Ann-Margret, at this point in her career, must have had a clause written in her contract that she gotta sing, gotta dance. And you can see the sense of that demand because, as in previous films, she proves she can shake her booty, that number more of a showstopper than her earlier crooning. But, honestly, she has taken a backward step in terms of billing. Here, she’s effectively the leading lady rather than the top-billed star, and really, beyond the dancing, little more than “the girl.”
The heist itself is niftily done, making use not just of such an old-fashioned notion as a magnet but also making a pitch for early recognition as one of the originators of solar power. (How that combination works out, I’ll leave to your imagination.) But, in a twist in the heist genre, the focus is largely on those trying to stop a major robbery from a casino in Beirut, the latest in a series of thefts from top casinos around the world. And it’s not a heist in the normal sense. Millions of dollars have gone missing, but no one can figure out how.
Naturally, your automatic port of call would be an alcoholic croupier, Jeff (Laurence Harvey), currently working at The Playboy Club in London because it’s about the only city where he’s not been blacklisted. Anyway, handed a ticket to Beirut and the prospect of some easy cash by Benson (Jose Calvo) who initially appears as a drunken apparition in the fog, Jeff decides it’s the easiest option.
Benson, it transpires, is not the shady character Jeff imagined, but some kind of investigator entrusted with finding out who is defrauding the casinos. Jeff makes the acquaintance of night club singer Laura (Ann-Margret), who soon develops a soft spot for him, but not enough to join him for a drink (or, presumably, sex) after work since that time is set aside for current squeeze Ghinis (Ivan Desny).
No sooner has Jeff worked out that a huge amount of cash is at stake than he carves himself a slice of it, $100,000, working for Benson. But, no sooner has he won that particular lottery than the bad guys make a counter-offer, the same amount but at least you’ll come out of the deal alive. Laura is clearly some kind of bait to keep him sweet, though she could be bait for hundreds of customers as she shakes her booty during her big number, “Take a Chance,” the lyrics, ironically enough, encouraging gambling.
This being the kind of European co-production that requires assistance from the authorities, we are treated to a tour of the sights of Beirut (there’s also a journey by motorbike earlier on from Highgate in London to Mayfair and by taking rather a detour manages to take in many of the capital’s finest tourist sites). The Beirut leg of the movie itinerary takes in a traditional concert in some first-class ruins, a bazaar, and for reasons that may be more to do with commercial concerns than tourist, an oil refinery.
There’s also a very irritating shrill American, Mrs Brown (Camilla Horn), who, constantly getting in Jeff’s way, appears to be there just for comic effect, intent as if she had a social media channel to film everything in view. Turns out her movie camera and the lady herself are there for another purpose entirely.
The heist, itself, is particularly well done, especially as it appears to be achieved by a bunch of proper strangers – that is people who seem to have no connection to each other at all rather than the old trope of strangers coming together for a robbery by the end of which they know far too much about each other.
Unfortunately, from the narrative perspective and for fans of Ann-Margret (The Swinger, 1966), she is less the femme fatale than the equivalent of the dumb blonde. But pretty much you could have advertised this as starring two Hollywood stars who had fallen from grace and were taking Italian coin because little else was on offer. Laurence Harvey (Life at the Top, 1965) is actually pretty good, when sober capable of dealing with good guys and bad guys and with still enough charm to make romance with Ann-Margret seem plausible. Except that this is not a great movie, though interesting enough in a double-cross kind of way and the heist is good, both actually acquit themselves well, Ann-Margret correct in her assumption that her dancing goes a long way to keep audiences sweet.
This was only the second film for director Nino Zanchin, and the fact that he only got to make one more tells its own story.
You may have been scratching your head, wondering when the hell “Rebus” is going to appear or perhaps imagine it’s some kind of code word or password. No amount of head-scratching by myself right to the end of the movie made any sense out of this title. That was the original title, but some distributors, fed up presumably with scratching their heads, opted for the more sensible Appointment in Beirut.
An okay watch, some decent twists and lifted I guess you would have to say by Ann-Margret’s dance number more than Laurence Harvey’s snippy performance