The Italian Job (1969)
1st January 2003
Charlie Croker is a perpetual crook and spends most of his time behind bars. This gives him plenty of time to think up new robberies and this time he believes he's come up with a cracker. Upon release from his latest incarceration he devises a robbery to surpass them all and helping Britons balance of trade deficit in the process. Charlie plans to steal $4 million dollars worth of gold from Fiat which is being transported from China to Turin in Italy.
For a job of this size Charlie is going to need some money so he approaches Mr. Bridger who runs his underworld criminal empire from his prison cell to fund the operation. However, his plans are not as secret as he first thought as during the planning stage he learns that the Italian mafia has murdered his friend and brains behind the operation. Not only are they going to have to contend with the Italian police and dodgy water, the Mafia are going to be hot on their tails too.
Their plan is simple one. All they need to do is break into the Turin road traffic control centre, download a new traffic flow handling system into their computer, cause massive gridlock in the city (it already sounds like an every day car journey in the UK!), steal the gold and make their getaway through the sewers, plazas and rooftops of Turin. This should be no problem for three modified Mini coopers, an England versus Italy football match, the British bulldog spirit and a lot of luck.
For the age of the film the picture is surprisingly good with an excellent transfer. Although time has resulted in some loss of picture colouration it is still bright and colourful enough with a good level of detail. The bit rate remains above average throughout the film and there's no signs of any artifacting or outlining. There also a surprising lack of picture grain or dot crawl for a film of this age.
With the film being over thirty years old there is no real hope of experiencing anything like a modern day surround sound experience. Both the remastered mono and 5.1 soundtracks provide some crisp and sharp dialogue that remains easily audible throughout the film without any need to correct the volume levels. The 5.1 soundtrack even manages to use the surround channels with some reasonable effect during the car chase scenes after the robbery.
The film is presented in a pleasantly designed paper box and sleeve. Due to its poor weathering properties I normally detest all forms of paper packaging. However, there is still something special about this set. For some strange sentimental reason seeing those three mini coopers blasting out of the front cover really does make you forget its made from paper.
The menu is pleasantly animated and scored with the classic "self preservation society" tune playing in the background. Once the clever introduction has completed the menu becomes wonderfully animated when three computer animated Mini coopers burst through the screen and start charging around the place. Leave the menu long enough and they'll start whizzing around the screen again.
For such a cult film the extras are actually rather disappointing in number, but this seems to be a bit of a regular thing from Paramount releases. The Audio Commentary is interesting enough and there's also three first-rate Making of Documentaries. And whilst on the subject of the documentaries, they are lacking one vital thing. Whilst most of the original cast and crew are interviewed the major star in the form of Michael Caine is missing. Why is this? Was he on holiday or demanding Mini loads full of money? It's like having Christmas without Christmas pudding.
Even with Michael Caine's criminal absence the documentaries are still extremely interesting and certainly highlight just why British industry went down the toilet. You would have thought British Leyland (or whatever they were called at the time) would have been more than happy to give them a near unlimited fleet of mini coopers. Just think of all that free advertising?
Alias not, as they wouldn't even give them a free ash tray. However, this is completely the opposite to Fiat. Seeing the perfecting advertising opportunity to promote their vehicles they offered the production team just about any car they wanted from the Fiat, Alfa and Ferrari range. Fortunately, for all of the temptations, they bit their bottom lips and opted for the Mini. A good thing really as without the Mini this film wouldn't have been the classic that it is today.
With the Italian Job's cult status and superb car chases you really do need to add this film to your collection. It is really hard to believe that this film is over thirty years old and it's stood the sands of time well. I'd be very surprised to see whether the new American remake will manage the same feat.
- Audio Commentary by Matthew Field and Producer Michael Deeley
- Deleted Scenes with Commentary by Matthew Field
- Documentaries : The Great Idea; The Self Preservation Society and Get a Bloomin' Move On"
- Theatrical Trailer