Le Casse (1971)

aka: The Burglars
Crime / Thriller / Action


Le Casse photo
A band of crooks led by ace safecracker Azad break into a mansion on the outskirts of Athens to steal a near-priceless collection of emeralds. The robbery is a success, but the crooks miss the cargo ship by which they had planned to leave the country. Whilst waiting for the next ship, Azad is pursued by Abel Zacharia, a crooked police chief who will stop at nothing to lay his hands on the stolen jewels…
© filmsdefrance.com 2012

Film Review

Film poster
Director Henri Verneuil followed his huge successful policier Le Clan des Siciliens (1969) with another film of the same genre, albeit one in a somewhat lighter vein. The film stars two iconic actors of the time - Jean-Paul Belmondo and Omar Sharif - and had a colossal budget of 15 million French francs, making it one of the biggest French films of the year. The film is loosely based on David Goodis' crime novel The Burglar, which had previously been adapted for cinema (in 1957) by Paul Wendkos. One of Verneuil's biggest successes, Le Casse attracted an audience of almost four and a half million in France alone.

This was the fifth time Henri Verneuil worked with Jean-Paul Belmondo - their earlier collaborations including the popular comedy Un singe en hiver (1962) and the uncompromising wartime drama Week-end à Zuydcoote (1964). Le Casse allowed Belmondo plenty of opportunity to indulge his insane passion for dare devil stunts (although some of his scenes were too risky even for him and so were played by a stunt double). The film's most memorable sequence is a spectacular thirteen minute long car chase through the busy streets of Athens, which was presumably Verneuil's determined attempt to trump a similar chase in Paul Yates' 1968 film Bullitt (which starred Steve McQueen).

Whilst it is easy to fault the film for its weak characterisation and lack of narrative (what plot there is can easily be written in longhand on the back of a Lilliputian postage stamp), its relentless pace, quirky comic flourishes and seductive thriller gloss (plus a great score from Ennio Morricone) makes it a compelling and entertaining romp. Omar Sharif makes a particularly nasty villain (admittedly of the camp, moustache-twirling pantomime variety) who comes to a deliciously gratifying sticky end in the film's second most ambitious set-piece scene. A must-see film for all fans of Jean-Paul Belmondo, Le Casse is a pretty respectable example of the kind of action thriller that was all the rage on both sides of the Atlantic throughout the 1970s, a forerunner of popular television shows such as Starsky and Hutch.
The above article was written for filmsdefrance.com and should not be reproduced in any medium without the author's permission.


The director Henri Verneuil also worked with the actor Jean-Paul Belmondo on the films Un singe en hiver (1962), Cent mille dollars au soleil (1964), Peur sur la ville (1975), Le Corps de mon ennemi (1976) and Les Morfalous (1984).

Film Credits

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