to "T-Dub" and Louise Fletcher in one way or another.

Duvall's Keechie is her best role to date! Nobody can wield a rocking chair like her! Keechie falls for Bowie, (in fact, Carradine's Bowie is an awful lot like his character in "Trouble in Mind", a thief who wants to keep his family out of it,) and loses it when the inevitable happens at the end.

This was the kind of film Hollywood did beautifully in the 70s...the nostalgia movie that somehow managed to replicate earlier eras like they had somehow rigged up a time machine to transport whole audiences to the period. There isn't one anachronism or historical inaccurancy to speak of, and the radio shows, especially, some so obscure, I'm sure Newton Minnow would have had a hard time placing them, help establish the feel for the era.

A fitting tribute to a filmmaker whose later ouvre was a bit wanting. Joan Tewksbury also helped adapt this novel to the screen. Rent or can't lose.
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