well-done 1956 noir with Mark Stevens investigating a heist he orchestrated
Time Table begins on a train with one of the passengers, a doctor (Wesley Addy) reluctantly agreeing to check on another passenger who’s fallen ill. You think you’re about to see a contagion thriller when the doctor, already pale in complexion, emerges from the cabin solemn-faced, with a diagnosis of polio, and gives strict orders to stop the train at the next town, order an ambulance, and quarantine the entire car until then. He asks to be let into the baggage car to get to his bag, and there he holds up and drugs the workers, blasts open the safe, steals $500,000 and walks off to the waiting ambulance with “patient and wife.”
Mark Stevens, who also directed, plays an insurance investigator called on to the case just on the verge of a long awaited vacation to Mexico with his wife, which you think explains why he’s so grouchy. But the real reason for Stevens’ edginess –don’t worry I’m not spoiling anything– is that he’s the one who masterminded the train robbery down to the minute, and plans to cure some midlife crisis by leaving his perfectly nice wife, home and career, and running off with the loot and the woman who played the train patient’s wife (Felicia Farr).
As in most noir heists, you could have the most strictly outlined Time Table ever devised, and something will go bad; in this case, someone gets themselves shot. As his theoretically perfect plan unravels, Stevens has to throw off the clever and determined detective he’s teamed with (King Calder). This suspenseful thriller gives you not only a fast, tense plot but also the first screen appearance of Jack Klugman, who steals the interrogation scene, playing the ambulance driver hired for a few thousand bucks but who swears he doesn’t know anything more. Then there’s a helicopter owner who arranged for the next stage of the escape, therefore knows too much and must be “visited” by Stevens. That character is wonderfully acted but a bit jarring to watch because it’s none other than Alan Reed, aka the voice of Fred Flintstone (you half expect him to shriek Yabba Dabba Dooooo when he gets plugged).
Stevens is terribly mean to his nice wife, and that was tough to watch repeatedly, since you’re not given much reason for his nastiness other than some vague “I’m a huge success but what does it all mean” ennui, but I have no complaints about Stevens’ acting. He does a great job juggling the plates, trying to distract, divert and obfuscate, while also staying cool and cleaning up the mess his collaborators have made, the stress of which causes him to blow up even more than his boredom with life. The movie speeds along, wasting no time and sticking to a tighter timetable than Stevens is able to pull off, and you’re left to wonder, as more bodies pile up and both wife and detective get closer to the truth, how and if Stevens will squeak through.