Wednesday, January 02, 2008

[DVD] Topkapi (1964)

Walter's Six

The first movie I watched in 2008 happens to be a caper movie. I've been a fan of the genre for a long time, what with the movies like Confidence, The Italian Job, The Thomas Crown Affair, Heist (starring Gene Hackman), the Ocean's 11,12,13 movies and the likes, both old, new and the remakes. I guess there's always a sense of romanticism in these movies that appeal to me, especially with the lead character possessing charisma and the slick powers of persuasion.

Yes you can argue that the situations they're put in are rigged from the start so that you'll almost always know they can escape from the long arm of the law, make it look so easy and cause the authorities to look dumb. Sometimes the tricks and techniques they use aren't really feasible in real life because while loopholes are bound to exist, they can't be exploited in the manner shown on screen, unless of course the exploitation involves human errors, complacency or laziness. And most of the time, coincidence play a huge role in pulling off their mission. But of course these are secondary when we're talking about a movie.

What will determine if it'll work, is how challenging the caper will present itself, such that rarely can one man do the entire job, but will have to rely on a team of experts in their respective fields. And naturally some will go to the extreme of having double crossers in the team to spice things up. Anyway, Topkapi involves Elizabeth Lipp (Melina Mercouri) setting her eyes on the jeweled dagger stored in an Istanbul museum, and recruits her ex lover Walter Haper (Maximilian Schell) to join her in pulling off the heist. They can't go at it themselves, and decide to recruit a bunch of amateurs to assist them - amateurs here meaning no blemish in their records, because with a heist that major, every European / Pan-European police force will be on it, and naturally those with records are first suspects.

While it may have worked some 40 years back, I found the proceedings to be unfortunately too slow for today's age. We're probably used to heist movies being slick, and paced quite fast to keep the adrenalin pumping. But here, the actual heist doesn't get well into almost the last quarter of the movie, with the bulk of it centered on plenty of boring planning (OK, granted you need to plan to execute to a T), and outwitting the police, who had convinced one of them, the comedic Arthur Simpson (Peter Ustinov) to be their mole.

But when the action got down to the crunch, they do look exciting enough, with plenty of on-location shoots involving rooftops. And if you think the extremely well made stunt in Mission: Impossible involving a Tom Cruise being lowered gently into the CIA vault room was top notch, well sad to say I discovered that the exact same stunt was performed by the robbers here in Topkapi! And they maintained the same level of suspense and tension too! Eat that, Brian De Palma!

What also piqued by interest in Topkapi, was the rumoured remake of the film in the sequel to The Thomas Crown Affair (working title: The Topkapi Affair), where Pierce Brosnan will be reprising his role as Thomas Crown, and this time bringing his street smarts to Istanbul. No word if Renee Russo will be joining him though, but I think perhaps this time round he might not be working alone (but that will make the movie into yet another group effort), and probably we can see him suited up properly in a tuxedo, which he can't do so previously because of contractual obligations with being James Bond. We'll see, soon.

Code 1 DVD by MGM Home Entertainment comes in widescreen anamorphic format, but audio is only presented in Mono English, or French. Subtitles are available only in French and Spanish, and the bare bones edition means only the theatrical trailer and scene selection are available.

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