The Italian Job (1969)
You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!
Written By: Michaela Clement-Hayes
Date: 15th March, 2015
I’m going to pretend that the remake didn’t happen because this film needs no modernised version. Four million dollars – through a traffic jam. It’s a brilliant idea from writer Troy Kennedy Martin, a classic piece of British cinema that keeps giving.
Michael Caine plays cockney crook Charlie Croker who’s just been released from prison, only to begin planning his next BIG job just hours later. He’s the perfect loveable rogue – smooth, sexy and a little bit rough around the edges, taking his first big job very seriously, with meticulous planning and help from the infamous Mr Bridger (Noel Coward) who is trying to take over Europe from a prison cell.
Charlie and his gang of petty thieves plan to steal $4 million in gold bullion from Turin by causing a traffic jam, carefully timed to coincide with a weekend that England are playing Italy – the perfect cover for a bunch of English hooligans to be seen wandering around the city.
As this is Charlie’s first big job nothing is overlooked and the three drivers practise their getaway until a pile of Mini Coopers lie “written orf”; Croker’s own Aston Martin and the other fast cars (in case anything goes wrong) are later destroyed by the Mafia en route to Italy.
With breath-taking scenery, an incredible car chase and a fabulous soundtrack – a football chorus of Self-Preservation Society has never been more memorable – not to mention one hell of a cliff-hanger ending, The Italian Job will make you proud to be British and confident that you could commit to a life of crime if it meant following Michael Caine across Europe.
The script is slick and the lines never fail to amuse… even if most of the time I’m just quoting them with my friends and family, not actually watching it. Benny Hill as Professor Peach provides some classic comedy moments with his random observations and his penchant for the larger lady.
When being persuaded to help with the robbery, Peach asks of Italian ‘birds’: “Are they big? I like ‘em big.” This gives Croker the perfect bribe to persuade Peach to leave the home he was moved to by his sister after “doing it… something quite obscene with a net.”
“A net?” questions Croker, “Annette. She was terrified a course.”
Noel Coward looks as though he is thoroughly enjoying himself as Mr Bridger in what was his last film role. He barks orders at the prison guards (including a bewildered John Le Mesurier) and basks in the glow of Croker’s success… that he funded from jail because it was good for the British economy.
Perhaps it is slightly cheesy in places, but The Italian Job boasts the best getaway sequence in the history of cinema. For how often do you see three Union Flag coloured Mini Coopers transport stolen gold bullion up steps, over roofs and through sewers to throw off the Italian police and get out of Turin into Switzerland?
Not that they ever get there of course… the writer chooses to leave his audience hanging.