Film Vault Review: Kaleidoscope (1966)

Written by: Robert Carrington, Jane-Howard Carrington
Directed by: Jack Smight
Running Time: 102 minutes

Cast: Warren Beatty as Barney Lincoln
Susannah York as Angel McGinnis
Clive Revill as Manny McGinnis


I was reading about Warren Beatty the other day. He was the biggest movie star and sex symbol of his day, rumored to have dated most of Hollywood at the time. Looking through his lexicon, I came upon a film I'd never heard of: Kaleidoscope. So I decided to check it out. The film begins in 60's London where Beatty's character spots an attractive young woman, York's character. He follows her to a restaurant and finally convinces her to have dinner with him. She plays hard to get and you can tell that he's not used to that. The next day, he flies out on a business trip to Geneva and it soon becomes clear that his business isn't exactly legitimate. Even though he has plenty of money, he devises a plan to alter the master plates for the kaleidoscope pattern on some playing cards so that he can win poker games in all the big casinos in Europe.

During one of his poker games in Monte Carlo, he spots Angel McGinnis again. Surprised to see her again, he's fairly certain that she is following him. She calls a mysterious man who shows up at the casino. Clearly, there is history between Angel and the man. After their initial exchange, you can see Angel regress slightly into a childlike state. When it is finally revealed that the man is her father, Manny McGinnis (and an inspector from Scotland Yard), it is clear why she had such a strong reaction to him. It turns out that he has been hot on the trail of our young playboy. In order to avoid prosecution for his criminal enterprises, he is offered a deal he can't refuse: to assist Scotland Yard in going after a bigger fish by playing a drug smuggler in a high stakes poker game.

The film is predictably dated, as a lot of caper films of the 1960's were, but in a quirky, fun way. The music is psychedelic and adds to the fun tone of the film. Having seen Beatty in interviews, I have always been amazed that someone so excruciatingly shy and reserved during an interview can be so suave on the big screen (and I assume when faced with a beautiful woman). He's at ease as he scales the side of a building and propels himself from one rooftop to another. He looks as good clad in criminal black as he does in a tuxedo. It 's really not hard to understand why he was so famous; few actors today hold a candle to him as far as looks and charm go.

Kaleidoscope isn't Beatty's best film, but it is fun, especially is you like caper films. With poker gaining a resurgence in popularity, it's also interesting to revisit some of the older poker films. If you're interested in checking it out, you can download it at iTunes here .

Thanks for stopping by and getting buzzed!