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Film / Kaleidoscope

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Kaleidoscope is a 1966 British crime comedy film directed by Jack Smight.

Barney Lincoln (Warren Beatty) is a handsome young playboy who cheats at cards because it's fun. Specifically, at the beginning of the film he breaks in to a London factory that makes playing cards for the casinos of Europe. Barney makes tiny, barely discernible scratches on the backs of the cards, which are still in bulk sheets and haven't been cut into individual cards yet. This enables him to know what all the cards are. This knowledge allows him to tour Europe's grandest casinos and cheat them out of their money.

Right before he leaves London for his orgy of cheating Barney has a whirlwind romance with one Angel McGinnis (Susannah York), a gorgeous fashion designer. They tour Europe together, hitting casino after casino while having a passionate affair, Angel unaware the whole time that Barney is actually cheating.

Or is she unaware? While on the tour she calls her father Manny (Clive Revill) and tells him that she's gotten him a "present" in the form of Barney Lincoln. Upon his return to England Barney is nabbed by Manny, who turns out to be an inspector for Scotland Yard. Manny has figured out everything about Barney's scam, but he doesn't arrest him. Instead, he has something completely different in mind. A young Peter Medak was an associate producer.

Do not confuse this film for the 2023 Netflix TV series Kaleidoscope (2023).


  • Book Ends: The Palace of Westminster is shown in the first shot of the film and the last.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: A British casino operator hands over a briefcase full of money as Barney's winnings. Then a cane comes whacking down over the money, as Manny appears behind Barney.
  • Brits Love Tea: Manny serves Barney some tea in his office, calling it "one of our more acceptable British customs", as he leads in to his scheme to use Barney to take down Harry Dominion.
  • Call-Back: Early in the film it's established that Angel is a big NapolĂ©on Bonaparte buff. Later, when she meets Harry, who is a dead ringer for Napoleon except that he's too tall, Angel cheerfully greets him with "Vive l'empereur!"
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: Angel calls her father "Manny". Barney thinks that's weird, but she says it's just her habit.
  • The Casino: Angel meets Barney again at the Monte Carlo casino in Monaco, where he is cleaning out the bank with his knowledge of the marked cards. He stops at a couple of other casinos before he is hauled in by Manny. Then he meets Harry Dominion for the high-stakes poker game at Harry's "Dominion" casino.
  • The Cavalry: Angel and Barney are trapped at the barred exit to a tunnel, while Harry and his mook are bearing down on them in a car, the mook at the wheel—then Manny's assistant Aimes shows up at the exit with a rifle and shoots through the gate and the car's windshield to nail the mook square in the forehead. Angel and Barney are saved and Harry is arrested.
  • Conversation Cut: As she's breaking up with Barney, Angel tells him to count to a hundred and by the time he finishes she'll be gone. He does so, counting to ten as she flounces away...and the scene cuts to some casino dealer counting in Italian past ten as he's counting out money for Barney at a casino.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Harry dramatically racks the bolt action of the revolver as he comes after Barney in the dramatic showdown.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: The opening credits tell the viewer that the movie is in London by including shots of Westminster and London Bridge.
  • Establishing Character Moment: A woman who probably should not be driving stick has caused a traffic jam by stalling her car in a narrow road. The truck driver stuck behind her is angrily yelling at her to pop the clutch. Angel, stuck behind the truck driver, pronounces him a bully, and takes revenge by yanking the distributor out of the truck, disabling it. She is established as a spitfire.
  • Gentleman Thief: Sort of. Barney checks the "gentleman" box, being a rich playboy. He checks the "commit crimes for fun" box, as he's independently wealthy. Also he dons a cat burglar outfit like a gentleman thief and breaks into Kaleidoscope like a gentleman thief. However, he doesn't steal anything there; he marks cards. The stealing part comes later when he uses the secret marks on the cards to win at poker all over Europe.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: It seems like the movie will be Barney scamming casinos everywhere while Manny, who is framed to look like a bad guy, is after him. Then Manny arrests Barney and reveals himself to be a cop, and the rest of the movie is Barney participating in Manny's plot to destroy Harry Dominion, who doesn't even appear until the next scene, halfway through the movie.
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: The Hays Code was on life support but not quite dead in 1966, which is why Angel is shown lounging face down on a bed, naked, with a flap of bedsheet strategically placed over her bottom.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipe: Several scenes are wiped with a kaleidoscope effect, befitting the movie's title.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: A mook misses three times with a pistol as Barney and Angel dash across the room. Then Harry misses twice with a rifle as Barney and Angel dash away on the castle walk beneath him.
  • Improvised Zip Line: Technically it isn't "improvised" as Barney clearly planned ahead. But it's basically this trope, as he screws a grooved wheel onto the cane he's carrying with him, hooks it on to an electric power line, and uses the power line to zip across the street from his hotel to the roof of the Kaleidoscope factory.
  • The Magic Poker Equation:
    • Played straight in the big game between Barney and Harry. Barney appeared to be winning with two pair over Harry's three of a kind, until Harry dramatically flips over his fifth card and reveals a full house. Per the trope the last person to reveal the card wins, when Harry flips over his fifth card to reveal another full house (another strong hand, per the trope), with his three kings beating Harry's three tens. The trope is also played straight with Barney and Harry being the last players with cards after the other players have folded.
    • Manny and his assistant Aimes are just goofing around playing cards while they wait for the big operation to go down. Manny, who is trying to read the cards in one of Barney's marked decks, fails. He is astonished when Aimes flips over his cards and reveals...a royal flush.
  • Meet Cute: Barney, stuck behind Angel in traffic, watches her yank the distributor out of the engine of a rude truck driver.
  • Neutral Female: An extremely absurd example. Barney and Harry's Mook are having a fist fight with death on the line. Angel dashes up to find the mook's gun, knocked out of his hands, on the ground. She picks it up, holds it awkwardly as Barney and Harry fight, then throws it in the moat. She then watches as Barney wins the fight and throws the mook in the moat as well.
    Angel: And I don't like fighting.
    Barney: [irritated] How does living grab you?
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: The movie ends with Barney rowing Angel, down the River Thames no less, right past Westminster.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Seemingly played straight when Barney arrives at Harry's lavish castle and finds him playing ominous music on a pipe organ. Then subverted when Harry says "Look! No hands!", and lifts his hands up to reveal that the music is a recording.
  • One-Word Title
  • Orbital Shot: The camera circles around the table in Harry's casino as he explains the ground rules for their poker game.
  • Separated by a Common Language: A miffed Barney asks Angel "why'd you 86 me?". After she quizzically asks "86?", he translates it as "dump".
  • Spit Take: At the climax of the poker game Barney chokes on his drink when Harry flips over his fifth card to reveal that his three-of-a-kind is actually a full house. Then subverted when Barney smirks and flips over his fifth card to reveal that he has a better full house.
  • Visual Title Drop: The company that makes cards for casinos is called "Kaleidoscope", as evidenced by the large neon sign on the roof after Barney lands there via Improvised Zip Line.