Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Rififi (1955)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Rififi (1955, Fr.) (aka Du Rififi Chez les Hommes)

In blacklisted director Jules Dassin's quintessential, noirish, crime-caper heist film about the ingenious robbery of an exclusive Parisian jewelry shop by a foursome of gangsters, netting 240 million francs:

  • in the opening scene - a backroom poker game, the introduction of aging, down-on-his-luck, sad-looking, unhealthy underworld gangster Tony "Le Stéphanois" (Jean Servais), sickly and exhausted with tuberculosis; Tony was just released after a five-year prison stint for a jewel heist [Note: Tony took the rap for his younger pal Jo, and had just finished serving five years]
  • in a cafe Tony met with his Swedish friend Jo "Le Suédois" (Carl Möhner) and their mutual friend Mario Ferrati (Robert Manuel) who proposed a smash-and-grab of three diamonds ("rocks") in broad daylight (in the early afternoon) from the front show-window of a nearby Parisian jewelry store (Mappin & Webb, Ltd), but Tony declined ("The place has more alarms than a firehouse...Sorry, guys, I don't run so fast anymore")
  • the sequence of Tony's discovery that his former girlfriend/lover Mado (Marie Sabouret) was working at a Montmartre nightclub known as L'Âge d'Or; the establishment was owned by Pierre Grutter (Marcel Lupovici), the leader of a rival gang, who had taken singer Mado as one of his many mistresses during his absence: ("She's shacked up with the boss"), and Grutter himself had become "too friendly with the cops"; Tony confronted Mado in the club - noting how she had been plied with expensive jewelry (ring, bracelet, necklace and earrings) and a fur coat
Nightclub L'Age D'Or
Unfaithful Ex-Girlfriend Mado (Marie Sabouret)
Tony's Brutal Confrontation and Beating of Mado
  • the scene of Tony's vicious and jealous humiliation of the unfaithful and well-kept Mado, when he returned with her to his run-down apartment, forced her to strip off all her jewels and clothing, and then (off-screen) beat her across her bare back with a belt in the bedroom, causing serious injuries; afterwards, he threw her out, phoned Jo, and said he had changed his mind about the heist ("The job interests me after all. A man's gotta live")
  • Tony detailed the conditons he proposed to his compatriots, including no weapons: ("None of these. It's too risky. Get caught with a rod and it's the slammer for life"); he suggested a more extensive, ambitious and profitable plan to rob the jewelry store's safe: ("For me, the rocks in the window are chicken feed. We gotta go for the real thing. The jackpot. The safe!"), and the hiring of an expert safe-cracker ("Knocking out their alarms, and, most of all, getting a safecracker"); Mario knew of Italian Cesar's "Le Milanais" (Jules Dassin, the film's director) reputation as a womanizer: "There's not a safe that can resist Cesar, and not a woman that Cesar can resist"
  • the musical scene of nightclub chanteuse Viviane's (Magali Noël) evocative and stylish performance of the title song during her nightclub act: (excerpt of lyrics) "You look like you don't have a clue, Like no one ever spoke to you, 'Bout 'Rififi,' It's not a word that people use, Among the swells, the Who's Who's, 'Rififi,' It's the lingo of the streetwise, The battle cry of real tough guys, 'Rififi,' So don't fry your brain and grumble, All it means is 'rough n'tumble' - 'Rififi' "
Viviane's Nightclub Performance of Title Song: "Rififi"
  • the development and plotting of the crime - by four low-life ex-con hoods: (1) Tony, (2) Jo, (3) Mario, and (4) César; in a rented apartment across from the jewelry shop, the crooks cased the store to learn the precise timing of neighboring events; they also surveyed, tested, and learned how to deactivate or break into crucial items inside (the sensitive alarm box and the locked safe itself); their plans for the robbery were very elaborate and intricately detailed - it would take two hours to cut a hole in the ceiling to gain entry, and it would take three hours inside the store to commit the heist, and they hoped to exit by 5 am; during a dress-rehearsal, the thieves discovered that they could cancel out the sound of the alarm-bell in the box with anti-flame retardant foam squirted into it from a fire extinguisher and then disconnect it
