In this spoof of his own intricate heist classic Rififi (1955), Jules Dassin pioneered one of the most popular subgenres of the 1960s, the comic crime caper.
Deliciously scripted by one-time Ealing alumnus Monja Danischewsky (from Eric Ambler’s novel The Light of Day) the film combines sparkling dialogue with moments of unbearable tension, most notably during the prolonged heist on Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace in a bid to purloin a priceless emerald dagger.
The band of misfits hired by criminal mastermind Elizabeth Lipp (Melina Mercouri) and expert thief Walter Harper (Maximilian Schell) are effectively played, but it is the showy performance of Peter Ustinov as Arthur Simpson, a cheap and unsuccessful conman, that caught the eye and earned him a best supporting actor Oscar.
Arthur Simon Simpson
Ahmet Danyal Topatan