Is Vicki merely a pawn in Thomas Crown’s game? It’s her move…
The sexual chemistry simmers between the mastermind behind a bank heist and the insurance investigator hired to check him out.
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) – YouTube Movies and photos © United Artists
The Windmills of Your Mind – one of the most haunting of title tracks – two incredibly gorgeously charismatic leads from the late sixties and the sexiest chess game ever and The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) was just begging for a review from yours truly.
The film also boasts more split-screen than your average episode of George Kennedy’s Airport franchise. That means a lot – and I mean a lot – of Steve McQueen (and much, much more than that scene with the televisions in the film where Jack Nicholson played Van Horne).
This meaning in my own personal split-screen for announcing this review, I can visualise that somewhere in Scotland, someone dear to me is cheering as I put
pen to paper finger to keyboard to review McQueen, her favourite actor.
The film shows a silhouette of a man, the man orchestrating the bank robbery and his rather unusual recruitment process for this heist. As he interviews the nervous, Erwin – and the only actor visible in these opening shots – to drive the getaway car and drop off the loot.
The mysterious mastermind behind this particular bank job uses spotlights and a voice changer to obscure his identity. Erwin accepts this post – for which he’ll be paid in instalments – and he’s instructed to buy a station wagon. A wad of cash is thrown at him before he leaves. Never meeting the man in the shadow.
It’s then split screen heaven (or hell) as we see the others involved – all wearing sunglasses and Trilby hats – carry out this robbery. This robbery timed to the minute. All reporting back to one Thomas Crown – in his palatial office – as he scores off their detailed to-do checklist. This list is written with times and their actions it’s worked out meticulously.
The robbery carried out slickly by these anonymous characters runs to perfection, despite a few near misses. The robbery is a success, Erwin leaves the money at the drop-off, as a Rolls Royce follows him to the cemetery. We meet Crown (McQueen). an enigmatic debonair ringleader in time with the church bells.
Crown returns home fixes himself a drink, lights a cigar and laughs like a James Bond bad guy surrounded by opulence, with paintings, a log fire and that chessboard. Crown booty calls his girl Gwen (Astrid Heeren) to complete his night.
Meanwhile, the stolen money is counted. It amounts to 2,660,527 dollars. 32 witnesses are interviewed by Detective Eddy Malone (Paul Burke) and his colleagues. Malone is questioned by the press, its front-page news. There’s no fingerprints or evidence. Erwin on leaving the city by station wagon the cops question then dismiss him.
Meanwhile, Crown flies to Geneva and procures a Swiss Bank Account with the cash. Specifically asking for deductions and transactions from his account specifically for the 19th of the month but in any year. Back in Boston, the bank’s insurance brokers aren’t happy replacing the cash. They call in an investigation to find the perpetrators… Malone’s not impressed.
That’s until he sees the independent Insurance investigator at the airport. She’s blonde.
Sunglasses. Big 70s hat. Pretty. Efficient Looking. Long Legs. (Pulse?). Then Malone changes his mind. On meeting the lady in question, she’s introduced as Vicki Anderson (Faye Dunaway) who’ll be getting 10% of the recovered money for her services.
She gives Malone the once over, with a glimmer of mutual attraction. Crown meanwhile plays golf, and more of his game playing and high-risk lifestyle in action, as he bets with high stakes on the outcome.
It’s a week later and Vicki’s worked out how the heist was organised as she girlsplains it to Malone. She tells how 5 random strangers met for the first time as they played their part in the crime, all not knowing their ringleader. She’s even worked out the ringleader has a Swiss Bank account, and just how he obtained it and that he’ll pay the robbers in instalments.
Yup, she’s that
perceptive good. Vicki and Malone whittle the possible suspects down to five, with her perusing their photos. By photo number 3, she believes – call it womanly intuition or just the chance to get up close and personal to investigate this particular subject, the handsome, Thomas Crown is the man behind it. (What d’ya know he’s single). She just has to prove it. She suggests a substantial reward requesting a “fink” (grass) to reveal all.
Vicki checks Crown out playing polo. Cue lots of split-screen McQueen, horses and er.. a polo game. He’s obviously young, handsome and fit. She’s distinctive with her larger than life camera, and her red Ferrari (“one of those red Italian things”). Both attracting Crown’s curiosity and attention.
The pair then “meet” again at an art auction where he notes her car outside. With some furtive looks from both of them, as the bidding is on, it’s more than clear she’s interested. Simultaneously she is making sure he thinks she is keen on him. He appears to be interested in her too, and afterwards, the pair talk about their first encounter at the polo match.
