Tag Archives: Omar Sharif

The Burglars (1971)

burglars 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Corrupt cop hounds thief.

Azad (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and his cohorts pull off a daring heist by robbing a gem collector of his emeralds in his home by using a state-of-the-art machine that is able to create a key to the safe on the spot by simply entering in the safe’s serial number. However, things go awry when Abel (Omar Sharif), a corrupt police captain, becomes suspicious of their activity after seeing the gang’s car parked on the road. Initially he lets them off, but only so he can follow them later and then blackmail them for the jewels, or threaten them with prison otherwise.

The film, which is based on the novel by David Goodis and made 14 years earlier as The Burglar, which starred Jayne Mansfield, has all the trappings for being a classic heist film. I enjoyed watching the intricate way they are finally able to crack open the safe, which takes up much of the first half-hour. I also liked the creative action, stunt work, story twists, luscious Greek scenery and musical score by the legendary Ennio Morricone. Unfortunately none of this is able to overcome a rather plodding pace and a lingering feeling that you’ve seen it all before.

The film’s biggest claim-to-fame is its two chase sequences. The first is similar to the one done in The Italian Job as two small compact cars drive all over Athens, including on sidewalks, stairwells, and through crowds of people, which is exciting to watch. However, the fact that no one gets injured and no other automobiles are damaged even as the cars drive straight into on-coming traffic is hard to imagine. The camera also cuts to a close-up shot of the lead car driving on its rim, but somehow the vehicle is still able to continue to go several more miles on rough surfaces and high speeds, but why have a shot like that inserted if it ultimately doesn’t mean anything?

The second chase works better, which involves Belmondo hanging onto the side of a bus as it travels speedily down a crowded city street while he tries to kick shut the door of a police car that is following, which is quite realistic looking especially since it appears to be Belmondo himself and not a stunt double doing it. This one culminates with Belmondo being tossed from a dump truck and down a steep hill while other large rocks roll with him, which again is impressive, but the fact that he doesn’t even receive a scratch from it is hard to believe.

Sharif is outstanding in a rare turn as a bad guy. He commands every scene that he is in and in the process makes co-star Belmondo seem forgettable and unable to equal the same strong presence. Dyan Cannon, who is the only American in the cast, gets a pointless part as a pin-up magazine model that catches Belmondo’s eye. Her character doesn’t appear until an hour in and is not all that integral to the plot. Her voice is also clearly dubbed in the French version, which makes her acting here limited and probably not worth signing up for to begin with.

The climactic finish that entails a man being drowned inside a grain elevator is novel as is the final moment inside a giant, mobile chicken coop with thousands of loud, clucking chickens, but overall the film fails to illicit much tension and would’ve been better had the runtime been trimmed and the scenes shortened.

burglars 2

Alternate Title: Le Casse

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: October 24, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 57Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Henri Verneuil

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD-R

Funny Girl (1968)

funny girl

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Fanny’s rise to stardom.

Barbra Streisand, in her film debut, plays Fanny Brice in this loose biography about the Jewish comedian’s rise to stardom in the Ziegfield Follies during the 20’s and 30’s. The story examines how she uses her homely looks to her advantage by honing in her comedic skills to allow her to stand-out. The second half of the film examines her romance and eventual marriage to professional gambler Nick Arnstein (Omar Sharif).

Streisand recreates her Broadway role in grand style and deserved her Oscar win in which she famously tied Katherine Hepburn that year for Best Actress. I’ve always liked her best when she is doing comedy and she has always shown a good knack for timing and delivery. Although stories abound how she was very difficult during the production and showed a tremendous ego, which culminated in the film going through two directors and cinematographers she still plays the very insecure Brice effectively and it’s this appealing ingredient the carries the film and character.

William Wyler’s direction is also outstanding and helps make up for a story that at times seems pretty light. He replaced Sidney Lumet early on and gives the film an added flair with lavish sets. I loved the French-style restaurant and expansive old fashioned New York train station. There is some excellent dance numbers in which Wyler takes full advantage of the visual element including a nifty ballet segment. The recreation of the period is authentic and there are even a few moments of dazzling camera work including the shot showing Fanny singing on top of a tugboat all alone in the New York harbor while the camera circles above her and then careens down.

Kay Medford adds good support as Fanny’s mother and it earned her an Academy Award nomination for supporting actress. Sharif is always solid, but the character seemed poorly fleshed-out and more of a personal background needed to be explored to help explain why he was so infatuated with the extremely insecure and awkward Brice when he could have easily attracted any girl. Walter Pidgeon lacks the commanding presence needed in the part of Florenz Ziegfield and instead comes off as a tired old man getting badly upstaged by Streisand in every scene he has with her.

The songs are pleasing and you may find yourself humming some of them for days afterwards, but I was surprised how few of them there really were with long dramatic intervals in-between. The story itself is placid as Brice’s rise to the top happens too quickly and too much time is spent on the romantic angle making the film seem unbalanced but it manages to be entertaining anyways due mainly to the high production values.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: September 18, 1968

Runtime: 2Hours 30Minutes

Rated G

Director: William Wyler

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

The Night of the Generals (1967)

night of the generals

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: A general kills prostitutes.

In 1942 during the height of the war a Polish prostitute is found murdered and sexually mutilated. A witness spotted a man leaving her room who was wearing a uniform that had a red stripe running down the side of his pants, which signified that he was a general. Major Grau (Omar Sharif) who is in charge of the investigation decides to interview three generals (Donald Pleasance, Peter O’Toole, Charles Gray) who were in the vicinity and have no alibi, but finds a lot of pressure not to pursue the case and it takes several decades before it finally unravels.

The storyline is compelling enough to keep you intrigued, but the script is talky with not enough action. Certain story threads seemed unnecessary and the film could have been more compact. The actors are mostly all British, but make no effort to speak in German accents despite playing Nazi roles. The music cues that are used whenever an important plot point is revealed or to transition to another scene are too loud and have a generic quality to them that does not appropriately reflect the time period.

O’Toole gives an interesting performance as psychotic ready to fall completely apart. His extreme emphasis on cleanliness especially to those that serve under him and his nervous twitches steal the film as well as a bit where he commands his men to destroy an entire block of a town simply to get at a couple of snipers. His bizarre reaction to a painting of Vincent Van Gogh that he spots in a gallery is intriguing especially when it occurs twice and his blank blue-eyed stare becomes almost piercing.

Sharif does quite well in support and despite being born and raised in Egypt does a convincing job as a Nazi and I think make-up was used to lighten his skin. Tom Courtenay is good as O’Toole’s assistant and the relationship that they form has some interesting subtexts to it.

Joanna Pettet’s appearance however seemed pointless and although the constant sparring she has with her mother (Joan Plowright) was fun it really didn’t add much to an already cluttered narrative. Christopher Plummer also gets stuck in a thankless part where he is seen for less than five minutes before promptly being killed off.

The identity of the killer gets revealed 45 minutes before the end, which hurts the suspense. I also didn’t like that the Sharif character gets killed off and the rest of the investigation is taken over by a Frenchman (Philippe Noiret) which seemed defeating since we had spent so much time siding with the character’s plight to seek justice despite all the obstacles. The film’s very final moment is supposed to be dramatic and poignant, but instead goes over-the-top and becomes weak and strained.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: January 29, 1967

Runtime: 2Hours 25Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Anatole Litvak

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video