High-class thieves hatch a plan to steal a priceless Scabbard from Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace Museum. They’re played by Maximilian Schell (suave), Melina Mercouri (deliciously affected), Robert Morley (unctuous), and Peter Ustinov (who stumbles into the scheme and becomes its mascot). Gilles Ségal is “Giulio the Human Fly” who must hang upside down to lift a glass casing (precursor to Tom Cruise’s “Mission Impossible” antics; MI creator Bruce Geller credits “Topkapi” for the idea that propelled the original 1960s American TV series).
Director Jules Dassin’s jewel of a movie is in no hurry. It’s about eccentric people as much as robbery, and hinges on an infiltrator. Ustinov won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. There’s also a wonderful score from Manos Hatzidakis. Two years after this, Dassin married Mercouri. He died in 2008 at 96.