“Topkapi”, right?

All the commenters at GoComics suggest this would be a scene from a heist story, but among those who suggest particular titles there was a mix of Mission Impossible, Leverage, and Topkapi.

But what’s the joke? I hope it isn’t that this is a bird so it could be flying instead of using the harness. Since this doesn’t seem like the kind of bird that can do precise flying, let alone hovering.


  1. It’s definitely a bird, but just like turkeys, domestic chickens are not known for their aerial proficiency. This one has been forced to use suspension wires (made familiar by Mission Impossible, Ocean’s 11, and Shrek 2) to retrieve “her” egg from the museum. The joke is that chickens don’t (normally) lay Fabergé eggs.

    P.S. Another prominent movie with a relevant connection is “Ocean’s 12“, in which the Fabergé “Coronation” Egg is the main target.

  2. Kilby is right that’s it’s a real (confused) chicken. But when I first glanced at it, my initial thought was that it was a human thief in a giant bird suit, optomistically thinking that even if spotted by a guard that would help him ‘blend in’ and look non-suspcious.

  3. All those movies you are mentioning, but you leave out the best one – which I already named in the GoComics comments, and the CIDU editors picked up for the post title. It’s Topkapi.

  4. @ Dana K – I did not mention “Topkapi” for two overriding reasons: first, the editors had already named this post after it (so repeating the reference seemed superfluous); and second, unlike the three movies that I did mention, I’ve never seen even any part of Topkapi (so I had no way to personally judge its actual relevance).

  5. Sorry if that came across as chiding. Please consider it an earnest recommendation. I’d like to claim it as the best film/tv of all those mentioned, but in truth I haven’t seen most of them. But I can claim it as the “best answer” on the historical basis of being the original of the great no-dialog harness-suspension museum theft scenes. See IMDB “trivia” page for Topkapi for a note that Bruce Geller (creator of Mission Impossible on TV) credits it as inspiration.

  6. Thanks for a great reference, I’m going to get my old farts movie club together to watch Topkapi! It’s amazing how much stuff is out there, that just gets forgotten in the churn; here’s an Oscar winning movie from only a little before I was born that I had never even heard of! (But, without wanting to settle it early for spoiler reasons, I’m laying good odds that the scene in the comic above was directly inspired by the scene from Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise, and that the cartoonist in all likelihood is like me ignorant of Topkapi; I’m betting I’ll see stuff in the movie that is very precursorish of the scene with Tom, but nothing that indicates a direct rip-off, like when watching 633 Squadron or The Damn Busters vis-a-vis Star Wars — but only good odds; I might be very surprised (and disgusted), this is Hollywood we’re talking, after all…)

  7. I would agree that Topkapi is a classic of the international crime/suspense genre. But I think the headset in the cartoon doesn’t fit with that, and if one of the other works mentioned does feature a Faberge egg as the object of desire, that should be taken as the reference for the cartoon.

  8. Whichever movie it may be referencing, my first thought about the ‘joke’ was the value a chicken would put on this particular piece of artwork above all others. That, or rather than a heist, it was an attempt at a kidnapping rescue. Although I really like Shrug’s interpretation.

  9. @ Danny – Deering probably combined a mixture of two or three sources. No wires were used in the Ocean’s 12 heist, but in addition to the “chicken” connection, the egg is a much more recognizable piece of “loot” than Topkapi’s dagger.† However, the headset does appear to make the M.I. film series the most likely inspiration, as it clearly also was for the parody in Shrek 2 (q.v. the soundtrack).

    P.S. † – Deering was born in 1956, so he was (much) too young to have seen Topkapi during its original run (1964), but he’s certainly old enough to be aware of it.

  10. There was a heist film involving a flightless bird…a penguin.
    It was Aardman Animation’s “The Wrong Trousers” with Wallace and Gromit.

  11. @ Chak – I’m sure that Dana is right (that Topkapi is a much better movie than what Tom Cruise did to trash “Mission: Impossible”‡), but just like larK and Danny, I’m sure that Deering based this comic on the latter, not the former.

    P.S. @ Grawlix – The penguin even disguised himself as a chicken named “Feathers McGraw“. The diamond he stole wasn’t in a case, but was of a similar size (and prominence) to the egg in this comic.

  12. P.P.S. ‡ [extremely off-topic] – There is a neat pun on the M.I. name in a German cooking show called “Kitchen Impossible“, in which two chefs are sent out to separate locations to prepare local specialities. The two opponents do not get a recipe nor even a list of ingredients: they have to analyse whatever is on the plate, figure out what is in it, and how it was prepared, and then duplicate the whole meal in the original chef’s kitchen (wherever that may be), for a jury consisting of regular customers for whom it is a favorite, well-known dish.

