Charley Varrick

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Charley Varrick
Charley Varrick.jpg
Film poster
Directed by Don Siegel
Produced by Don Siegel
Written by John H. Reese (novel)
Dean Riesner
Howard Rodman
Based on The Looters (novel) 
by John H. Reese
Starring Walter Matthau
Andrew Robinson
Joe Don Baker
John Vernon
Felicia Farr
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Cinematography Michael C. Butler
Edited by Frank Morriss
Universal Pictures
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • October 19, 1973 (1973-10-19)
Running time
111 min.
Language English

Charley Varrick (aka The Last of the Independents and Kill 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 (Walter Matthau) is a crop-duster and former stunt pilot. The aging trailer-park dweller, his wife Nadine (Jacqueline Scott) and co-conspirators Al Dutcher (Fred Scheiwiller) and Harman Sullivan (Andrew 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 getaway car and eludes the police, but she, too, has been mortally wounded. Varrick distracts the police by blowing up the getaway car with black powder and gasoline, with his wife's body inside. He and Sullivan escape.

When they count the stolen money, Varrick and Sullivan find themselves with $765,118 — it is far more money than they expected from such a small bank. A television news broadcast reports that only $2,000 was stolen, according to the bank. Varrick realizes the bank must have been involved in a mob money laundering operation and that the Mafia will pursue them more relentlessly than the police. He tells Sullivan their only chance is laying low and not spending the money for the next three to four years. The young, headstrong Sullivan will hear none of it, defying his partner.

Mafia financier Maynard Boyle (John Vernon) runs the bank and pretends to cooperate with law enforcement. In private, he dispatches hitman Molly (Joe Don Baker) to recover the stolen money by any means necessary. The soft-spoken Molly is a pipe-smoking teetotaler, but behind that dignified facade is a ruthless killer.

Realizing that Sullivan's rashness endangers both of them, Varrick decides to double-cross him before Sullivan can do likewise. He puts in a rush order for fake passports with Jewell Everett (Sheree North), a pretty photographer. She promptly betrays Varrick and puts Molly on his trail. The sadistic Molly turns up at Varrick's trailer, brutally beats Sullivan, then kills him while attempting to determine Varrick's whereabouts.

Boyle 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 pulled the heist during a brief period when the money would be there. Boyle 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 will be tortured with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch. The meek Young is so terrified that he commits suicide.

Varrick purchases a supply of dynamite from an Albuquerque shop. He then flies his aircraft to Reno, where he buys flowers and pays a boy to deliver them to Boyle's secretary, Sybil Fort (Felicia Farr), before she leaves work so Varrick can identify her and follow her home. He surprises and seduces Fort at her high-rise apartment. After becoming lovers, she warns Varrick not to trust her boss.

On the phone, Varrick arranges a meeting with Boyle to return the money in a remote automobile wrecking yard, asking that Boyle call off Molly. Upon arriving in New Mexico in his crop duster, Varrick ostentatiously hugs a confounded Boyle, acting overjoyed. Molly, watching the meeting from a distance, is enraged, convinced that Boyle was a participant in the robbery. He runs down Boyle with his car, killing him.

Molly then chases Varrick, who tries to escape in his aircraft in the junkyard. Molly damages the crop-duster's tail with his car before it can take off. Varrick's crippled aircraft flips over when he slams on the brake. Flat on his back in the wreckage, there is nothing Varrick can do now to save himself except tell Molly where the money is hidden.

Varrick has set a booby trap; he flipped his aircraft on purpose, a trick he learned in his barnstorming days. He tells Molly the money is in the trunk of an old Chevy. Molly opens the trunk and is killed in an explosion. In the remains is Sullivan's corpse, wearing Charley's wedding ring. Varrick had earlier switched their dental records. Varrick throws a thick wad of hundred-dollar bills into the flames and tosses in his logo-embroidered jumpsuit, where it too starts to burn. He transfers the rest of the money to another car and makes his getaway.



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 film 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. The little boy who tells the sheriff he has blood on his head is played by Walter Matthau's son, Charles.

