Now this pissed me off when I watched it. And I feel sour about that because I love Jules Dassin and I have a high regard for Maximilan Schell but this felt like such a flimsy, glossy, insubstantial film that I just felt a bit cheated. I know that it’s a caper and I know that not every film can be Wild Strawberries and I know that it’s a bit tittish to bemoan a film for being ‘just entertainment’, but I just went in with higher expectations of the people involved. I’m sorry, that’s the price of being so talented Jules.
I mean it’s not a bad film. It’s entertaining, neatly plotted, looks great, is nicely paced with just enough humour to lighten the tone without turning a drama into a comedy. Peter Ustinov has a ball as small-time crook Arthur Simpson, Maximilian Schell and the always entertaining Robert Morley are fine too and Akim Tarimoff is simply barmy as the haughty drunken cook. In fact, I don’t know why I’m so down on it. I think I just wanted it to be Rififi and it’s more like The Italian Job and if I can love that for being what it is, why can’t I love this? There is, now I look back, a lot to admire here- not least in the sheer inventiveness of the heist. And I’m beginning to think that I misjudged this badly when I was watching it. The visual humour, tension, gadgets, dramatic scenery, outlandish characters and general tone of the film is something commonplace now, but I can’t think of many films of that type which precede it. Even the matching suits which Ustinov, Schell and Gilles Ségal wear for the heist have become a recurring motif in movies like of Oceans 11 since. I’m talking myself around here.
Perhaps I should give it another try?
I was going to give this a three, but I’ve talked myself into marking it as 5/10 and one that needs re-watching soon.