Jules Dassin repeated the successful formula of his earlier classic heist film ‘Rififi’ here. Whether it’s faultless planning, exciting execution, fine introduction of assembled cast and half an hour thrill ride leads to climax but he added the fun and comic elements too.
This time the place is Topkapi museum of Istanbul and the target is the dagger encrusted with four greatest emeralds of the world. A task was set up by an enigmatic lady and his long time professional partner who surprisingly wanted amateurs consist of a mute gymnast, a hulk, a guide and an electric toy maker. Peter Ustinov as not so smart man shuttling between Turkish cops and thieves is just brilliant here. Melina Mercouri, Maximillian Schell and Robert Morley are also impressive nevertheless.
In the original novel ‘The Light of the Day’ written by Eric Ambler is the first person narrative of Arthur Simpson played here by Peter Ustinov as supporting cast and he deservingly won best supporting actor award too. The lead character of mesmerizing thief lady Elizabeth Lipp played by Dassin’s wife Melina Mercouri was absolutely absent in the novel. Dassin also took some liberty with original too but everything is alright as he once again made a fine entertainer as far as classic heist films are concerned.
But for me, ‘Rififi’ is still Dassin’s best contribution as far as heist films are concerned. The great B&W frames, brilliant film noir touch and above all performances loaded with more than half an hour silent meticulous and detailed jewel heist sequence ever filmed on screen. The excitement was as original and palpable as watching those nitroglycerine loaded trucks in Henri-Georges Clouzot’s ‘The Wages of Fear’.
One of the most entertaining heist films of all time.