Varrick's aircraft is a Boeing PT-17 Stearman Kaydet (N53039) flown by noted Hollywood aerial pilot Frank Tallman. The modified crop duster belonged to a California agricultural spraying business.[1]


Siegel filmed several of his movies in northern Nevada, including Charley Varrick, The Shootist and Jinxed! Charley Varrick was set in New Mexico, but filmed primarily in two small Nevada towns, Dayton and Genoa. Both lay claim to being the oldest towns in the state. The opening bank robbery exterior shots were filmed in Genoa at the old Douglas County court house. The sheriff's chase of Varrick and his gang was filmed nearby at Genoa Lane, and on U.S. Route 395. [2]

The interior bank scenes were filmed in Minden. The trailer park scenes were shot in Dayton at the trailer park near Red Hawk Casino (closed in 2008) and the Carson River, at the corner of Hart and Louie Streets. The photographer's studio and gun store scenes were filmed in Gardnerville, Nevada\Gardnerville. The aircraft flight scene at the end was shot at City Auto Wrecking in Sparks. Reno locations include the Chinese restaurant at 538 S. Virginia St. and the Arlington Towers apartment building where Varrick meets Miss Fort.[2]


Although very well received critically, it was a disappointment at the box office. Reviewer Paul Tatara described Charley Varrick as "intelligent, commercial filmmaking at its finest. They rarely make them like this anymore."[3]

Vincent Canby in his review for The New York Times considered Charley Varrick as both an action film and a mystery:

An intelligent action melodrama is probably one of the most difficult kinds of film to make. Intelligence in this case has nothing to do with being literate, poetic, or even reasonable. It has to do with movement, suspense, and sudden changes in fortune that are plausible enough to entertain without challenging you to question basic premises. If you start asking whether such-and-such could really have happened, or if so-and-so would have acted in a certain way, the action film falls apart.[4]

While not strictly a "remake," 2 Guns (2013) has many of the same film elements as Charley Varrick. The protagonists of the film also rob a bank in Tres Cruces, New Mexico, and make off with a far larger than expected amount of money.[5]


Matthau won the 1974 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards for Best Actor in Charley Varrick. In addition, Frank Morriss was nominated for the 1974 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards for Best Editing.[6]

DVD and Blu-ray release[edit]

Charley Varrick was released as a Region 1 DVD with no extras on December 28, 2004. On February 14, 2008, the film was released as a Region 2 DVD in Europe in widescreen with some special features. Both DVD versions are uncut.[7] On March 19, 2015, the film was release in a Region B locked Blu-ray in Germany. This edition included a 72 minutes documentary on the making of the film, " Last of the independents: Don Siegel and the making of Charley Varrick."

Cultural impact[edit]

According to Rory Gallagher's long-time bassist Gerry McAvoy, in his book Riding Shotgun: 35 Years on the Road with Rory Gallagher and 'Nine Below Zero', Gallagher's 1978 song "Last of the Independents" was inspired by Charley Varrick.[8][9]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Santoir, Christian. "Charley Varrick". Aeromovies. Retrieved: December 1, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Locations: 'Charley Varrick' (1973)." IMDb. Retrieved: December 1, 2015.
  3. ^ Tatara, Paul. "Articles: 'Charley Varrick' (1973)." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: December 1, 2015.
  4. ^ Canby, Vincent. "Movie Review: 'Charley Varrick' (1973)." The New York Times, October 20, 1973.
  5. ^ Bierly, Mandy. "'2 Guns': Bill Paxton explains how he became one of summer's best scene-stealers." Entertainment Weekly, August 2, 2014. Retrieved: December 1, 2015.
  6. ^ "Awards: 'Charley Varrick' (1973)." IMDb. Retrieved: December 1, 2015.
  7. ^ Erickson, Glenn. "Review: 'Charley Varrick'." DVD Savant, February 6, 2005. Retrieved: December 1, 2015.
  8. ^ McAvoy and Chrisp 2005[page needed]
  9. ^ "The last of the Independents." Retrieved: December 1, 2015.


  • Davies, Ray. X-Ray: The Unauthorized Autobiography. New York: The Overlook Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0-8795-1664-2.
  • McAvoy, Gerry with Pete Chrisp. Riding Shotgun: 35 Years on the Road with Rory Gallagher and 'Nine Below Zero'. Maidstone, Kent, UK: SPG Triumph, 2005. ISBN 978-0-9550-3200-4.
  • Siegel, Don. A Siegel Film: An Autobiography. New York: Faber & Faber, 1996. ISBN 978-0-5711-6270-3.

External links[edit]