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Director: Ronald Neame
Screenwriter: Jack Davies, Alvin Sargent
Starring: Michael Caine, Shirley Maclaine, Herbert Lom, Roger C. Carmel
Release details: Universal Pictures, USA 1966, 104mins
Full details: IMDb
Genre: Caper comedy
Rating: 8 out of 10

Often overlooked, but perfect for the small screen, this 1966 crime caper is Michael Caine at his most charming. Neither he, nor his two co-stars (Herbert Lom and Shirley Maclaine), put a foot wrong in what can only be described as a hugely entertaining romp.

Caine is introduced as Harry Dean, a career cat burglar set on parting the world's richest man (Lom) from his priceless statue of an Asian princess. In order to achieve this, he needs the help of Eurasian waitress Suzy Chang (Maclaine). She just happens to be the dead ringer of both the billionaire's late wife and, coincidentally, the princess in the statue. Maclaine is one of those actresses who often grates - I think she's very much an acquired taste - but her tough cookie persona is well-suited to the world-weary Suzy, a woman who's obviously seen more than her fair share of the thin end of the wedge.

Gambit Poster

Poster © Universal Pictures

The film is split into two versions of the crime: the planned version, as told by Caine to his partner Ram (Roger C Carmel), and the real deal. Lom and Maclaine have the showiest roles as they are essentially called upon to play two separate characters - Harry's ideal and the characters' real selves.

This is a conceit that works remarkably well and the film's considerable humour stems from the differences between fact and fiction, causing an ever more exasperated Caine to have to alter his seemingly perfect plan to accommodate another unforeseen hitch.

Neame, who went on to direct both The Poseidon Adventure and one of my favourite films, Hopscotch, has the necessary deftness of touch to pull off both the central caper and the stuttering romance between Chang and Dean. He is, however, well-served by an entertaining yet plausible script from Carroll, Davies and Sargant.

Do yourself a favour and rediscover this little gem.


Maclaine was, at that time, allowed to choose her own leading men and chose Caine after seeing him in Alfie.


Shirley Maclaine has her own site, which covers all the airy-fairy issues you would expect.

Interview with Herbert Lom, who starred in The Murders in the Rue Morgue and, more famously, the Pink Panther movies. (WARNING: interview features tacky dissolve effect on click)