    Each of the locations is selected by the opposing chef, and can range all the way from Michelin 1, 2, or (rarely) 3-star locations, to regular (high-class to food-court) restaurants, or even private homes (typically a friend or relative of the chef who has selected it). Last week Tim Mälzer ended up cooking “chotpoti” in a food truck in Jackson Heights (NYC), and a couple of weeks ago another chef was roasting filet mignon encased in sepia-tinted bread dough over an open fire in the woods.

    P.P.P.S. Unfortunately, while the “VOX” network has licensed a couple of foreign versions, the show is not yet available in English.

  13. “I’m going to get my old farts movie club together to watch Topkapi! ”
    — Ooh, ooh, can I come? Such a pity that I don’t even know where you old farts are, ’cause I’d love to see that 1964 classic again. And I’d like to see The Dam Busters (1955), too, because our band played its theme music just a year or two ago. But I’m certain you’re not around here.

    By the way, The Code (2009), Octopussy</> (1983), Love Among Thieves (1987), and quite a few others have involved Fabergé eggs.

  14. @Boise Ed: if you are in Boise, then no, we’re two times zones away. We’d love to have you though!

  15. @ larK – I believe that Ed recently wrote that he is no longer in Boise, but if he did reveal his new location, I do not remember where that was.

  16. Kilby and larK, it’s no big secret. I’m in Atascadero, California, and I seem to remember larK indicating an East Coast locale.

  17. Thanks, Darren. I couldn’t remember Just Watch as the place to look up that sort of info.

  18. And now I’ve JustWatched Topkapi — or maybe Pluto’d it?

    Once it gets into the rooftop action scenes, and then the aerial work, it is wonderful and groundbreaking!

    But the simpering and mugging were unbearable. Not just the drunken cook (though he was the worst) but notably the female lead, Melina Mercouri.

  19. And btw, Pluto’s insertion of commercials was clearly done by a timer and not a human editor aware of scene breaks and continuity.

  20. I’ve never liked streaming, so I just researched how much cash I would have to lay out to purchase a physical copy of Topkapi. The results (on Amazon.DE) were fascinating. There were at least 20 separate listings for various editions, formats, and versions, with prices ranging up to €48 for a DVD, or (no joke!) €91 for a VHS cassette. Clearly, there are some idiots out there who need their heads examined: I was able to snag a (used) DVD for €1.75 (+ €3 shipping).

  21. Out of curiosity, Kibly, does your library carry DVDs? (I understand that for an old movie in English it might not have it, even if it does have an extensive movie collection, but I’m asking in general.)

    Our library system is great, and my first and only go-to when I decide to watch this movie with my Old Farts Movie Club. There were, if I recall correctly, some five copies in the system (~85 associated libraries); I could have opted to pick it up directly at any of the libraries that had a copy in, but I chose to have it delivered to my home library. It arrived for me to pick up yesterday, which actually was a bit longer than I was hoping for, probably due to various of the libraries being closed at various days of the weekend (I put in the request on Friday). All this costs me nothing. (OK, there is a percentage on my property tax funding our town’s library that last time I checked was something like $80 for us, so $40 per person, or actually $27 with our exchange student.) But because of various doctor’s appointments, the old farts won’t be able to actually watch the movie till next Tuesday, which is no problem, I won’t even have to return or reorder the movie till then (even more recent movies usually have at least a week’s borrow time, usually with a renal or two — depends on the library it comes from).

    In fact, to further praise the great public library cooperative we have, two more recent points come to mind:
    * When a the second book in a three part graphic memoir was unaccountably not available from any of our ~85 libraries, they ordered it via inter-library loan from a library outside our system (and for newer books, they have in past outright purchased the book in question)
    * Watching Bad Sisters recently, the point is raised, whether informed and factual or not, I can’t say, that if they borrow books on poisons from the library, the police will check their library records if they then go on to poison their brother-in-law (it takes place in Ireland); regardless of the factualness of that little plot point, I am reminded that our librarians take their responsibilities very seriously and none of the libraries in our county cooperative system keep records for patrons beyond when you return a book; this is a very deliberate non-retention policy and enforced I believe as a condition of participating in the cooperative — so while the occasional poisoning sister might get away with their crime (and come on, the brother-in-law deserves it!), that is more than balanced out by having safe place to research questions of all stripes, including but not limited to: sexuality, mental health, violence and abuse, politics — and even poisons (I’m writing a whodunnit, really!)

  22. I really enjoyed Bad Sisters! Sharon Horgan has been good in pretty much anything she does.

  23. lark — Thank you for that praise of libraries and librarians. As a retired librarian myself (academic rather than public, but I’ve always been a big public library user as well), I appreciate it.

  24. My library’s expanded system (the county recently combined catalogs with the city and a neighboring county) has two versions. One from 2001 and the other 2014, which is labeled “Widescreen version”.

