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Topkapi on DVD

Topkapi is a heist movie in the classic vein, though instead of the robbery being of a big Las Vegas casino (as in Ocean's Eleven) or a big corporate target (as in The Thomas Crown Affair and others), the plot revolves around the theft of a valuable bejeweled dagger from a Turkish museum.

Peter Ustinov, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of a hapless dupe drawn into the plot, leads a top notch cast in this relatively comic caper flick. He's joined by Melina Mercouri and Maximilan Schell as the brains behind the operation.

Ustinov's character performs a delicate balancing act as he's forced by the authorities to act as a double agent for them, informing on his associates' plans which the Turks think involves assassination rather than mere larceny.

The theft itself is imaginative and involved, and undoubtedly inspired such films as Entrapment and the Thomas Crown flicks.

There are several funny bits, some great locations, and excellent performances from this veteran cast, and director Jules Dassin's breezy putting together of this lighthearted romp turns what could have been ponderous into a pretty enjoyable and entertaining crime flick.

The DVD isn't particulary spectacular, however. It isn't presented in anamorphic widescreen for one thing, which is a shame. Its original theatrical aspect ratio is 1.66:1, and this is how it's transferred onto the DVD. While we applaud keeping the original aspect ratio, as opposed to using the much inferior Pan&Scan technique that slices the edges off the picture, we wish someone would come up with a way to present these odd aspect ratios so they're compatible with the 16x9 TV's that are taking over the marketplace. As it is, you have to zoom the picture out to fill the screen, which cuts down substantially on the resolution.

The DVD picture quality is okay, but not really up to the sharpness standards of which the format is capable, and this gets worse when the picture's zoomed to fill the wide TV screen. Colors are bright, however, and the overall picture quality (not surprisingly) still beats the pants off of VHS.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital mono and it's comparable to the picture quality: okay but not spectacular.

The only extra besides the usual subtitle choices is the original theatrical trailer.

Topkapi, from MGM Home Video
119 min. widescreen (1.66:1), not 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital mono
Starring Melina Mercouri, Peter Ustinov, Maximilian Schell, Robert Morley
Written by Monja Danischewsky,
Produced and directed by Jules Dassin


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Updated May 13, 2006