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The Burglars (1971)

Le casse (original title)
In 1970s Athens a group of professional burglars plan an emerald heist from the home of a gem collector but the corrupt Greek police inspector Abel Zacharia is on their trail.


Henri Verneuil


Henri Verneuil (scenario), Vahé Katcha (scenario) | 1 more credit »


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Complete credited cast:
Jean-Paul Belmondo ... Azad
Omar Sharif ... Abel Zacharia
Dyan Cannon ... Lena Gripp's
Robert Hossein ... Ralph
Nicole Calfan ... Hélène
Myriam Feune de Colombi Myriam Feune de Colombi ... Isabelle Tasco (as Myriam Colombi)
Raoul Delfosse Raoul Delfosse ... Le gardien de la villa Tasco
José Luis de Vilallonga ... Tasco
Renato Salvatori ... Renzi


In 1970s Athens a group of professional burglars led by Azad plan a daring burglary. The victim is the rich gem merchant Mister Tasco. The treasure to be plundered is Mister Tasco's sumptuous emerald collection. The break-in team neutralize the villa's guard, enter the premises and locate the safe. Their sophisticated safe-cracking tools allow the burglars to break the safe open and steal the emeralds. During the caper a lone Greek policeman notices the burglars' car parked outside the Tasco residence and becomes suspicious. When Azad pretends to tinker with the getaway car's engine the Greek cop pretends he believes him. In fact, the Greek Police inspector Abel Zacharia suspects a burglary is taking place but decides to play along in order to allow the burglars to complete their mission. However, the corrupt Greek cop intends to arrest the criminals later and to steal the emeralds for himself. A cat and mouse chase ensues. Written by nufs68

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Catch the burglars !


Crime | Thriller | Action


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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France | Italy



Release Date:

14 June 1972 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Burglars See more »

Filming Locations:

Corfu Island, Greece See more »


Box Office


FRF15,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (TCM print)

Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


No dialog is spoken until ten minutes into the film. See more »


Right after the burglars spot Abel Zacharia following them, they stop to separate. But Abel Zacharia stops his car before the burglars do, showing that it was a prearranged stopping point that he mistakenly reached before them, which was necessary because of the camera angle and the particular way Abel Zacharia's car was framed through some shipyard materials. See more »


Azad: We've each got a job to do, but you want to do both, and that leads to complications.
Abel Zacharia: Not at all, it's very simple. I play both sides. If things go wrong, I start acting like a policeman again.
See more »


Referenced in Green Ice (1981) See more »

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User Reviews

As an adaptation of the David Goodis novel. . .
25 July 2015 | by jrd_73See all my reviews

I have been reading the work of David Goodis, an American writer who wrote dark thrillers in the 1940's and 1950's. After reading the novels, I have been watching (or re-watching) the film adaptations. Goodis's work has been adapted by Francois Truffaut (Shoot the Piano Player), Delmer Daves (Dark Passage), and Samuel Fuller (Street of No Return), among others. Henri Verneuil's film adaptation of Goodis's The Burglar is best watched on its own terms rather than as an adaptation.

The Burglars (film) keeps a great deal of the plot from The Burglar (novel). A group of burglars (three men and a young woman) are in the process of robbing emeralds from a house when a policeman (two in the novel) spots their getaway car. The leader of the burglars (Azad in the movie, Harbin in the novel) convinces the policeman/policemen that his car has broken down. The police car leaves and the robbery is finished. Everything appears fine, but then come the complications. A beautiful woman comes out of nowhere and begins to make eyes at Azad/Nat, setting up a love triangle with the female burglar. In addition, the policeman (or one of the policemen in the novel) wants the emeralds for himself, setting up a game of cat and mouse.

All of the above summary fits both the movie and the novel. The big difference is in tone. The movie is trying to be a crowd pleaser. The tone is mostly light, giving Jean-Paul Belmondo and Omar Sharif a chance to play off of each other. There is a fun car chase and a funny scene in a restaurant where the policeman insists on ordering the burglar's food. Also, the catchy Ennio Morricone score reflects the film's lighthearted mood (I own the soundtrack). On the downside, The Burglars is a little overlong and mostly wastes Dyan Cannon. In addition, while fun to watch, there is not much to reflect upon when it is over.

The novel The Burglar goes into much darker territory. It is a noir story, where the criminal hero finds himself struggling in traps both real and emotional as he balances two very different women and tries to survive the corrupt policeman. This policeman is not the cool, dashing Omar Sharif but an unhinged psychopath with no qualms about resorting to murder.

Here is an example of how film and novel handle a similar section. In both, the female burglar is sent away after the job. In both, the hero, Azad/Harbin, has to go and retrieve her. In the film, he resorts to riding around in a clown car, literally a car done up with a giant clown on the front, broadcasting an advertisement for the coming circus. This works in the film because The Burglars is the equivalent of a trip to the circus. However, the novel records its hero's journey with unease dripping from the pages.

"Then the road sign was past them and in front of them was the black and the booming storm. Harbin had an odd feeling they were a thousand miles away from Atlantic City and a thousand miles away from anywhere. He tried to convince himself the Black Horse Pike was a real thing and in daylight it was just another concrete road. But ahead of him now it looked unreal, like a path arranged for unreal travel, its glimmer unreal, black of it unreal with the wet wild thickness all around it."

The Burglars is an enjoyable enough heist picture, but The Burglar is a novel that gut punches the reader.

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