Saturday, 15 October 2011

Maroc 7 (1967)

I just love 1960s spy movie but despite the claims on the original movie poster Maroc 7 isn’t a spy movie. It is however a 1960s crime caper movie, and I love them almost as much.

The movie opens with Simon Grant (Gene Barry) stealing some very valuable jewels from the safe belonging to Louise Henderson (Cyd Charisse). It turns out that she had stolen them from somebody else, and Grant’s object isn’t the theft. He wants to become her partner. Louise is a model who runs a photographic studio that acts as a front for her real business, the theft of jewels and art treasures.

She doesn’t have much alternative, and Grant seems like he could be pretty useful anyway, so he joins Louise and her little band on a jaunt to Morocco. They’ll be doing a fashion shoot, and of course some thieving. Louise’s employees include a creepy photographer with a scandalous past (played by Leslie Phillips) and a bevy of beautiful models.

Simon Grant has a bit of an eye for the ladies and he’s especially attracted to one of the models, Claudia (Elsa Martinelli). The gang has not managed to avoid the notice of the authorities and the indefatigable Inspector Barrada is hot on their trail.

There are plenty of double-crosses in store, as you would expect.

The plot is a bit creaky, but this kind of movie doesn’t really require dazzlingly original plotting. The qualities that are required are a sense of style, some tongue-in-cheek humour, a lively pace and glamour. And Maroc 7 has all of those qualities.

It also boasts some eccentric but interesting casting. Leslie Phillips (who co-produced the film) is best-known for countess appearance in British comedies but this time around he’s a heavy, albeit a sleazy and slightly cowardly heavy. With his fruity voice and pompous manner he makes an unusual but effective villain. Cyd Charisse as a diabolical criminal mastermind is a even more surprising casting choice. She doesn’t seem entirely comfortable but she gives it her best shot and she’s a lot better than you might expect.

Elsa Martinelli just has to look glamorous, which she does quite successfully. The other female cast members who play Louise’s models are also suitably glamorous and there’s some amusing bitchiness. Gene Barry was better known for his television work in series like Burke’s Law. He always brought and effortless charm to his performances ad this is no exception, and the role is perfectly suited to his talents.

Gerry O’Hara does a more than competent job as director and keeps things moving along at a good pace.

These kinds of movies are pure lightweight entertainment and should never take themselves seriously, or be taken seriously by the viewer. This isn’t Citizen Kane. It offers some nice location shooting. There’s a good mix of romance, humour and action. There’s glamour in abundance. It’s stylish escapist fun.

I caught this one on TV, in a sadly sub-standard print. It’s been released on DVD and copies are around although you may have to do some searching. If you’re a fan of the 60s caper movie genre it’s worth adding to your collection.

No comments: