Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Italian Job
The Italian Job is a British comedy caper film, directed by Peter Collinson and written by Troy Kennedy Martin. It was released in 1969 and was a substantial hit, not least because of the presence of Michael Caine; subsequent television showings and outings on video have established it as something of a national institution in the UK, with a cult following elsewhere.
The film stars Michael Caine as dapper mobster Charlie Croker, with Noel Coward as Mr Bridger , an incarcerated criminal mastermind who nonetheless runs a gangland empire from within jail. The plot revolves around Caine's attempt to stage a gold bullion robbery in Turin, to be achieved by sabotaging the traffic-control computer and escaping, in spite of the resulting traffic jam, in nippy Mini getaway cars along a carefully planned route. In the first half of the film Caine assembles his gang, which includes Benny Hill as computer expert Professor Peach, and in a very minor role Robert Powell. Set in London and Turin and filmed in Technicolor, the film remains an iconic evocation of the swinging sixties , although its rose-tinted view of London's criminal underworld was in sharp contrast to the brutal reality (captured to some extent in the 1969 Nicholas Roeg film Performance). One of the most entertainingly absurd aspects of the film is that Mr. Bridger's gang is run by an effeminate dandyman named Camp Freddie.
Apart from the colourful vision of a certain time and place, the film is also notable for its inventive and exciting car chases and stunts, and its soundtrack, which opens with the song "On Days Like These", by Matt Monro, and closes with Quincy Jones' "Getta Bloomin' Move-On" (usually referred to as "The Self Preservation Society", after its chorus). Kennedy Martin's screenplay is sharp and witty, with several memorable lines. After an over-exuberant explosives test obliterates an armoured vehicle, Croker's reaction is an exasperated "You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!", delivered to perfection by Caine.
The film's city-based stunts were arranged by Rémy Julienne , and did much to ensure the continuation of British Leyland's Mini, by then ten years old. The film's cars were almost as much part of the cast as the people; the ill-fated Lamborghini Miura in the opening sequence, various Aston Martin and Jaguar sports cars, and an array of police Alfa Romeos which are outdriven by the heroic British Minis. The stunning Alpine setting through which some of the chases passed was another memorable aspect of the film.
The getaway sequence is the film's highlight, however. It was arranged to take in as many sights of Turin as possible, and in fact makes no sense in terms of the city's geographical layout. After the heist, the gang transfer the gold to the Minis in the entrance hall of the Museo Egizio. The three Minis then race through the stylish shopping arcades of the Via Roma , up the sail-like roof of the Palazzo Vela , around the rooftop test track of the famous Fiat Lingotto factory building and even down the steps of the Gran Madre di Dio church while a wedding is in progress. They finally escape the city by driving through large sewers, throwing off the police in the process. (This part of the stunt action was, mundanely, filmed at a large waterworks on the outskirts of Coventry). The gang make their final getaway on a six-wheeled Bedford coach (actually used to transport the crew)—driving up a ramp on the back whilst the coach is still travelling at speed. The getaway Minis are then pushed out of the still-moving coach as it negotiates hairpin bends.
Successfully on their way to Switzerland along a winding mountain road, the gang celebrate in the back of the bus. A mistake by the driver sends the coach into a skid, with the back end of the bus teetering over the edge of the cliff, the gold slipping towards the rear doors. As Croker attempts to reach the gold, it slips further, and the audience is left not knowing whether the coach, its contents, and its occupants survive—a literal cliffhanger ending. Croker's last line, "Hang on lads, I've got a great idea!", left the film open for a sequel, although none emerged. The ending was apparently intended to show that crime does not pay, and that the film's heroes are essentially armed robbers (earlier, they are shown gassing and clubbing security guards). In subsequent interviews Michael Caine has suggested that Croker simply ran the engine until the fuel tank—located in the back of the bus—ran down, an ingenious solution.
The film has been criticised for being nationalistic in tone, although this seems so exaggerated as to be self-conscious parody; the Minis are coloured red, white and blue, for example, and Noel Coward imprisoned crime boss almost seems a parody of the Royal Family. There are also one or two racist and xenophobic jokes in the script, mainly at the expense of the black coach driver Big William, and the Italians in general.
Italian Job guided tour
A hugely popular guided tour, in a classic Mini, runs throughout the year in Turin and the Italian Alps. See The Italian Job tour.
Sequels and remakes
There were plans to do a sequel but, perhaps as to not spoil the ending, these plans were shelved. Producer Michael Deeley had envisaged helicopters coming in to save the cliff-hanging bus from the end of the first film. The grateful gang soon discover that it is the Mafia that has saved them, and the sequel would have been about getting the gold bullion from them.
A remake of the movie, set in Los Angeles and starring Mark Wahlberg as Charlie Croker, was released in the summer of 2003. It also featured Donald Sutherland as John Bridger, more of a father-figure to Croker, Edward Norton, Charlize Theron, Seth Green, and Mos Def. It made many changes to the original story, replacing the British characters with Americans, moving the action from Turin to Venice and Los Angeles, and replacing the ambiguous ending with one that is completely positive. The Minis of the original film were replaced by the new BMW-built MINI Cooper and MINI Cooper S.
- A great deal of the chase sequence was used in the MacGyver episode "The Thief of Budapest", as one might expect set in Budapest rather than Turin.
- The scene where the robbers' minis are chased through a sewer tunnel were filmed in the Sowe Valley Sewer Duplication system near the English city of Coventry (ref).
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