  • the elaborate and tense 28-minute silent heist late Sunday evening sequence (the centerpiece of the entire film - taking about a quarter of the film's running time), without dialogue or background music (and only natural sounds), by tying up, blindfolding and gagging the upstairs apartment residents, the Webbs); then the group chiseled or hammered their way through wood flooring and a cement ceiling (with cushioned instruments) to create an entrance into the jewelry store below; they muffled and deactivated the alarm-bell system and then drilled into the back of the safe; although the theft was successful, it took longer than expected, and there were a few nerve-wracking moments when two gendarmes discovered their stolen car parked outside (Tony knocked out one officer and drove away to pick up the others)
The Film's Centerpiece - The Theft Sequence
The Start of the Heist - The Four Crooks Walking to the Store
Tying Up, Blindfolding and Gagging Upstairs Apartment Residents
Breaking Through Apartment Flooring and Into the Cement
Chiseling Hole in Cement Ceiling
Looking Down Through Hole in Ceiling
Entering Through Ceiling Into Parisian Jewelry Store
Tony Spraying Foam into Store's Alarm Box
Cesar Drilling into the Back of the Safe
Cesar Setting Pins to Create Structure to Cut Hole in Back of Safe
  • after the successful theft, the thieves sat around a table in Mario's apartment and expectantly and apprehensively gazed at the pouch of diamonds - after it was opened by mastermind Tony, there were close-ups of each of their faces before the loot was revealed; the jubilant thieves had made plans to have Jo immediately fence their loot (an estimated worth of over 200 million francs) with London contact Teddy Levantin (Teddy Bilis); each fantasized about what they would do with their share of the money; Mario exclaimed how he would live the good life with his busty wife Ida Ferrati (Claude Sylvain): "Now Ida and me can try out beds in all the chic hotels"; Jo thought about his kid Tonio and Cesar about his four sisters, but Tony answered with a very tentative: "Dunno...We're not out of the woods yet"; the stash was hidden in a heavy lamp base in Mario's apartment
  • the next day, newspapers were hawked on the street: "Read all about it! 240 million! Biggest take since the Sabine women!"; a Police Inspector offered Grutter a 10 million francs reward for a "lead on the jewelry job"
  • soon, everything would unravel when the infatuated Cesar offered a valuable diamond ring from the store heist (that he had secretly taken for himself) to his naked lover Viviane (the chanteuse at Grutter's nightclub) in bed with him after sex
  • meanwhile, in Mado's dressing room, Grutter noticed the belt-whipping marks on her bare back and suspected Tony; she broke up with him: ("I can't stay with you. You can't hold me"); then, Grutter supplied many packets of white powder to his own drug-addicted junkie brother Remy (Robert Hossein) and then urged him to vengefully eliminate Tony: ("I want you to take out the Stephanois. He's in my way")
The Evil Gangster and Nightclub Owner Pierre Grutter
Grutter's Notice of Belt-Whipping Marks on Mado's Bare Back
Grutter Supplying His Brother Remy with Drugs - in Exchange for Killing Tony
Grutter's Discovery of Viviane's Valuable Ring Gift From Cesar
  • in addition, after Grutter spotted Viviane's diamond ring - he knew it was related to the jewel heist and was quite valuable; he confronted Cesar at gunpoint and forced the jewel thief to confess; rather than take the 10 million francs reward offered by police, Grutter set in motion a plan to steal the jewels (worth 240 million) from his adversary Tony's gang members
  • in a brutal scene, Grutter and his drug-hooked brother Remy and second brother Louis (Pierre Grasset) confronted Mario (and his wife Ida) in their apartment; when they declined to cooperate or reveal the stolen loot's location (hidden in the couple's lamp in their apartment), they were murdered (off-screen) (Mario's throat was slit by Remy's straight-edged razor, and Ida was struck on the head)
