A Movie and a Book: “Gambit” (1966)

A Movie and a Book: “Gambit” (1966)
gambit (gám-bit) : a series of opening moves (esp. in chess); a strategy, planned before the actual game.

Gambit (1966) : crime caper starring Michael Caine, Shirley MacLaine, Herbert Lom, and John Abbott.

Gambit (1966) : book by Kendall Lane; literary form of the story above.

Tonight’s movie was discovered, of all places, via a stack of vintage paperbacks in a used bookstore.  One of my hobbies is book collecting – second only to book reading, but mostly because of space and monetary limitations.  (Luckily for those of us who read far more than we could ever buy or keep, there are libraries.)  For the most part, I prefer to buy only books from tried-and-true authors, but I’ll bend this rule for gorgeous covers, intriguing blurbs, or anything old that looks like it might be hard to find elsewhere.  Or, as in this case, movie tie-in covers.gambit-pbcoverThis was supposed to be the first in what may be a recurring series, in which I read a book, watch the movie it was based on (or the other way ’round), and review both.  As it turns out, Gambit the movie is practically identical to Gambit the book.  There are a few very minor changes, and they really are minor.  Luckily, this totally works for this book/movie combination, so I’ll be reviewing the movie and adding a new notes on the book at the end.  They’re both solidly entertaining, and you needn’t worry about loving one and hating the other.

Gambit shares the 1960s romantic comedy-slash-heist movie genre with How to Steal a Million, released the same year (1966).  Frankly, How to Steal a Million is the superior film.  With Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole, how could it not be?  Still, Gambit shouldn’t be dinged simply for not being Million: it was nominated for three Academy Awards, and it’s got a premise and twist all its own.  It’s also a little heavier on the suspense than the romance.

Bottom line:  If watching How to Steal a Million left you yearning for more romantic comedy heist movies, Gambit should be on your must-watch list.

This may be a fun movie to go into without spoilers, so if you’d like to do so, skip this review and head straight for your preferred rental service or DVD seller.  (It’s nearly impossible to talk about this movie without revealing a few twists.)  Still, I was spoiled on a major plot point from the beginning, read the book, then watched the movie, and enjoyed both just the same – if not more.  Proceed at your own risk. :)

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