The Italian Job - 1969 (Comedy/Crime/Caper/Heist)
Directed by Peter Collinson
Screenplay by Troy Kennedy-Martin
Starring Michael Caine as Charlie Croker, Noel Coward as Mr Bridger


Just out of prison, cheeky chappie Charlie Croker hatches a crazy plot to steal a gold shipment from an armoured car in Turin. The only way of pulling it off is to cause a citywide traffic jam, and escape in 3 Mini Cooper cars. But the Mafia know they're in town, and don't want them on their patch, and the police aren't going to be pleased either. Can they pull off the crime of the century? Even if they can, will they be able to escape?

Why You Should Watch/Rent/Buy This:

It's not a square, it's a pee-yarrrrrza!

So much more than just a classic car chase - this is the quintessential 60s cheeky crime comedy, with cheeky chappies, a daring raid, a criminal mastermind, sneering bad guys, great music, and lovable rogues. If you watch this expecting a non-stop car chase, you'll be disappointed. It's a proper heist movie - the first half is devoted to planning the heist, and the second covers the heist itself. We meet Charlie's criminal friends, see their plans, and watch the hilarious trial and error methods they use until the day of the job.

Other reasons to watch that don't involve that car chase:

* The opening sequence in the Italian countryside.
* Charlie getting his car back, convincing the garage owner that he earned his money shooting tigers abroad - when he pulls out a huge wodge of cash, the man comments that he must have shot a lot of tigers. "Yes," says Charlie, "I used a machine gun..."
* The scenes where the drivers are practising their moves.
* The scene where the explosives "expert" demonstrates his art on the van, which triggers one of the funniest lines in modern cinema. It's only funny when you see it in context, along with Caine's face, though, and not in a pub when you're pissed, doing a crap Caine impression. I know, because I've been that man.
* Caine's repeated insistence: "It's not a square, it's a piazza!"
* "We're about to do a job, in Italy, and the only way we're gonna do it is by working together - and that means you do everything I say."
* Michael Caine is just fantastic at being Michael Caine.
* Benny Hill being funny. Shocker! Although he does play a seedy old man who lusts after big women, so not too much of a stretch for him, acting-wise.
* Quincy Jones' fabulous music (we are the self preeeeservation, sociiiiiety!).
* The surprisingly brutal attack on the armoured car guards. Er, violence isn't funny, or cool, by the way. But this scene is ace.
* Noel Coward running his criminal empire from prison, as if he is merely staying in a luxury hotel.
* The genuinely scary Mafia thugs who add a proper element of risk to the whole affair.
* The dialogue. All of it.

The car chase is, of course, one of the best ever, and you will never get tired of watching it. Superb stunt work by the Remy Julienne equipe driving team, witty plotting, tight stunt driving, with cars turning on a sixpence, all to the backdrop of Turin (er, and England). If you're going to be picky, then no, the route the cars take isn't possible (ie coming out of dead ends, turning a corner and ending up several miles away etc etc), but it looks fantastic. And that iconic ending, somehow exasperating, downbeat, uplifting, and fun all at the same time - this is what makes a classic.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this film. Go and see it now, buy it, you'll want to keep it. But remember - in Italy, they drive on the wrong side of the road...

Most Excellent Movie Trivia:

Some of the traffic jams were created by the crew blocking certain streets with their cars.

The tunnel the Minis drive through is a sewer running from Birmingham to Coventry. The cars very nearly do a full 360 loop - Remy Julienne was trying to do this deliberately, but after three failed attempts he called it off, as it was too dangerous.

BMC (British Motor Corporation, creators of the Mini) refused to help with the production. The producers went to them basically giving them a chance to get loads of free Mini publicity in exchange for supplying them with free cars, but BMC weren't interested - in other words, they didn't want to give away their cars for free. The company had to buy the cars at the normal price. Although there is a story that says BMC actually did supply them with one specially altered car that was able to drive up some steps for one scene. Update: 409 says a mini can drive up stairs with no mods at all... i should know as i've done it before :) From this, we learn 2 things: (1) take movie trivia with a grain of salt, and (2) never, ever let 409 give you a lift anywhere...

Paramount wanted Robert Redford to play Charlie. Presumably with Kevin Costner as Robin Hood, and Morgan Freeman as one of the Minis.

The Mini roof jump was done on the roof of the Fiat factory. The Minis travelled at 50mph, and the stunt went without a hitch first time. Just before the stunt, all the extras said goodbye to Julienne, because they thought he would be killed. The director had a bottle of champagne ready if the stunt went well - of course, if it didn't go well, they'd have had several dead or severely injured stuntmen...

The Italian Job DVD (and the recent VHS reissue) has an excellent documentary about the making of the film. It also features a scene cut out of the chase sequence, in which the Minis waltz around an ice rink with some police cars. It's very good, and quite funny, but it slowed down the chase too much, so it got snipped.

An episode of MacGuyver used the Mini stunt footage, working it into the story. A similar stunt was pulled by The Incredible Hulk, which stole some scenes from Duel. This is a horrendous thing to do, and should be punishable by hanging. By the testicles. With piano wire.

The most dangerous stunt, according to Remy Julienne, was the seemingly simple act of driving the 3 Minis into the bus. The cars were driving extremely fast, and had to get up the ramp, into the bus, and stop with very little clearance. The final Mini was the trickiest, as there was hardly any space left.

When the bus was hanging over the edge of that cliff, the wind from the helicopter started tipping it over. The crew all had to desperately grab on to the front of it, otherwise it would have gone over. And they only had the one, you see...

Everyone loved the script, but it was missing one crucial element: an ending. Paramount came up with one, but everyone absolutely hated it. In the end, the second unit came up with the classic ending that we all know and love.

Troy Kennedy-Martin, who wrote the screenplay, created the classic TV series The Sweeney. Oi, sunshine! You're nicked! Shat app! etc.

There is a PlayStation game available based on the film. It's meant to be quite good, or total rubbish depending on who you believe. It features the entire end of film car chase as the final mission.

Sasha Gabba Hey! says in the PC game Big Red Racing, the Italian track pays homage to the film. You get to drive minis around - through sewers, up steps, and there's even a bus hanging over a cliff in a part of the track.

Oh yes, S.G.Hey! also reminded me of the upcoming remake, using the new model Minis. I had pushed this to the back of my mind, tried to forget it. Apparently it stars Mark "Marky Mark" Wahlberg as Charlie, and is set in LA. Er, guys, the title is "The Italian Job". Why bother remaking it if you're going to change the location, thus necessitating a title change? Why not just do a car chase movie with Marky? Why piss everyone off? Why are you so stupid? I hate you! I hate you, Hollywood idiots! Because, like, the last Marky Mark remake (Planet of the Apes) turned out really well, didn't it? The only creativity these soulless anuses (ani? anusi?) show is when coming up with a different word for "remake" - reimagining, reversioning, rebloodywankery. Arse!

Even more excellent and anal trivia can be found at:

IMDB for the director/cast details
The documentary (mentioned above)
Everything else: my memory

Thanks to FelonyMPulse for challenging me to do this before the movie Quest ends, and for the piano wire. How on earth did this not have a proper, full review until now? The mind boggles...