By Leo Racicot
Topkapi – dir. Jules Dassin – 1964 – Original Theatrical Trailer
From the fizz of the bouzouki music that begins it to the sad but happy ending which of course, I won’t give away, Topkapi takes us on a great caper carpet ride. For a 48 year old movie, it is as fresh and as taut as the day it was made.
Typical of Sixties’ films: the fluorescent Technicolor, the mod look in fashion, the continental locales, the now vintage cars, it sparkles like the emerald-encrusted dagger the thieves mean to steal. The cast is hand-picked by cinematic heaven: handsome Maximillian Schell, Melina Mercouri with her crazy, dangerous eyes, that mad, Magnani-like laugh. And don’t forget the nonesuch Robert Morley’s eyebrows. If all he had to act with were those eyebrows, he would still sail through his work on a breeze. Peter Ustinov here more than deserves the Oscar he won for Best Supporting Actor; watch for the rat-a-tat frenzied energy of his voice, his face, his walk; the wedgie he shakes from his ample bottom getting out of an automobile. The film is filled with such flourishes and touches: the pistol slipped into the door handle of a car, as if into a holster; the slow, upside-down descent of limber Gilles Segal towards the real Topkapidagger, the fake one glistening on his sweaty chest; Morley turning and turning around and saying, when asked what he is doing, “I’m being a lighthouse”; Ustinov being wrapped in a brassiere of rope. And this has to be one of the first pictures to show two, young, gay men strolling, post-coitus, across a Turkish square; groundbreaking, indeed, for 1964!