Friday, December 19, 2008


"Topkapi" (Jules Dassin, 1964) Dassin spoofs his earlier crime dramas with this comedy-caper (based on an Eric Ambler novel) set in Istanbul. There an odd assortment of crooks (Melina Mercouri, Maximillian Schell, Robert Morley) recruit an English prat (Peter Ustinov) to take the fall for an elaborate heist—the stealing of a priceless ornamental dagger from the well-alarmed Topkapi museum. Shot in rapturous color—with an opening sequence that seems a precursor to psychedelic films—Dassin uses the local color to spice up the activities of the wily criminals and their elaborate scheme, which involves clambering over the pointed roof-tops, impeding the progress of a beam from a nearby lighthouse, suspending an aerialist over the display, while also precisely elevating its heavy glass case. It's one of those "Mission: Impossble" capers, where what could go wrong, probably will. The escapade is fraught with perils of all sorts, not the least of which is getting caught.

It's a jolly good time, and Dassin has as much fun seriously pulling off the robbery as he does spoofing the characters.

Plans are afoot for a remake under the direction of Paul Verhoeven, with Pierce Brosnan repeating his debonair thief role from "The Thomas Crown Affair." It's to be called "The Topkapi Affair." We shall see.

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