“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”
The Italian Job is a classic British movie, telling the story of a gold bullion raid by English criminals in Italy. It’s a very British movie. In fact, it’s as British as sipping tea while watching the cricket and listening to The Kinks.
Michael Caine features in the role of a lifetime as Charlie Croker, a recently-released dodgy geezer who inherits a master plan for the blag from a recently-deceased Italian criminal mastermind who meets an untimely demise at the hands of the Mafia whilst out driving his Lamborghini through the Alps during the opening sequence of the film.
Penned by Z Cars writer Troy Kennedy Martin (and originally intended for Terence Stamp and Cilla Black) the movie begins with said rather tasty Orange Lamborghini giving it some stick around hairpin bends in the Alps.
The motor is driven by one Roger Beckerman, an Italian criminal mastermind. Unfortunately, Beckerman is stopped in his tracks rather abruptly as he accelerates into a tunnel and smack into a bulldozer driven by the mafia.
The remainder of the film concerns the planning and execution of the brilliant plan to nick gold bullion from Turin, Italy.
Memorable characters include genteel criminal mastermind Mr. Bridger (Noel Coward in his last film) and Professor Peach – a computer scientist fixated on the larger lady (Benny Hill).
The Italian Job‘s two dazzling trump cards are Michael Caine’s cocksure embodiment of Cool Britannia and the truly breathtaking getaway sequence.
Here is a rare heist movie that concentrates on the escape above the crime itself – in which the smallest output of the British motor industry slaughters the Italian fuzz through Turin shopping precincts, along crowded pavements, on to the canopy of a stadium, leaping over rooftops and racing through sewer pipes.
The drain which the Mini Coopers race down is actually the Birmingham-Coventry Tithebarn Main Sewer, which was under construction at the time.
The Minis are picked up by a coach – The lettering on the side of the coach says “Croker Coach Tours” – and disposed of in the Alps. Charlie and his gang then celebrate their blag as they race away.
Unfortunately, the coach driver takes one bend too fast and they end up halfway over a sheer precipice, with the weight of the gold dragging them toward the edge.
“Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea”. Yeh, How about a better bus driver?
Above all, this is a film that exuberantly celebrates the fact that it’s ace to be British!
Director Peter Collinson died of cancer on 16 December 1980. He was just 42 years old.
The movie was pointlessly Americanised in a 2004 remake in which Caine becomes Mark Wahlberg and Turin becomes Los Angeles. Which isn’t actually even in Italy . . .
John Le Mesurier