Alain Delon as Eddie Pedak, reformed thief
San Francisco, Spring 1965
Film: Once a Thief
Release Date: September 8, 1965
Director: Ralph Nelson
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
On the last day of #Noirvember (and Alain Delon’s birthday month) and the first day of this winter’s #CarWeek series, it felt like the perfect time to explore Once a Thief, Ralph Nelson’s moody black-and-white crime drama starring Delon as a reformed criminal-turned-family man.
The jazzy opening credits depict a night at Big Al’s, a smoky den laden with drug pushers and beatniks, including author Zekial Marko, whose novel Scratch a Thief provided the movie’s source material. We follow a young man swaddled in sheepskin as he leaves the club and takes the wheel of a vintage “Model A Ford” roadster, which then becomes his getaway car after a swift but deadly closing-time stickup at a liquor store in Chinatown.
We then learn that the car and coat are a trademark of Eddie Pedak, a reformed armed robber making an honest living as a truck driver with his wife Kristine (Ann-Margret) and their daughter. The arrival of Eddie’s criminal brother Walter (Jack Palance), a syndicate hotshot, brings complications in the form of a proposition for one night’s criminal work—the proverbial “one last job”—which Eddie initially refuses, despite the $50,000 payout.