Sunday, November 8, 2015


I apologize for only giving a couple of hours warning about the upcoming airing of Kaleidoscope, which you can catch at noon on TCM. However, it does happen to be available from the Warner Archive Collection.

Warren Beatty plays Barney Lincoln, who at the start of the movie is heading toward an industrial site somehwere in Europe. He gets up on the roof, and breaks in! He goes to the safe, so presumably he's going for the case or some other valuables like jewels. But he just takes out a couple of printing plates, alters them, and leaves. To do something that crazy, somebody has to have a pretty good reason.

And Barney certainly does have a good reason. Those factory was at the company that makes the playing cards for all the great casinos of Europe, and Barney's alterations of the printing plates subtly marked the backs of the cards so that Barney could see what everybody else was holding. This obviously would enable him to defeat the people he was gambling against, and win large sums of money.

Such winnings, unsurprisingly, brought him to public attention, especially from the various authorities, who aren't so stupid that they can't figure out something hinky is going on. Eventually, Inspector McGinnis from Scotland Yard (Clive Revill) pieces everything together and brings Barney in. The bad guys always go down, don't they? Except, that's not what Kaleidoscope is about. McGinnis understands that if the arrest of Barney were made public, along with his scheme to defraud the casinos, it would cause a great loss of confidence that would result in bigger problems than not prosecuting Barney would.

With that in mind, McGinnis gives Barney a different sort of punishment. Serve the authorities by helping bring down Dominion (Eric Porter). Dominion is a smuggler who has made a bundle of money doing that, and has moved into more "legitimate" businesses as well to keep himselve ever so slightly above the law. So McGinnis figures that the way to go after Dominion is financial. Dominion is known for his love of gambling, so what better than to put him up against Barney in a high-stakes poker game? Barney can win Dominion's money since Barney knows the cards are marked, and that money can go to pay back the casinos he defrauded. Of course, there are a couple of problems. One is that along the way, Barney falls for McGinnis' daughter Angel (Susannah York). Another is that at a key point in the poker game, the cards are changed out -- and by this time, the factory figured out what was going on and the new cards are unmarked!

Kaleidoscope is one of those movies that fits in with all the other heist and caper movies of the 1960s. It's stylish to look at, even though there might be even less here than in most of the other films in the genre. But it does succeed in entertaining the viewer, and in that is more than worth a viewing.

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