1969’s The Italian Job is a freewheeling, completely unpretentious chase comedy about a gang of British hoods who plan to steal $4 million in gold from the Italian Fiat mafia. Many of the subtle jabs at British patriotism and isolationist attitudes toward the rest of Europe don’t really become apparent until well after its open ending, which literally has the Brits teetering between remaining (and dying) in Europe and fleeing the continent. (The exception to the film’s subtext, of course, is Noël Coward’s marvelously crusty performance as Brit mob boss Bridger, who espouses the supremacy of the Queen even as he is being held in a definitively laissez faire white-collar prison cell.) Michael Caine plays another good-humored swinger here, and I would hazard a guess that the freaky orgies that are obliquely suggested in the first few minutes of the film probably went directly into Mike Myers’s borrowed-shtick notebook. Director Peter Collinson seems to relish grouping every detail of the film into threes: three secretaries, three getaway cars, three sexual escapades. He also keeps the logistics of the big heist that makes up the last third of the film exciting and different. The Italian Job isn’t the first movie to take car chases into strange and new environments, but it sure is creative (the culminating sewer chase is actually quite visceral). The whole goofy package gets its bow from Benny Hill, who goes after “big women” so he can grab a handful of their chunky trunks.
Perhaps due to a clean-up for the 30th anniversary release a few years back, The Italian Job looks pretty fantastic. Creeping edge enhancement is the only item in the debit column-otherwise we're talking rock-solid colors, a dirt-free print (or dirt-scarce, at least), and no artifacts. The sound has been preserved even better, though the 5.1 surround remix isn't as whiz-bang as one might hope for (the restored mono mix is practically as good). Overall, there's not much to complain about here.
If I were to come up with a model example of what a nice set of fundamental extra features ought to be, I might consider this disc. Everything one could reasonably hope for is here and quite well-produced. First up is a commentary track which wisely brings together the film's producer Michael Deeley with the author of The Making of "The Italian Job", Matthew Field. This pairing works remarkably well, as Field takes on the role of a well-researched interviewer finessing reminisces from Deelay. All too many commentary tracks segregate cast from crew or cast and crew from film researcher/historian, which usually results in tracks that are either too in-jokey, technical, or dry. This track makes a great case for pairing up people whose relationships to the film being discussed are drastically dissimilar, and I hope more DVD producers take note. Also quite wonderful is an hour-long documentary on the making of the film, broken up into three segments (just select "play all"). Again, in contrast to some other DVDs that include both commentary and documentary, the documentary utilizes quite a few other interview sources than the yak-track, so there's a lot less of an information overlap. Add to the list of features a deleted scene that's actually worth watching (with optional commentary), and a pair of theatrical trailers, and you've got a set that, while sticking with the basics, is pretty thorough.G-rated movies rarely start out by suggesting multiple orgies. The ones that do are to be cherished.
G-rated movies rarely start out by suggesting multiple orgies. The ones that do are to be cherished.