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A man called Major is in Cairo after being released from a German Prison. He is there to proceed with his plan to steal the jewelry from the King Tutankhamen exhibit at the national gallery. This plan has been on hold since he was jailed. He enlists the help of Willy, Ali, Nicodemos, Kerim and Kuchuk to carry out his detailed 'foolproof' plan. Perhaps the curse of the Pharoahs is more than a superstition because Major soon finds out that while the robbery may be easy, getting out with the jewels may be the hardest part. Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
George Sanders engineers a successful jewel heist only to have things go wrong subsequently
"Cairo" is an MGM remake of "The Asphalt Jungle". The TCM channel has shown it this week, and so this was a good opportunity for me to view it for the third time.
I don't believe in making too much of comparisons of remakes in my movie reviews. I'd rather look at each film on its own merits, because remakes will never be the same as previous versions, and they are made for reasons of their own with their own arts of their times. "The Asphalt Jungle" is a 10 in my book. That doesn't mean that "Cairo" should be judged adversely for not coming up to that mark. Very, very few films do.
This is a roundabout way of saying that "Cairo" is getting a bad rap with a rating of 5.1 and that it has a number of positives. I count it as a good to very good film noir. I don't see why film noir fans will not enjoy it a great deal and see its merits.
It follows the W.R. Burnett story quite faithfully, with most all the main characters and interactions being intact. Some, such as the police inspector, have been cut back or altered. George Sanders plays the old Sam Jaffe role. He's the "Major", just released from prison, who has a foolproof plan to rob the major Cairo museum of its jewels. He recruits Richard Johnson, convincingly playing a tough Egyptian, as a reliable hooligan. Sanders' own weakness is his voyeurism and lechery, and belly dancing offers him the opportunity to indulge.
The Major rounds out his team with an explosives man, a driver, and he arranges for the fencing of the jewels through the sweaty and nervous Eric Pohlmann and the urbane and upper class Walter Rilla. I've mentioned in other reviews that any movie with Rilla is enhanced greatly by his presence and acting. Pohlmann too raises this movie, and so does Johnson, who I think tends to be an underrated actor. I always like his work too. Sanders in this one has a part that's somewhat written down. He can't be expected to be delivering lots of witty lines in such a part.
The exotic and beautiful women in this movie add a very great deal. They include the wife of the explosives man, the young girl friend of Rilla, several belly dancers, and especially the woman whom Johnson takes in, played very effectively by Faten Hamama. She has the old role of Jean Peters.
The black and white photography is noir all the way. The Egyptian locations are used to excellent advantage. They are seamlessly integrated into the film. Solid direction is by Wolf Rilla, who was Walter Rilla's son.
The basic story is familiar, of course, but the changes in locale and situations are enough to maintain interest, even for those familiar with the story. There are some images in this film that will stick with you, and that has caused me to up my initial rating of 7 to 8.
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