She tells him she’s investigating him, which arouses his interest. He laughs. By now they are like the only two people in the room as there’s a serious amount of strong eye contact. She tells him she always gets her man. He invites her to dinner, at 6pm sharp. She accepts. It’s all kind of double entendre and flirty.
And after a setup, after Erwin’s wife “finks” (blabs) on him, Erwin’s son is “kidnapped” by Vicki. It’s clear as she appears with the child and meets him, she can play dirty. At 6pm with both Erwin and Crown waiting for her at the police station, it’s obvious they don’t recognise each other. She goes for dinner at Crowns.
He questions her about some “wall to wall carpet” he “apparently” ordered. Signalling he knows just how she’s looking for evidence, her smile revealing she was behind this. After dinner she wanders around the room, her attention aroused by the chessboard. And they swap a look so intense conveying their mutual attraction, its breathtaking.
He asks her directly “Do you play?” And we’re obviously not just talking chess here. She looks at him in the eye and says “Try me”. The background music sounds like a snake charmer entrancing a snake. Without a word, they play chess. Mirroring their moves in the chessboard. With a little shared smile. He’s manly and decisive.
She’s flirty and feminine, showing her bare arms. He’s literally hot under the collar. She strokes the outline of her neckline to her breast where her dress ends and her bare skin begins. He notices, raises an eyebrow. She gently traces her arm with her hand. He’s distracted.
As time goes on they continue to mirror each other now with gestures here and there. He gives a nervous smile as she stares directly at him her pupils enlarged. He’s almost nervous, a cat caught in the headlights. She caresses her lips and bites her finger seductively.
She caresses and strokes the bishop chess piece. He smiles catching the double entendre attached to this action. They touch each other accidentally both under and on the table, then jump away. He makes another move. She returns her move, says “Check.”
In silence, he leaves the table, peruses the chessboard from all angles, and grabs her with force on her arm. She stands and he kisses her. For a minute. Sweetly. Passionately. Hungrily.
With the camera circling the kissing pair quickly until they are a blur of pre-1970s colour… and its there that we leave them letting you watch this to learn the rest of the movie, as Vicki and Thomas start dating, but is it a genuine love affair or all in the game?
I loved the use of the split-screen in this movie, especially at the start which showed the crime from the view of the individual perpetrators as it happened. Each of the perpetrators in their own individual stories told by their individual screen was a nice unique touch in this storytelling.
These scenes along with Erwin’s initial interview reinforced the characters only met as the crime was carried out, with them then going their own separate ways after the crime. The use of the initial interview setting the story and crime, along with introducing Erwin as a key part of the story.
With Crown’s love of games evident throughout the film be it chess, Polo playing and a golf game… This reminded me immediately of another character Andrew Wyke who enjoyed playing games be it mental or otherwise in Sleuth (1972). It was clear Crown’s character was carrying the heist out just for kicks, the high stake odds appealing to him. Also relishing in the danger and risk involved.
These qualities also reflected in his dangerous lifestyle where he took solo flights in his glider or drove his car erratically along the beach. These attributes also reflected in his attraction and relationship with Vicki. At the start, he almost was turned on about the thought of her finding ways to expose him as the ringleader.
McQueen had the charisma, sex appeal and tough-guy demeanour making him perfectly cast as this strong male lead this film needed for this character. Dunaway fresh from her leading role in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) was more than his match. Her character however more difficult to read. As more was revealed about Vicki you were aware she played things dirty where she needed to, to get the results she wanted.
This made it unclear if Vicki was setting herself up as a honey trap or was genuinely falling in love with Crown as the film played on. However, their mutual sexual attraction evident from the start, as the characters saw each other for the first time. Her attracted to his photo, and her enigmatic appearance at his polo match.
Going back to that snog.. now instead of asking your man/woman/waifu to “kiss me like you miss me” after seeing that snog in Deadpool 2 (2018). Instead say “Kiss me, like that kiss in The Thomas Crown Affair“, and stress the 1968 version. It looks like it’s this kiss, that’s for me McQueen’s Crowning achievement for proving a kiss isn’t just a kiss…
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 10
Hulk Rating: /10
This post was added Movie Movie Blog Blog‘s 4th Annual Sex (Now I have Got Your Attention Blogathon). Other posts with this cast include Steve McQueen in The Towering Inferno with Dunaway. Dunaway also stars in Network, Bonnie and Clyde, Columbo and in Voyage of the Damned. Paul Burke also stars in Dynasty, Hotel, Magnum PI, Murder She Wrote, Glitter, Fantasy Island, Thriller and The Love Boat. Jack Weston starred in Bewitched, Yaphet Kotto also starred in Murder She Wrote.