Topkapi (1964)

February 16, 2009

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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.

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Ashanti (1979)

December 26, 2008

Michael Caine will star in any film that pays irrespective of its merit, I think we’d all accept that.  But do we have to watch?  Ashanti is a by-numbers chase movie set in Africa and with a number of big name cameo parts.   The director (Richard Fleischer) had long since proved that he can handle ‘big’ movies with big names- especially with ‘The Vikings’- but he must’ve been too busy applying sun-tan lotion to notice that the highly-paid stars he’d flown in at great expense (Omar Sharif, William Holden, Rex Harrison, Peter Ustinov) were barely doing more than reciting the banal script.  The lowest-point came with the once-great Holden mentioning casually to Caine (after being shot whilst in control of a helicopter because Caine didn’t fire first) that he should jump before they crash and Caine responding by looking out of the window with a bare modicum of interest.

He jumped eventually and survived.  What a shame.  The film could have been over in half an hour.  Nothing redeems this film.  Nothing.  0/10.