It was 7:35 p.m. as the Brink's truck moved carefully through the narrow alley leading to the Savin Hill garage.
The driver and extra guards assigned to deliver $650,000 in small bills were nervous - peering from the gun slits while holding pistols.
"That's the address," said the driver as he came to a stop.
The rear door swung open and a guard jumped out gun ready. Two more followed carrying bags of money.
A man stood in the doorway signaling to them. As they entered the dimly lit room, the lights went on.
The tall, good-looking man in charge signed for the money and ordered the bags emptied onto the floor and then money director Billy Frieokin told the actors to wallow in it. "Get the feel for it."
They were filming the sensational Brink's robbery, the Dino De Laurentiis was laying out $12.5 million for the production (tentatively titled "Brink's") directed by Friedkin and starring Peter Falk.
On Jan. 17, 1950, after six years of planning, 11 men went into Brink's and left with $2,700,000, and it took another six years and $29,000,000 to catch them - six days before the statute of limitation expired.
It was called the "crime of the century" by headline writers. The people who handled the money for a living wanted them caught and executed. Editorials raged about the easiness with which the thieves escaped. J. Edgar Hoover told his agents it was Willy Sutton and to go and find him. The people of Boston enjoyed to spotlight and for years told quiet jokes about the escapade.
"I was fascinated with Brink's ever since I first heard about it as a kid." said Friedkin, who was 11 years old in Chicago when he got the news. "It is definitely a case of disorganized crime. The crooks had spent more time in jail than out, and the FBI launched an incredible juggernaut to find them when practically everyone in town knew who did it within days of the robbery."
Just outside the windows where the crew was filming tthe robbery a giant plastic tent enclosed a scaled-down model of the tenements and streets surrounding the garage.
Friedkin controlled night and day, rainstorms and snow with a wonderful nervous glee of an adult with a toy, but a few days later he had trouble with the sun going down because the filming was outdoors.
Falk, playing Tony Pino, the roly-poly mastermind of the Brink's job, slouched in a canvasbacked chair. Faulk was outfitted in, wide-kneed baggy pants held up by suspenders and a floppy cap pushed back on his head, as he psyched himself to play Pino. "He had to be admired, he had skill." "I had to admire his obsessiveness. I feel that I am also obsessive. I don't know which of us would win, maybe it will be a photo finish."
Like any legend there are many versions; the closest to the actual robbery and the one Friedkin followed is "Big Stick Up at Brink's" by Noel Behn.
The scene where Pino remains in the truck will be changed and Falk will go inside with his six cronies. (Eleven men pulled off the 1950 heist.)
On the night of the robbery Vinnie Costa, Pino's comical brother-in-law, played by Allen Goorwitz, was on the roof of a Prince SStreet tenement peering through binoculars focused on the Brink's vault room.
It was early in the evening, around 7 as the peacoated bandits waited for the falshlight signal from Costa.
Getting in was easy for them - they had been there over and over rehearsing for the job. On Pino's orders there was to be no violence from the bandits, who couldn't wait to sprinkle their share among the race tracks, barrooms and all the good things Brink's money could buy.
Two of the original rogues - seven have died - were hired for technical assistance.
John Adolph "Jazz" Maffie, 65, once carried footballs over the goal line for the Roxbury Eagles while chomping on an unlit cigar and had the reputation for a good inside man on a job.
Maffie did his 13 years and nine months of a life sentence quietly after a wonderful six years winging away his $89,000 share at the track before he was picked up.
The second, Sandy Richardson, 72, walked into the vault room for the first time since the night of the robbery, looked at the set and said, "Jesus Christ, you have everything here but the stash."
In Behn's book he describes a scene beside the casket of Tony Pino, who never stopped talking.
"Quietest I ever heard him," Richardson whispered to Maffie.
"Yeah. It must be killing him," Maffie answered.
"It looks like he's smiling, don't it?" Richardson observed.
Maffie stared at the chubby face. "He's smiling okay. You think he's got the money right in there with him?"
Richardson, a longshoreman, never missed a day of work in his life except for the 14 years and three months he spent in prison. His share was $83,000, which he spent on "self-entertainment and legal fees."
Today their clothes, more early Miami race track than Wall Street, looked good, with their checks, stripes, and flowered patterns - the kind people would picked after years of drabness.
When Maffie and Richardson left an air-conditioned building to walk a block to the Copley Plaza, they took off their jackets, turned them inside out and folded them over their out-stretched left arms. Just the way a gentleman would.
"When I was in the can," Richardson said, dating himself, "I worked in the library and helped install the Dewey Decimal system."
Now he looked like an acountant, on a Hawaiian holiday with his open-neck, flowered shirt. "We had a great debating team down at Walpole. We beat Harvard, Holy Cross, but it wasn't fair because we had more time to read and study than they did."
It was an honest statement and not meant for a laugh, although both men showed that life is really not that serious.
Scotch was the drink, and the two were trying to find the words to say why they did it.
"It was an adventure," Maffie said. "Pino kept telling us the money was in there, he never stopped. It's hard to explain but it was exciting, we were younger, of course I wouldn't do it now."
"Sure it was worth it," Richardson said. "Hey, have you ever had a hundred grand all your own for six years?"
The table laughed, but Maffie looked uncomfortable. A father and grandfather now, he talked about his wife of many years and an ailment she had under control and the fact that he was striving for a new image. But Richardson was back in the "can" and seemed at ease about his time."
"I hated Joe McGuinnis, I never wanted him in right from the start. He was selfish. Like Jazz would get a box of chocolates and hand them out to everyone. McGuinnis, he got a box and would eat them all himself."
It was late and the two gentlemen, looking very suburban, got into their car and headed for the suburbs.
Back in the North End inside the Brink's room, actor Waren Oates was telling the other gang members how he planned blasting the safe with a bazooka from the roof of a building across the street. Peter Falk watched him and cut him off: "Hold it, mister. You're talking about blasting the Pete (safe) with a cannon? You gotta have a hole in your marble bag."
Someone yelled "cut" and everyone went outside, where the people rested their arms on pillows as they hung out of tenement windows.
Sitting on a milk crate, happy with a check for $2,300 for Cokes, juices, coffee, "and a lot of meat and eggs and bacon" from the people making the movie was Peggy Cavallo, owner of Peppy's Corner Store. He remembered the night of the robbery.
"The police, they brought everyone in after the robbery and wouldn't believe what you told them."
Cavallo, who has owned the store for 32 years, is small and slight and acts like his nickname. He had a part in the movie and all the neighbors razzed him about it. It was the night of the robbery and the cops showed up and Peppy's line was: "Hey, what the hell's going on here."
Scollay Square, a place where sailors came ashore to wade in its evilness, and where a robber could find solace, had been torn down and paved over by Irish morality striving to match the Brahmins. It was rebuilt for a segment of the filming.
Friedkin likewise paid meticulous attention to the 1,500 extras in the film and personally interviewed each one.
Among the extras who didn't "audition" were those playing the Brink's guards, including one who worked at the vault at the time of the robbery.
A young policeman, who had been standing outside the Prince Street door leading into Brink's, moved inside to guard the movie equipment and was shown at fake $100 bill autographed by Falk.
He pushed his hat back and laughed. "I wounder where Brink's has their office now and how many young Pinos are scouting it."