  • soon after, Tony sought Grutter, but instead found the captive Cesar (who had betrayed him and squealed) who was tied to a pillar in the deserted nightclub; after Cesar offered a sincere apology for messing up and causing Mario's death: ("Forgive me...I was afraid"), Tony told him: "It was you. You ratted on him... I liked you. I really liked you, Macaroni. But, you know the rules"; Cesar nodded in agreement ("the rules"), and Tony killed him with three gunshots
  • afterwards, Tony and Jo (passing in a distant taxi) paid their respects during Mario's and Ida's funeral procession
  • to further force Tony's hand, Grutter's gang members (Grutter's brothers Remy and Louis) kidnapped Jo's 5 year-old son Tonio (Dominique Maurin) off the street, and threatened Jo's wife Louise (Janine Darcey): "Tell Jo, the kid or the gems, and to wait for our call. And not a word to the cops"
  • at the same time, Tony and Jo exchanged the diamonds (retrieved earlier by Tony) for the entire payoff of 120 million francs in a suitcase delivered by the London fence Trevantin to Jo's apartment
  • the dramatic scene of Jo's wife Louise asking him about why he turned into a hood: "There are kids - Millions of kids who've grown up poor. Like you. How did it happen - What difference was there between them and you, that you became a hood, a tough guy, and not them? Know what I think, Jo? They're the tough guys, not you"
  • by questioning bartenders, hookers, tough guys and other underworld acquaintances, the determined and doting Tony began tracking down the young boy (his godson) and discovered from Mado that he was being held at Grutter's under-construction country villa outside Paris; Tony was in a race against the clock to prevent Jo from complying with Gutter and turning over the 120 million francs in the suitcase in exchange for his son; via public transportation, Tony followed a drug dealer (supplying drugs to Remy) to the villa, where he brutally knocked out Remy's brother Louis and shot Remy three times dead before rescuing the boy
  • meanwhile, Jo agreed to meet with Grutter at the villa to give him the suitcase of money, and left his apartment to drive there; at the same time, Tony learned Jo's whereabouts after phoning his apartment, and sped back to the villa; Tony was too late - when he arrived, Jo had already been shot dead (off-screen) by Grutter; during another shootout, Tony was mortally wounded and bleeding, but was able to shoot and kill Grutter from behind as he fled outside with the suitcase; Tony ducked back into the villa and sadly found Jo's dead body on the stairs
Tony Murdering Remy in Country Villa
Grutter Confronting Jo in the Villa Before Murdering Him
Grutter Killed by Tony As He Fled With Suitcase
  • in the concluding sequence, the manic and dying Tony frantically and recklessly sped back to Paris, careening through city streets, to deliver young Tonio (who ironically was playing with a toy gun) home safely to his newly-widowed mother; there, surrounded by police and bystanders, Tony crashed the car in front of Louise's apartment, and collapsed and died on the steering wheel as Louise pulled Tonio from the car - the suitcase was stashed in the backseat with the 120 million francs; as the camera slowly pulled back, the police officers opened the suitcase - and the film ended with "FIN"

Tony (Jean Servais)

Jo (Carl Möhner)

Threesome (Tony, Mario, Jo) Planning a "Smash-and-Grab" of Jewelry Store

Jewelry Store: Mappin & Webb, Ltd

Mario with Wife Ida

Mario's Hiring of Italian Safecracker Cesar as Fourth Member

(l to r): Nightclub Owner Grutter and Junkie Brother Remy

Dress Rehearsal: Cesar and the Other Crooks Figuring Out How to Silence the Alarm System - With Fire Extinguisher Foam

The Pouch of Stolen Diamonds

The Loot

Newspaper Headlines

Fatal Flaw: Cesar's Gift of Stolen Diamond Ring to Viviane

Mario's Throat-Slitting Death by Remy

Cesar Tied to a Pillar in Grutter's Nightclub

Ferratti's Funeral - Jo and Tony Paying Respects From Taxi

Exchange of Stolen Diamonds for 120 Million in Cash (in Suitcase)

Louise's Dramatic Questioning of 'Tough Guy' Husband Jo

Tony's Discovery of Jo's Dead Body in the Villa

The Dying Tony's Frantic Drive Back to Paris with Tonio (with toy gun)

Tony's Death After Crashing The Car


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