Gambit (1966)

Gambit (1966), directed by Ronald Neame.

First review

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. [Later: Gambit (2012), written by the Coen brothers, starring Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz and Alan Rickman. All comedy, not very well liked].

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.

Second review

Some additional notes and new thumbnails from the Kino Blu-ray.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino with two commentary tracks:

Neame says he would remove 20 minutes to make it more palatable to modern audiences, who expect quicker cutting and a faster pace.

He offers this insight: in the old days the camera was supposed to be invisible and one took great pains to hide camera movement and editing cuts. Since then the viewer had identified with the camera and is meant to be conscious of all its movements and effects. Cutting and pacing became faster but the pendulum has swung too far, leaving no space for story or character development.