Gambit (1966)

gambit 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Foolproof plan has holes.

Harry (Michael Caine) is an international cat burglar looking to make his biggest steal yet. He recruits dance girl Nicole (Shirley Maclaine) to pose as his wife and with the help of some makeup and a different hairstyle made to resemble the late wife of reclusive millionaire Shabandar (Herbert Lom). The idea is to use this uncanny resemblance to get Shabandar’s attention who will then invite them up to his reclusive mansion. While Shabandar remains entranced with this woman Harry will use the time to steal an expensive statue that is in Shabandar’s home. Unfortunately Harry fails to factor in the human element, which sends his ‘foolproof’ plan into disarray.

This movie is fun most of the way and great escapism for a slow evening. The novel twist of showing how the plan should work, which takes up the first part and then showing what really happens is quite amusing. The movie works almost as a parody to all those slick heist movies and spy films that always have elaborate schemes, but usually overlook the human element in the process and if anything I wished they had played this up even more.

Maclaine is a delight and for the first 30 minutes doesn’t utter a single word. She has always been good as vulnerable characters and here is almost child-like. The contrasting personalities and verbal exchanges between her and Caine are amusing and something that I wished had also been played up a bit more.

The real problem is the blossoming romance between the two that doesn’t make any sense. The two know each other for only a couple of days and yet somehow ‘fall madly in love’ despite the fact that Harry is very rude and detached towards Nicole the whole time.  Harry also finds Nicole to be quite irritating and even explicitly tells her as much, so why he would suddenly fall for her is just as ridiculous. The idea, which is quite prevalent in 60’ movies, that two single people of the opposite sex must become a couple by the end of the movie is quite contrived and mechanical and in some ways diminishes the story by always forcing a happy ending even when it is not natural or needed.

There are a few other loopholes that hurts the story as well. One of them is while Harry is inside Shandabar’s home he opens up a statue and reaches in to take out the equipment needed to for the crime, but how was he able to do this? Did he sneak into Shandar’s home at some earlier point and put the statue there and if so how was it not detected by Shandabar? This is not explained, which seriously affects the credibility. There is another moment later on where Nicole sneaks back into Shandabar’s home while Harry is committing the robbery, but it is never explained how she was able to do that since there were guards everywhere, which required Harry earlier to go to elaborate means to do it himself.

Spoiler Warning!!!

The twist ending, which has Harry returning the original statue to Shandabar, but keeping the copy of it and using it to resell to the gullible public who thinks it’s the original is kind of cool. However, when Harry smashes the statue replica to pieces in an effort to show Nicole that he has ‘reformed’ from his criminal ways and retain her affections I knew immediately that there must have be even more statue copies hidden somewhere else, which there is, because there was no way his friend Emile would have taken something like that as lightly as he does otherwise.

End of Spoiler Warning!

gambit 1

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: December 21, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Ronald Neame

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD (Region 1 & 2), Blu-ray (Region B), Amazon Instant Video

2 responses to “Gambit (1966)

  1. It’s pretty clear you weren’t paying attention.
    The statue containing the tools was in the process of being bought by Shandabar as soon as he decided whether he wanted it, so obviously it had been delivered previously.
    As for Shirley being able to get to the room undetected, she had learned that the entire bedroom served as an elevator.
    This was all very clearly explained.

    • I realize the bedroom serves as an elevator, but that still doesn’t explain how she gets to the bedroom to begin with and past the security guards.

      In reference to Shandabar and the statue I’m not sure what you mean by ‘in the process of being bought’ and ‘deciding whether he wanted it or not’ if he was still in the ‘process’ of buying something then he still hasn’t purchased it and it should not have yet been delivered.

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