A 'skillful blend of romance and comedy (The Hollywood Reporter), Topkapi shimmers with hilarity, action and great performances! Fun-filled and suspenseful, it's an incredibly ingenious affair [and] a considerable pleasu... more »re to watch (Newsweek)! Trouble brews beneath the exotically curved towers of Istanbul when the equally exoticand equally curvedElizabeth Lipp (Melina Mercouri) recruits her former lover (Maximilian Schell) in a scheme to heist the pride of the city's Topkapi museum: a jewel-encrusted dagger. But the job soon turns into a high-tension, high-wire performanceliterallywhen the bumbling fall guy (Peter Ustinov) and other amateurs they ve hired as help find they'll have to lift their prize while dangling from the museum's vaulted ceiling!« less
"This '60s heist movie sparkles, dazzles, and charms with its strong international cast, story adapted from an Eric Ambler mystery novel, and typically great direction from Jules (Rafifi) Dassin. Dassin gets a truly captivating performance from his wife Melina Mercouri as a thief obsessed with stealing the Topkapi emeralds, and an Academy Award-winning comic turn from Peter Ustinov. This was my favorite movie of all time when watching it on tv as a child. I waited a while to see it on DVD. Sadly, MGM seems to have transferred the movie through a vat of mud. The source print is faded and looks lousy. The movie is great, as is the theme song."
Wonderfully entertaining, with great Ustinov performance
James Daly | USA | 12/31/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of my favorite films, and quite possibly the most entertaining caper movie of all time. A jewell thief (Melina Mercouri) has her heart set on a fabulous emerald-encrusted dagger. The priceless object is being kept at the high-security Topkapi Museum in Istanbul. Mercouri enlists the aid of sometime lover (and professional thief) Maximilian Schell to devise and execute an intricate plan of stealing the dagger. Schell assembles a team that includes Robert Morley as an inventor and electronics expert, and Peter Ustinov as a small-time con man who doesn't realize that he's part of the scheme. Ustinov is persuaded to spy on Mercouri's group by Turkish authorities who think the gang members are terrorists, but he is eventually made aware of the actual intentions of the thieves. The first few minutes of TOPKAPI may lead you to believe that you're in store for one of those hopelessly fluffy "comedies" of the 60's. But don't be fooled. From the moment the jovially frantic music score is played over the opening credits, rest assured that you're about to be treated to a light-hearted, fast-paced movie that expertly combines humor, suspense, and thrills. The international cast is great, but Peter Ustinov is especially delightful to watch in the role that won him the 1964 Oscar for best supporting actor. As Arthur Simpson, a shifty yet sympathetic character who gets used by just about everyone in the film, Ustinov easily steals the movie (although Akim Tamiroff also has his share of funny moments as a drunken cook). This film has all the elements for a first-rate piece of entertainment: an engaging cast, exotic locales, good dialogue, and artful direction by Jules Dassin whose earlier work in RIFIFI partly inspired this movie. TOPKAPI is a wonderfully entertaining motion picture that should appeal to everyone."
Excellent Adaptation of Eric Ambler Book
Leonard Fleisig | Here, there and everywhere | 09/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The 1964 movie Topkapi was based on British novelist Eric Ambler's 1962 best seller "The Light of Day". I am often wary of watching movies of books I have liked but director Jules Dassin has done a terrific job. He has taken one of Ambler's more lighthearted, almost whimsical, suspense novels and turned it successfully into a lighthearted, funny suspense movie.
The plot is straightforward. Elizabeth Lipp and Walter Harper (wonderfully played by Melina Mercouri and Maximillian Schell) plan to pull off the heist of a lifetime. They want to steal a priceless, jewel-encrusted knife and scabbard from the famed Topkapi palace/museum in Istanbul. Harper realizes that if they are successful the world's police will go after every known jewel thief in the world. Harper and Lipp decide to recruit non-professionals with useful skills to pull of an ingeniously planned heist. To that end they recruit Arthur Simpson. Simpson is something of a part-time con man. Part English and part Egyptian Simpson makes a living hustling tourists in Greece.
As the plot develops Dassin takes us on a grand tour of Istanbul as it looked in the early 1960s. Dassin and his cinematographers do a great job conveying the sights and sounds of the city. Although the movie is played for laughs in some respects the planning and execution of the robbery makes for great viewing. The robbery itself is bold and audacious and Dassin and the cast do a great job in creating a feeling of tense anticipation as the movie reaches its climactic moments. It should not be a surprise that the creator of the TV series Mission Impossible was inspired by Topkapi. It may be a surprise to find out that there was a museum robbery in New York six months after Topkapi whose planning and execution was based on the film.
The acting throughout is excellent. Peter Ustinov won a Best Supporting Actor Academy award for his portrayal of Simpson. Mercouri was both funny and flirtatious and carried off her role flawlessly. The great character actor Akim Tamiroff also did a great job playing a the always drunk, raging chef to the jewel thieves.
Topkapi is a fun, lighthearted movie. It is well worth seeing. L. Fleisig"
DVD Widescreen Transfer Is Perfect
Brian V | Alameda, CA USA | 04/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I must elaborate more on the reviewer who said that the transfer to DVD looked like it had been dragged through a vat of mud. I had the movie on VHS tape and knew what to expect of it. The reviewer may have only noted the first 6-7 minutes of the movie which I would call a dream sequence with shades of different colors around the screen. Once this sequence is over, the movie is normal and the transfer to DVD which I rented was perfect. The movie was just as it is on my VHS tape but of better quality, of course."
"18 years ago, I traveled to Turkey, fell in love with the magnificent city of Istanbul, and then searched in vain for videos of this movie, which every guide book mentioned when describing the museum in the exquisite Topkapi palace. I'm delighted that it's finally available. Much of the movie was shot on location, and it does as much justice as film can do to the great monuments of that city, as well as its picturesque but ramshackle poor districts. The wrestling championship that the jewel thieves use as their alibi during the heist was fascinating, and the competitors look like authentic Turkish athletes rather than actors. The competition seems to be a direct descendant of ancient Greek and Roman athletics, including the athletes' practice of covering their bodies with oil before the contest.
The plot is entertainingly complex, especially because although you see the preparations underway for the heist, you don't know just how they are supposed to work until you see the plans unfold. So although this movie makes no pretense to be intellectual, it does require you to use your brain in order to follow the plot. All the performances are wonderful, although frankly, Mercouri was too old for the character she's playing. The close-ups of her heavily made-up face, unfortunately, tend to undermine her bravura acting. But Ustinov makes the most of his unprepossessing physique to create a wonderfully comic character as the poor "shmoe" caught up in her schemes. He deserved his Oscar, but I wish there were a prize for best performance by a city.
P.S. -- after seeing this movie, check out the short film "The Wrong Trousers" on the DVD "Wallace and Gromit in Three Amazing Adventures." The parody of the jewel heist in Topkapi, complete with jewel thief dangling from a museum ceiling, is priceless."