Many people have seen Ocean’s Eleven and can probably recite George Clooney’s every line in the 2001 classic casino heist movie. The movie boasts numerous world famous actors, including Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, and Andy Garcia, and it is set in some of the most stunning places in Vegas. However, while everyone enjoys a great heist movie, many people do not know that Ocean’s Eleven is actually a remake of a very similar 1960s film, not surprisingly titled Ocean’s 11. While Vegas has changed a lot in fifty years, the fundamental elements of the movie are the same, and it is a must see for any fan of organized crime movies.
Vegas really began to grow into what it is today with the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s, when Boulder City was developed to entertain the construction works from the Dam project. While gambling and alcohol were illegal in the prohibition days, many mobsters began providing this form of entertainment to workers.
Upon seeing how profitable the gambling business was, the state of Nevada began issuing gambling licenses, and El Rancho Vegas became the first resort in Las Vegas in 1941. As World War II wound down, gangster Bugsy Siegal and mob boss Meyer Lansky worked together to open The Flamingo in 1946, and many more resort casinos were to follow.
This is the same time period that Ocean’s 11 is concerned with, as the story consists of World War II 82nd Airborne veterans who work together to pull off heists at five of the leading resorts in Vegas: the Sahara, Riviera, Desert Inn, Sands, and Flamingo. This is an interesting time period for the movie to take place in, as it is a classic organized crime flick. After all, the casino industry was heavily driven by mobsters to begin with, and Ocean’s 11 is all about a group of intelligent friends committing organized crime—does it get any more gangster than this?
Of course, if you’ve seen the 2001 adaptation, you already have a good idea of what the plot is. There are several key differences, however. While the idea for using a “pinch” to knock out the power was directly inspired by the original, in which they knock out the power to the Strip, the reason for this changes. In 11, they do not use the power outage to skip past security. Instead, they use it to open the casino cashier cages. Rather than steal the money and walk out in person, they dump it in the trash and have one of their boys drive the garbage truck to collect the loot.
The ending is different as well and a better twist than what is found in Eleven, but I won’t ruin the surprise for those who haven’t seen it. If you were a fan of the “Ocean’s Trilogy” in the 2000s, you owe it to yourself to check out the 1960 film that started it all. The film is definitely worth a watch even for organized crime fans, as it is one of the first big mobster movies in the history of film. The characters in 11 might not have been actual mobsters, but they sure pulled off a mobster heist!
Movies have come a long way in the past fifty years, for sure. While you might not see many producers draining half a lake to create a single shot in 1960—I learned that lil' movie fact gem here—this movie boasts high production value in its own right. Starring the “Rat Pack,” including Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, 11 had no shortage of famous actors to give it some impressive star power, and they do not fail in earning their reputation (Sinatra was even quoted for saying “forget the movie, let’s pull the job!”).
Boasting a star cast that rivals that of the 2001 remake, 11 is sure to impress and captivate audiences even in our modern age. With a video port in 2010 that boasts high reviews, you have nothing to worry about in giving the '60s a few hours of your time.
If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, and your closet is full of movies you have already seen dozens of times, spend some time learning the history of great modern films. You never know what might surprise you, and many fans of gangster and thriller movies claim that 11 is better than its modern remake. Even after fifty years, Ocean’s 11 remains a masterpiece and will live on for generations as a classic.