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|Directed by||Don Siegel|
|Produced by||Don Siegel|
|Written by||John H. Reese (novel)
Joe Don Baker
|Music by||Lalo Schifrin|
|Cinematography||Michael C. Butler|
|Edited by||Frank Morriss|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||111 min.|
Charley Varrick (Matthau) is a crop-duster and former stunt pilot. The aging trailer-park dweller has clearly not been too successful. Together with his wife Nadine and co-conspirators Al Dutcher and Harman Sullivan (Andy Robinson) , a heavily disguised Varrick robs a bank in the rural crossroads community of Tres Cruces, New Mexico. During the robbery, two policemen and Dutcher are killed. Nadine drives the get-away car and eludes the police, but she too has been mortally wounded and dies shortly thereafter. Varrick distracts the police from their chase of him by blowing up the getaway car with black powder and gasoline, with his wife's body inside. The ploy works, and Varrick and Sullivan escape.
When they count the stolen money that evening, Varrick and Sullivan find themselves with $765,118 — it is far more money than they expected at a small county bank. A television news broadcast reports that only $2,000 was stolen, according to the bank. Varrick explains to Sullivan that the bank must have been involved in a mob money laundering operation and that the mafia will pursue them more relentlessly than the police. Varrick tells Sullivan that they can only evade the mafia by laying low and not spending the money immediately. The young and headstrong Sullivan will hear none of it, argues with Varrick, and plans to spend the money on the luxuries he craves.
Soon, Mafia financier Maynard Boyle(John Vernon) dispatches hitman Molly (Joe Don Baker) to find the robbers and recover the stolen money by any means necessary. Realizing that Sullivan's rashness endangers both of them, Varrick decides to double-cross him before Sullivan can do the same to him. He makes a plan to flee the country and puts in a rush order for two fake passports with Jewell Everett (Sheree North) , a pretty photographer. She promptly betrays Varrick and puts Molly on his trail. The sadistic Molly catches up with Sullivan at Charley's trailer, brutally beating, and then killing him ,while attempting to determine Varrick's whereabouts.
Boyle, meanwhile, tells bank manager Harold Young (Woodrow Parfrey) that his superiors in the mob suspect that the robbery was an inside job, as Varrick's gang robbed the bank during the brief period the money would be there. Boyle also asks why Young unwittingly guided Varrick to the Mafia's money in the bank's safe instead of letting him leave with just the tellers' money. He suggests that Young may be tortured with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch until he provides a satisfactory answer. The meek Young is so terrified that he commits suicide by shooting himself to avoid the interrogation.
Varrick then flies his plane to Reno. where he buys flowers from a street vendor (Charles Matthau). When Boyle's pretty secretary, Sybil Fort (Felicia Farr) leaves work carrying the roses, Varrick follows her home and surprises and seduces at her Arlington Towers apartment. Later she urges Varrick not to trust her boss. Nonetheless, Varrick sets up a meeting with Maynard Boyle to return the money in a remote automobile wrecking yard situated east of Reese, NM. Mustang Auto Wrecking, After arriving in his crop duster, Varrick ostentatiously hugs Boyle and proclaims they've gotten away with stealing the money. Molly, surveilling the meeting in his car, 500 yards away, is convinced that the two must have been co-conspirators in the robbery. He then runs down and kills Boyle with his car.
Molly then chases Varrick, who tries to escape by plane in the junkyard. Molly damages the crop-duster's tail with his car before it can take off.Varrick's crippled plane flips over, intentionally when Varrick slams on the brake. Flat on his back in the wreckage, it appears Varrick can do nothing to save himself, except tell Molly where the money is hidden.
Seemingly in mortal danger, Varrick has set a booby trap for Molly, flipping the plane on purpose, a trick he learned back in his barnstorming days. Varrick tells him the money is in the trunk of an old Chevy parked among the junkers. Molly opens the Chevy's trunk to retrieve the hidden money he is killed in an explosion, landing 50 feet away on another upside down wrecked car. In the remains of the explosion is Sullivan's body wearing Charley's wedding ring, to be mistaken for that of Varrick, who earlier had switched their dental records, while removing his wife's and Harmon's records. Varrick throws a thick wad of hundred-dollar bills into the burning flames and tosses his logo embroidered jumpsuit into the trunk on top of Sullivans body where it too starts to burn. He then transfers the rest of the money to another supposedly junked car and makes his getaway, while the camera rises into the air and pans down/zooms in ending with a closeup of the burning jumpsuit, repeating the opening shot of the movie.
- Walter Matthau as Charley Varrick
- Andy Robinson as Harman Sullivan
- Joe Don Baker as Molly
- John Vernon as Maynard Boyle
- Sheree North as Jewell Everett
- Felicia Farr as Sybil Fort
- Norman Fell as Garfinkle
- Woodrow Parfrey as Harold Young
- William Schallert as Sheriff Horton
- Jacqueline Scott as Nadine
- Benson Fong as Honest John
- Marjorie Bennett as Mrs Taft
- Joe Conforte as himself
- Tom Tully as Tom
Charley Varrick was set in New Mexico, but filmed primarily in two Nevada towns, Dayton and Genoa. The opening bank robbery exterior shots were filmed in Genoa at the old court house. The police chase of Varrick and his gang were filmed nearby at Genoa Lane, and U.S. Route 395. The interior bank scenes were filmed in Minden. The trailer park scenes were shot in Dayton at the trailer park near today's Red Hawk Casino (closed in 2008) and the Carson River, near U.S. Route 50, at the corner of Hart and Louie Streets. The closing plane flight scene was filmed at City Auto Wrecking, located at Rt. 1 Mustang Exit, Sparks, near the defunct but now reopened Mustang Ranch brothel, ten miles east of Reno. The Chinese restaurant scene was filmed at 538 S. Virginia St., Reno, Nevada. Today a Starbucks coffee shop and Ceol Irish Pub are at this location in Reno. The photographer's studio and gun store scenes were filmed in Gardnerville. Director Don Siegel filmed several of his movies in northern Nevada, including Charley Varrick, The Shootist and Jinxed! The little boy who tells the sheriff he's got blood on his head and asks if he's gonna die is played by Walter Matthau's real life son, Charles, and the apartment building where Varrick meets Miss Fort is the Arlington Towers in Reno.
British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards — Best Actor, 1974, Walter Matthau
British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards — Best Editing, 1974, Frank Morriss
The film was released as a Region 1 DVD on December 28, 2004. It has no extras. On February 14, 2008 the film was released as a Region 2 DVD in Europe in Widescreen and some Special Features. Both Versions are uncut.
Director Don Siegel wanted Varrick's company's motto, "Last of the Independents," to be the title of the film. The motto appears on the movie poster and briefly as a subtitle in the film trailer.
Tom Tully had a small part as a shopkeeper in a wheelchair. Charley Varrick was his last film.
- In Ray Davies' semi-fictional autobiography, X-Ray, the film Charley Varrick is mentioned approvingly several times, and he claims it is his "favourite video".
- The song "Last of the Independents" by Rory Gallagher was also inspired by Charley Varrick, according to his long-time bassist Gerry McAvoy in his book, Riding Shotgun.
- The line "... go to work on you with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch ..." is paraphrased in Pulp Fiction.
- The protagonists of 2 Guns rob a bank in Tres Cruces, New Mexico.
- Davies, Ray X-Ray New York: The Overlook Press, 1995.
- McAvoy, Gerry with Pete Chrisp Riding Shotgun Maidstone, Kent: SPG Triumph, 2005