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.
- Paramount Pictures
- 99 min
- Peter Collinson
- Troy Kennedy Martin
- Michael Caine, Noël Coward, Benny Hill, Raf Vallone, Tony Beckley, Rossano Brazzi, John Clive, Graham Payn, Maggie Blye
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