Movie Information

The Hendersonville Film Society will show Topkapi at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 22, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas, 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville).
Genre: Caper Comedy
Director: Jules Dassin
Starring: Melina Mercouri, Peter Ustinov, Maximilian Schell, Robert Morley, Jess Hahn, Akim Tamiroff
Rated: NR

Jules Dassin’s Topkapi (1964) is a lightweight variant or riff on his grittier heist film Rififi (1955). It’s also one of those movies that was quite highly regarded in its day, but has—for no very good reason—fallen into obscurity. It all revolves around a mastermind jewel thief (Melina Mercouri) assembling a crack—and quirky team—of varied experts to pull off the spectacular, seemingly impossible theft of a jewel-encrusted dagger from the Topkapi museum in Istanbul—one of those places where even the slightest pressure on the floor will set off the alarm. Of course, as we all know now—thanks to any number of subsequent films—that this means you dangle the thief from a rope or wire to snatch the item in question. Yes, you’ve now seen it—or something very like it—lots of times. Brian De Palma borrowed it for his 1996 film of Mission: Impossible, which is only reasonable, I suppose, since the whole Mission: Impossible TV series was inspired by this film. It’s still an amazing sequence, no matter how many permutations there have been. Plus, this has the benefit of two terrific scene stealers in Peter Ustinov (who won an Oscar for the role) and Akim Tamiroff. It’s all done in a very flashy, garishly-colored 1960s style, and it remains solid entertainment.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

2 thoughts on “Topkapi

  1. Ken Hanke

    Why have I not heard of this until now?

    You’re perhaps too young. As I said, it’s kind of fallen into obscurity. I’ll warn you that the US DVD is one of those cheap MGM things that isn’t even anamorphically enhanced.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.