Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, released in 1988, is a remake of the 1964 comedy ‘Bedtime Story’, with Michael Caine and Steve Martin replacing David Niven and Marlon Brando in the leading roles. Set on the French Riviera, in the elegant, but fictitious, coastal resort of ‘Beaumont-sur-Mer’ – which was actually Beaulieu-sur-Mer, east of Nice – the film tells the tale of two competing con artists. Director Frank Oz had previously directed three films, including ‘The Muppets Take Manhattan’, all of which featured puppets.
Sophisticated, charismatic and smooth-talking Lawrence Jamieson (Caine) has been plying his trade to good effect, until his livelihood is threatened by a boorish rival, in the form of Freddy Benson (Martin). Jamieson is concerned that Benson may, indeed, be an infamous con artist known as ‘The Jackal’, whom he has read about in a newspaper article.
In an effort to rid himself of Benson, Jamieson issues him a challenge, whereby the first of them to swindle a chosen ‘mark’ out of £50,000 can remain in the locale, while the other must leave immediately. The mark in question is Janet Colgate (Glenne Headly), a young, apparently wealthy, American heiress.
Once the ‘con is on’, Benson poses as wheelchair-bound veteran needing £50,000 worth of psychiatric treatment, while Jamieson, wise to the scheme, poses as renowned psychiatrist Emil Schaffhausen, who offers such treatment. Jamieson subsequently discovers that Colgate is not an heiress at all, but simply a competition winner and offers to cancel the bet. However, Colgate later tells him that Benson has stolen the £50,000 she has raised and, disgusted, Jamieson reimburses her. Jamieson sends Colgate away, but Benson reveals that she lied about the money, at which point they realise that she is, in fact, The Jackal, and has conned them out of £100,000.