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Charley Varrick is a 1973 crime film directed by Don Siegel and starring Walter Matthau, Andrew Robinson, Joe Don Baker and John Vernon. The film was based on the novel The Looters by John H. Reese.


Charley Varrick (Matthau) is a crop-duster by trade. (Siegel wanted Varrick's company's motto, "Last of the Independents," to be the title of the film.) By inclination Varrick prefers armed robbery to crop dusting, but the aging trailer-park dweller has clearly not been too successful. Together with three others, including his wife Nadine (Jacqueline Scott) and edgy Harman Sullivan (Robinson), Varrick robs a small bank in Tres Cruces, New Mexico. During the robbery, two policemen and the fourth robber are killed, and Nadine is mortally wounded.

Varrick and Sullivan find themselves with $750,000 — far more money than they expected. However, the bank manager (a timid character played by Woodrow Parfrey) reports only $2,000 stolen. Realizing they have stolen the proceeds of a money-laundering Mob operation, Varrick and Sullivan find themselves in trouble not only with the police, but with several shady characters, in particular Mob ally Maynard Boyle (Vernon) and amoral killer Molly (Baker).

Also being threatened by Sullivan, his own partner, Varrick decides to double-cross him (before Sullivan can do so to him). He decides to flee the country and puts in a rush order for two fake passports with a pretty photographer (Sheree North), who promptly puts Molly on their trail. The sadistic Molly catches up with Sullivan and brutally disposes of him while attempting to determine Varrick's whereabouts.

Boyle, meanwhile, terrifies the mousy bank manager with the threat that the Mob will suspect the robbery was an inside job. One of the descriptions of torture that Boyle suggests involves a pair of pliers and a blowtorch, imagery later used by the character Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction. The bank manager soon commits suicide with a gunshot to the head.

After seducing Boyle's secretary (played by Felicia Farr), Varrick sets up a meeting with Boyle, arriving for it in his crop duster. But he greets Boyle so warmly that it convinces Molly the men are partners. Molly angrily runs down Boyle with a car. Varrick tries to escape by plane, but Molly's car forces Varrick to flip upside-down.

Seemingly in mortal danger, Varrick has actually set a booby trap for Molly, who is blown up. In the remains of the explosion are a number of hundred dollar bills and Sullivan's dead body to be mistaken for that of Varrick (who had earlier switched dental records). Varrick vanishes with the remaining money.


Charley Varrick was set in New Mexicomarker, but filmed primarily in two Nevadamarker towns, Daytonmarker and Genoamarker. These scenes were shot in Genoa: the opening bank robbery exterior shots and the police chase of Varrick and his gang (shot near Genoa and Highway 395). The interior bank scene was filmed in nearby Mindenmarker. The trailer park scenes were shot in Dayton at the trailer park near today's Red Hawk Casino(the casino closed in 2008) and the Carson River near Highway 50, at the corner of Hart and Louie Streets. The closing flight scene was filmed at City Auto Wrecking located at Rt. 1 Mustang near the old Mustang Ranch, ten miles east of Reno. The Chinese restaurant scene was filmed at what is today a Starbucks Coffee in Reno, at Virginia and California Streets. The photographer's studio and gun store scenes were filmed in Gardnerville, Nevadamarker. Director Don Siegel filmed several of his movies in Northern Nevada, including Charley Varrick, The Shootist, and Jinxed!.


British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards = Best Actor, 1974, Walter Mathau

Award Nominations

British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards = Best Editing, 1974, Frank Morriss

DVD release

The film was released to Region 1 DVD on December 28, 2004 2004-12-28. The transfer is poor, full frame and no extras. On 2008-02-14 the film was released on Region 2 DVD in Europe. The transfer has notably improved, with an anamorphic transfer (1:1.85) and a booklet in German. Both versions are uncut.


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