Gambit (1966)

Gambit (1966), directed by Ronald Neame.

A heist film that is also a satire on heist films. I suppose that has become pretty common these days. The first half hour is the trick setup: the caper perfectly imagined, the cunning plan that goes like clockwork. Then we have the real execution, messy and comical.

It's pretty leisurely paced, although a final segment of stealing the precious artifact is more exciting. They've been talking about a remake for years; I suppose that will be more action oriented.

I don't think Herbert Lom has gotten the appreciation he deserves. The setup gives all three main characters the chance to play two roles: we have both the stiff fantasy and the screwball reality.

This was Michael Caine's first American picture. Shirley MacLaine got to choose her leading man and she wanted him. His autobiography describes his sudden fame and star-struck wonder at being dropped into Hollywood. One day he's just hanging around the hotel because he doesn't know anyone, the next he's flying in Frank Sinatra's jet and dating his daughter, Nancy.

Maurice Jarre score, too whimsical in the serious setup.

Universal Vault Series, available for rent from ClassicFlix.

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