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CAIRO (director: Wolf Rilla; screenwriter: from the novel by W.R. Burnett/Joanne Court; cinematographer: Desmond Dickinson; editor: Bernard Gribble; music: Ken V. Jones; cast: George Sanders (Major Pickering), Richard Johnson (Ali), Faten Hamama (Amina), John Meillon (Willy), Ahmed Mazhar (Kerim), Eric Pohlmann (Nicodemos), Walter Rilla (Kuchuk), Kamal El Shennawy (Ghattas), Salah Nazmi (Commandant), Mona (Bamba), Chewikar (Marie); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ronald Kinnoch; MGM; 1963-UK)
“It’s worth seeing the suave George Sanders scamper through the bazaar in full Arab garb and a turban.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Moderate remake of John Huston’s film noir classic “The Asphalt Jungle (1960), that switches locations to Cairo. It’s based on the novel by W.R. Burnett and is written by Joanne Court. Though competently directed by Wolf Rilla (“The Black Rider”/”The Scamp”/”Village of the Damned”), this third version of the “Asphalt” lacks the originality and pneumatic flavor of the original, but scores with good location shots of exotic Cairo, retains the crisp storyline and it’s worth seeing the suave George Sanders scamper through the bazaar in full Arab garb and a turban.

Mastermind Brit criminal Major Pickering (George Sanders) arrives in Cairo by air from a Greek prison, on a phony passport. The Major has a full-proof scheme to rob King Tut’s jewels, which are displayed in the secure Cairo Museum and worth to the robbers a quarter of a million dollars. Through his contact man Nicodemos (Eric Pohlmann), the shady casino operator brother of the Major’s con artist passport illustrator Greek cellmate, he rounds up a disparate gang to execute the daring heist. The only gang member known to the Major is the reliable countryman and fellow soldier, an explosive expert safe-cracker, Willy (John Meillon), now a family man, marrying native and reluctant to go on the caper until persuaded by a fast $25,000 cut.

Nicodemos gets untrustworthy import-export businessman Kuchuk (Walter Rilla) to finance the caper, while the Major hires lazy coffee shop owner Kerim (Ahmed Mazhar) as driver and his hashish smoking hot-headed gun-wielding small-time stick-up man Ali (Richard Johnson) as his enforcer. Ali looks upon it as his last chance to buy a sugar cane farm in his country birthplace, and pretends to be indifferent to the unconditional love shown to him by the penniless hard-luck nice girl belly dancer Amina (Faten Hamama).

The boys go through the sewer as planned, but inside the museum an alarm is accidentally triggered and brings the police before they can make a clean escape. It results in Willy being fatally shot and dropped off at home. When the robbers that evening go to exchange the jewels for the money, Kuchuk and his gun wielding accomplice Ghattas (Kamal El Shennawy) pull a double-cross, and in an ensuing shoot-out Ghattas is dead and Ali seriously wounded, with Kuchuk now forced by the Major to make a deal with the police for $200,000 or they will melt down the invaluable jewels.

When the frightened Nicodemos is intimidated by the persistent police commandant (Salah Nazmi) and Kuchuk commits suicide, the rest of the gang is rounded up before they can escape from Cairo–with Ali dying in Amina’s arms just as they reach by car his father’s farm and the Major captured alive when staying too long to admire a belly dancer as the police raid the area.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”