May 12, 2024

Topkapi: A jewel-encrusted daggar, gay subtexts, and technicolor Turkey

In the early 1960s, before Google Maps, if you wanted to see southern Europe, you got on a plane for an expensive, once-in-a-lifetime trip, or you went to the movies.  Dozens of films had plots about glamorous, attractive people (except for an occasional comic relief lout) doing something or other that required them to drive mopeds through quaint hillside villages in Sicily or rush at breakneck speed through the Parthenon, giving viewers a bright technicolor Cook's Tour.  Usually you saw France, Italy, or Greece, but in Topkapi (1964) you got to see Istanbul.

Glamorous jewel thief Elizabeth Lipp (Melina Mercouri) invites us to tour the  Topkapi, the palace complex of the Ottomans during the height of their empire, now open to the public.  Many tourists are drawn to the Treasury, with its displays of Turkish opulence, especially the emerald encrusted daggar of Sultan Mahmud (1730-54).  It was actually crafted as a gift for Nadir Shah of Iran, but never delivered, but she tells us that it was a gift from his lover. And she plans to steal it.

The caper requires her to assemble a band of experts:

1. The dashing, cosmopolitan Walter (Maximilian Schell, right)
2. Mechanics expert Cedric (Robert Morley)
3. Acrobat Giulio (Gilles Segal, left)
4. Muscle Hans (Jesse Hahn)
5. Stooge Arthur (Peter Ustinov), who will take the fall for them.

Beefcake: Hundreds of shirtless hunks engaging in Turkish oil wrestling.

Hans, Giulio, and Walter all have their shirts off (Giulio is ripped!).

Buddy bonding: Walter and Giulio (they definitely look like they are going to kiss), Arthur and a burly Greek cook (Akim Tamiroff) who becomes his confidant:

Cook;  You foreign, no?
Arthur:  No, I'm English.
Cook: (Puts his arm around him).  Everybody out there -- Russian spies.  I kill.  I get medal.
Arthur: (Suspecting that he is a spy.) Are you here officially?
Cook: Fishily?  No, I give  English friend good meat.
Arthur:  Good meat, I understand.  (Cook kisses him.)  Well, I thought I understood.

There are complications, some humorous, some suspenseful, and of course they don't get away with it.  But not to worry, they are soon out of prison and on their way to a new caper: stealing  the crown jewels in the Kremlin!

No sex, no romance, no violence,some buddy-bonding, lots of oiled-up Turkish guys, and location shots in Greece and Istanbul.

Not a bad way to spend two hours.

1 comment:

  1. Not bad at all, gotta agree. You get what you get. 🤷‍♂️


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