The Barbarians are ideally cast in this for a number of reasons, above all for their impression of people who might not be able to see what’s in front of them under any circumstances but the most extreme, although they don’t miss much as a rule, and neither does this film, beginning with a careful study of a hired limousine driver who’s late because of an audition. “Hi, I’ll be your driver today,” says this pixie, and shortly his passenger is dead.
One of them is a cat burglar whose trademark is one of those cat figures that you would see painted around the drainage pipes in the L.A. water system long ago. He’s a merry, careless fellow who complains when burglars ransack his home, “That was a museum-quality piece! I oughta know, I stole it from a museum.” His brother is in the LAPD and takes the calls, which come from the cat burglar and ask for him by name.
The “diamond district” is the scene of operations, a place of skyscrapers and movie palaces now occupied by gem traders. One of these (Roddy McDowall) is a money launderer for drug traders, and so you have the complete picture.
James Doohan is the chief of detectives speaking perfect American (the cast includes Troy Donahue, David Carradine and Bill Mumy). The joke is of the forest-and-trees variety, and governs the whole thing very responsibly. The brothers cannot see at first the true position for their adversarial roles, but when they’re forced to work together, it becomes doubly evident. Critical perception is probably in the same boat, lacking a certain sense of ęsthetic order or poetic justice, critics might have more or less missed the point in a double variant of Perry Mason’s joke about the smuggler on a bicycle.