Topkapi (1964)

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

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?


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.


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