Harry Dean has a plan to pull off a major robbery and needs Nicole as a gambit and windowdressing. He outlines his ideas about his perfect crime in a dream sequence and then meets Nicole, and nothing goes quite right again.
Shirley MacLaine ... Nicole Chang
Michael Caine ... Harry Tristan Dean
Herbert Lom ... Ahmad Shahbandar
Roger C. Carmel ... Ram
Arnold Moss ... Abdul
John Abbott ... Emile Fournier
Richard Angarola ... Col. Salim
Maurice Marsac ... Hotel Clerk
In the 1960s Hollywood combined the classic \"caper\" film with a healthy dose of romantic comedy. The result was a series of charming films such as CHARADE (1963) and HOW TO STEAL A MILLION (1966)--films that combined major stars, clever plots, witty scripts and which balanced suspense with comic and romantic complications.
Made in 1966 and released in 1967, GAMBIT was among the last of these films, and like all others in the genre it had a complex plot. Ahmad Shahbandar (Herbert Lom) is quite possibly the richest man in the world and a recluse to boot, a man who has never gotten over the death of his beautiful Eurasian wife some twenty years ago. Harry Dean (Michael Caine) devises a clever plan to gain access to his luxury apartment and rob him blind: he will use honky-tonk dancer Nicole Chang (Shirley MacLaine), who bears a striking resemblance to Shahbandar\'s long dead wife, to breach Shahbandar\'s defenses.
There\'s only one problem: it won\'t work. To tell exactly why it won\'t work is to betray the plot, which is extremely clever; suffice to say that Dean has made a number of incorrect assumptions about both the situation and the personalities involved. When the plot begins to twist, it does so in a truly unexpected way, taking both Dean and the audience completely by surprise.
This is the sort of film that Hollywood used to do so well but which we seldom see today, a frothy, glamorous confection with first rate production values and expert performances from major stars. MacLaine gets top billing, and she is quite fine, but the weight of the film rests on Caine and Lom, who give memorably dry performances, and director Ronald Neame (who was responsible for a host of memorable films including THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE) keeps everything moving along at a smart pace with plenty of style.
This may not be the best of the genre--I think both CHARADE and HOW TO STEAL A MILLION, to name but two, outpace it. But even so it is a perfectly charming film, the perfect antidote to a drab afternoon. Just add popcorn!
MICHAEL CAINE was hot after appearing in THE IPCRESS FILE and SHIRLEY MacLAINE grabbed him for her leading man in GAMBIT. It\'s a highly entertaining and very clever crime caper and is Caine\'s first American film. It benefits from highly polished production values and Ronald Neame\'s expert direction, not to mention a story that has several unexpected twists.
Aside from excellent performances by the two stars and Herbert Lom as the intended victim, the plot will keep you guessing until the final moments. Shirley is a knockout in her oriental disguise and delivers a wonderful performance as the girl who discovers she prefers an honest man to a thief, no matter how much she let herself be tricked into the role of a charming look-alike for Herbert Lom\'s former wife. The trick is to get into his lavish digs so she and Michael can see the layout and devise a plan to steal a prized sculpture. Herbert Lom is urbane and sophisticated as a man who is highly suspicious of his new acquaintances.
If you like crime capers or jewel heists, this is for you. Diverting from start to finish with a particularly good opening sequence that sort of sets you up for a different kind of film than this actually is. But saying more than that would give too much away.
My only complaint--Maurice Jarre\'s score is a skimpy one. He provides some light and catchy melodies for the lighter scenes but fails to deliver the goods for the film\'s darker moments. Maybe he figured the audience would just be holding their breath while silence accompanied the cat-like burglar approach rather than music. Whatever, the darker moments would have been heightened by a more suspenseful score.
John Abbott is seen to advantage as a French sculptor devoted to his art.
Michael Caine and Shirley Maclaine star in \"Gambit,\" a 1966 movie done in the style so popular in that era, the \"caper\" film. Inspired by the success and style of \"Charade,\" the \'60s brought us \"How to Steal a Million,\" \"Topkapi,\" \"Rififi\" et al. - sophisticated, glamorous, international, breezy fun. In \"Gambit,\" Harry (Michael Caine) hires Nicole (Maclaine) to pose as his exotic wife so that he can get into the apartment of the richest man in the world, Shabhandar, played by Herbert Lom. \"There\'s no such thing as the richest man in the world,\" Nicole complains. \"It\'s like the highest star or - \" \"Okay, the second richest man in the world, the third richest!\" Harry yells. Nicole is made up to resemble Shabhandar\'s late wife. The purpose: robbery.
Without giving anything away, the beginning of the film is fabulous and draws the viewer in immediately. Caine is a riot as the gifted Harry, who finds that coping with Nicole is one part of the plan he hadn\'t counted on, and Maclaine is very funny as a performer who gets more involved in her assignment than she wanted to. Herbert Lom, as the first, second, whatever wealthiest man in the world, Shabhandar, is perfect portraying the urbane, suspicious, and calculating recluse.
This isn\'t the top of the genre, but it\'s still very enjoyable.