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Month: May 2017

Topkapi (1964)

Topkapi (1964)

“I’m going to have it — it has to be mine.”

Synopsis:
A nymphomaniac, jewel-obsessed thief (Melina Mercouri) enlists the help of her former lover (Maximilian Schell) in pulling together a crew — including a mechanical genius (Robert Morley), a mute “human fly” (Gilles Segal), a muscleman (Jess Hahn), and a driver (Peter Ustinov) — to steal the emeralds on a dagger in Turkey’s Topkapi Palace. When bumbling Ustinov is captured by Turkish government officials, he becomes a double-agent — but whose side will he eventually land on?

Genres:

Review:
Jules Dassin’s playfully comedic re-visioning of his earlier heist masterpiece Rififi (1955) was this colorful but oddly uninvolving adventure flick, starring Dassin’s real-life wife (Melina Mercouri). The problem with light-hearted caper flicks is that there’s no gravitas: we know the protagonists won’t suffer serious harm, so the main fun is in watching their antics. To that end, I find neither Mercouri nor Ustinov particularly appealing or amusing — however, the final heist sequence is inspirational and well worth a watch, and the cinematography throughout is solid. Be forewarned that the ending is especially abrupt and unsatisfying.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • The fun, colorful opening titles
  • Henri Alekan’s cinematography
  • The impressively filmed heist sequence

Must See?
No, though of course fans of heist flicks will certainly want to check it out.

Links:

Giant Behemoth, The (1959)

Giant Behemoth, The (1959)

“The ocean is my province, gentlemen, but how little we know about it. We only touch the surface with our lines and our dragnets, our diving suits and bathyscapes. For all we know, what we have started may have already matured… And who can tell when this — this — whatever it is, will rise to the surface and strike back at us?”

Synopsis:
Several scientists (Gene Evans, Andre Morell, and Jack MacGowran) investigate the presence of a deadly atomic creature roaming the coast of Cornwall.

Genres:

Review:
This rehash of director Eugene Lourie’s earlier mutant monster flick The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) is an atmospherically filmed but narratively dull tale of radioactive dangers along the coast of Cornwall. Potential romantic interest between a hunky scientist (Morell) and the beautiful daughter (Leigh Madison) of a fisherman (Henri Vidon) who was the Behemoth’s first casualty goes nowhere, essentially vanishing by the second half of the story. The film’s settings are its primary redeeming asset, with gorgeous cinematography of rocky shores — but otherwise, there’s little here to distinguish this from other monsters-on-the-rampage flicks. This film is primarily of note for featuring direction by stop-motion guru Willis O’Brien — best known for his work on The Lost World (1925), King Kong (1933), and Mighty Joe Young (1949).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine use of authentic sets in Cornwall

  • Ken Hodges’ b&w cinematography

  • Edwin Astley’s at times creative score

Must See?
No, though fans of the genre will probably want to check it out once.

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