  25. Hmm, good call Brian; my library also has a second version from 2014, only two copies available. I’ve just ordered one of those, just to be safe, if the 2001 version isn’t widescreen.

  26. Well, I just picked up the 2001 copy, and it is widescreen. I’m going to hold on to it and the second one I ordered regardless, because at this point Murphy is waiting in the wings for sure, and after all this preparation, if I were to return one, it’s all but guaranteed that the other wouldn’t play… 😉

  27. @ larK – I don’t live “in” Berlin, but rather in a small town (approx. 10000 residents) in the Berlin suburbs. We have a truly excellent library out here, but only in relationship to the size of the town: it can’t hold a candle to yours, nor to the branch of the county library system that I grew up with in the Washington suburbs. The small-town libraries around here are “independent”, they do not have a networked loaner system (except that our library does network and share with the library in the town’s elementary school). I have considered getting a library card for the nearest “Berlin” branch library, which would provide a much larger catalog, as well as the possibility of inter-library loans, but the distance (and therefore difficulty) would be considerable.

  28. Talk about Baader-Meinhof… (OK, I will)

    So against my better judgement, I’m watching the 6th season of Billions, which so far has been like the writers left the show, but they left outlines for future stories behind, which then just got filmed verbatim for this series — no fleshing out, no development, the characters are flat as cardboard cutouts. Anyway, the most recent episode Chuck and his buddy Ira call out a particular author, asking if the other has read him, and referencing the author as to why the particular plot they are hatching won’t work:

    *You been reading Ambler?

    Yeah, a bit. The Zaleshoff books. And I can tell you, it’s not going to work.*

    I decided to follow up. Turns out this is Eric Ambler, who started writing in the 1930s, is a very respected thriller writer (and I’m wondering just who was supposed to get the reference in the dialog, and who would think that this is a natural thing to reference in the flow of conversation?), and as I’m reading up, deciding on which book of his to dip into, I get someone’s three recommendations, one from 1939, one from 1940, and one from 1962. Turns out the one from 1962, Light of Day, was made into a movie… yes, you guessed it: Topkapi!

    At which point I burst out laughing.

    My Old Farts Movie Club was supposed to watch that today, incidentally, but one of the farts is sick, so we postponed. Light of Day is also the only one of the three finalists for my reading consideration that our fabulous library system doesn’t have, so I’ll have to read the other two, and settle for the movie. (Now I’m drifting into the other thread…)

  29. Ha! As soon as you mentioned Eric Ambler I figured where this was going. I knew that Topkapi was based on one of his novels, though I didn’t know the title.

  30. So Brian, we finally got around to watching Topkapi, and I have further info about the two copies our respective libraries seem to have:

    the 2001 version of the DVD, while labeled “widescreen”, achieves this “widescreen” by masking a 4:5 aspect ratio, so really, it’s not…
    the 2014 version is at a 16:10 aspect ratio, no masking.

    Of course, I didn’t prepare before everyone was assembled, and stupidly took the labeling at its word and popped in the 2001 version, and had the aspect ratio set to “wide” on the TV, and slowly realized it was warped, but I don’t want to be endlessly fussing around with the technical details with the others once the film has started, they get impatient, so I just lived with it. >:-(

    I feel like I have found the definitive deck chair arrangement for the Titanic…

    (RIP Shrug!)

  31. Did you agree with my recent-viewing opinion, that the scenes surrounding the actual theft were impeccable, and set a standard that later echoes were hard pressed to match; but the acting for much of the character stories was painfully broad, and even simpering in the case of the future Minister of Culture? 🙂

  32. @Mitch: yeah, can’t argue with your assessment. One thing I liked about the heist was the total lack of incidental music: you could hear a pin drop the whole time, it very effectively heightened the tension. I did think the actual heist was a bit improbable, not because of over-the-top movie stuff, but because of practical, mundane stuff: blindly manually lowering ropes, the fact that for one rope, they had heard of the remarkable invention called * the pulley*, but for the other rope, it was just the replacement guy’s heft and grip? Having to avoid the sweep of a lighthouse beam?? And the way they get foiled was totally contrived and its rapidity completely unbelievable. It was certainly a piece in and of the transition in cinema, very modern in location shooting, not yet modern enough to allow antiheroes to succeed…
    My favorite line: “Are you foreign?” “No, I’m English!”

  33. Last week I finally ordered a cheap (used) DVD copy of “Tokapi” from a 3rd party seller at Amazon.DE. Unfortunately, they shipped me the wrong DVD. If it had been something good, I wouldn’t have complained, but it was a piece of trash with a 14% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. I returned it, and they refunded the purchase price and shipping, but not the postage for the return shipment. At this point I don’t think I’m going to try again.

  34. Chak is correct of course.
    Thank you for all the comments!
    Anyway, I had fun drawing it.

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