Wednesday, December 21, 2005

“Give Away the End...Not the Beginning!”

I ran across something just now that reminded me of the glaring flaws present in the majority of “heist” films. I have a hard time putting up with most of the genre at all. So, here I will recommend a movie I have seen only once, a year and a half ago on European television.

I had nothing urgent to tend to that day, and a TV matinee listed in the “TeleVizier” caught my eye. I’d never heard of it, something called Gambit, 1966. Starring Michael Caine. That was all it said.
The title intrigued me for some reason, and Caine… well, I decided I was going to watch it.

It was very 1960’s Britain, which was obvious before a single line of dialogue came on. I was incensed that I was viewing a “sides lopped off for the telly” version, as that beautiful, lingering Brit cinematography almost feels boring without the full view. As though the editor kept dosing off at his station.

But hey, it’s Michael Caine at the top of his game. Who can complain? Ever seen Brit-classic The Ipcress File? This is better.

In 1966 adverts gave viewers permission to give away the ending (“too good to keep a secret!”), but to please please not give away the start. It sounds like sensationalism, but this film is certainly worth considering sensational. Here, I won’t give away either end of the picture.

Gambit is a magnificent caper flick, with Caine’s Harry Dean going after a priceless bust with the help of… only the most annoying woman he has ever met (Shirley MacLaine). His plan is better thought out and far more intelligent than many of his cinematic counterparts’, but it still has plenty of room for error aside from the chatty broad he has along for the ride. So much so that his quarry (Herbert Lom) remains a step ahead of him the entire film through. Well, almost through.

The movie’s originality in almost every detail caught my attention—and had me laughing—so much that it immediately became one of my favorite films. Actually, it is so original I hate to spoil anything in this post…

So I’ll instead say this: While Gambit is hardly a well-known piece of cinema, it has apparently caught the eye of Ethan Coen, who is doing a remake due out next year (the 40th anniversary, and all). And while it sports the very complimentary names of Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley for acting talent, I’m anticipating the new version mainly for the possibility of a widescreeen DVD release of the original.
I will be buying that.

No comments: