Against Lingering Anguish

Full of post-Korean war anxieties, 5 Against the House sets up a heist movie with a unique angle. Brian Keith plays a veteran haunted by his service, and while Guy Madison and Kim Novak headline, it’s Keith who takes 5 Against the House into richer territory.

The gig is a Reno casino, adding an American west flavor as a group of four returning vets (plus Novak) plot out their robbery. Part of it comes from wanting another adrenaline rush in their lives. Another cause is the need to be famous – the first people to get away with lifting cash from a heavily guarded casino. Civilian life weighs on them. The GI Bill offers them a chance at college and a career. Lingering memories prevent them from fitting in.

What’s at first a buddy movie (guys jabbering, initiating freshman, and picking up woman) takes a dramatic turn. Keith snaps. He nearly kills a man with a broken bottle while at a party. Kerwin Matthews in his first credited screen role (he went uncredited in a Cell 2455, Death Row bit part) brings Keith back to reality. It’s a sudden, startling break from the casual banter.

… breaking from displays of masculine toughness and showing that seeking help is a solution, not weakness

That’s 5 Against the House at its best, willing to deal with war trauma on the homefront. By way of the ‘50s, dialog too often reverts to “psycho” or “crazy” to define Keith’s behavior. During a period when few admitted to their mental suffering – and Hollywood glorified combat – 5 Against the House displays an understanding and how continued camaraderie helps deal with recurring images, terminology aside.

As for the heist, it’s nothing, an attempt at moral complexity with the foursome debating the potential for being caught and whether they deserve the riches lasts for one scene. With B-level aspirations, 5 Against the House fills with pacing blunders. The freshman lackey pranking one of the crew goes on for ages without progress to the story. Soon, that freshman disappears from this script. What a waste of time.

In the end, the story turns to compassion, not violence. While the finale sends police cars rushing through Reno streets in an impressive show of location work, 5 Against the House settles things with words. It’s reasonable, unusually so, breaking from displays of masculine toughness and showing that seeking help is a solution, not weakness. While it takes time getting there, 5 Against the House finishes with a respectfully soft touch.


What looks like an older master of 5 Against the House debuts with this Blu-ray release, the first film on the second disc of Mill Creek’s Noir Archive 2. A clean source print doesn’t suffer from any notable damage or scratches. For a lower-end outing, someone took care of this print.

The scan hides the best stuff. Chunky grain clouds the image, poorly compressed and adding notable banding. Fine detail struggles, but does pop when in close. Some of the Reno cinematography captures the city at a special time, and while on the fuzzier side, there’s enough attention lavished on the lights to make things look spectacular.

Strong gray scale gives 5 Against the House depth and dimension. Blacks reach stable levels with plenty of highlights to take in. Again, note the Reno exteriors for their nighttime boldness – lights dominate against the darkened sky.


Routine DTS-HD mono services the dialog. Busy casino interiors add loud ambiance, but hold firm in keeping conversation clean. For older mono, that’s fine work.

Expect limited range, especially on the weak low-end. The score offers minimal power even when aiming for dramatic punch.



Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

5 Against the House
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras


Unusual in dealing with the mental toll of war, 5 Against the House isn’t much of a heist movie, but it’s a unique exploration of post-combat trauma.

User Review
0 (0 votes)

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional X screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 30,000+ already in our library), 75+ exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *