Language: English, French, Turkish
Genre: Adventure, Crime
Director: Jules Dassin
Music: Manos Hatzidakis
Cinematography: Henri Alekan
Ahmet Danyal Topatan
My second Jules Dassin’s film after NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950), and out of my expectation it’s an exotic Turkish heist adventurer with a blithe tone and meticulous detail-solidification with regard to the theft action.
The film starts with a tawdry but foxy Melina Mercouri (Dassin’s muse and future wife) enigmatically introducing her craving to steal the most precious jewelled dagger from Topkapi museum, her kitschy costume and the settings are antiquated enough to divert the film into a burlesque frivolousness, but when her entire team assembles (including the male-counterpart mastermind Maximilian Schell), with an additional interlope, a small-con “schmo” (the Oscar-winning Peter Ustinov), the film regains its vigour and flair in its strongest form to manoeuvre a seamless treasure-replacement theft, benchmarks an exemplar of its genre which haven’t been overshadowed since then, the escape strategy during a Turkish old-wrestling (Kırkpınar) pageantry is no less pleasant to watch against the trickery’s predictability, and far more thrilling is the actual stunts which thoroughly generate a gravitating magnetism on the screen lest as little as one needle’s dropping would scupper the plan. But the pathos-bathos irrefutably comes in the end, in the public media, where no one should dare wrote an ode to theft, no matter how benevolent those convicts are in person, thus the finale has to be a received compromise which still is in line with the filmic light-hearted air.
Ustinov, is so congenital and always oozes a screen-friendly affability and warmth in his presence, whose second Oscar win of a borderline supporting role is well-earned by lifting the entertainment-heavy film onto a stratum of character-engaging experience. An appearance combo of Debra Messing and Anne Bancroft, the nymphomaniac Melina Mercouri stands still as the shallow and narrow-written role of an anti-femme fatale brain, and a gorgeous Maximilian Schell is shamefully eclipsed by his chubby sidekick, whose circumscribed performance nevertheless at least arouse my curiosity to delve into his filmography a bit deeper.