“It’s a very difficult job and the only way to get through it is we all work together as a team. And that means you do everything I say”.
I recently read an awesome book by British film producer extraordinaire of the 60s, 70s and 80s Michael Deely, called Blade Runners, Deer Hunters and Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: My Life in Cult Movies. Amongst the great stories of witnessing Ridley Scott make one of the most well regarded sci fi movies if all time, and dealing with the legendary ego of Michael Cimino, the chapter that stood out most was the one devoted to the making of a low budget, low brow, car chase genre picture. While the other movies alluded to above might have more prestige these days, this little movie that could is right up there with them in notoriety and affection. That little move that could is The Italian Job.
Charlie Croker (Michale Caine) is being released from a stint in the joint, under the supervision of prison warden Mr Bridger (Noel Coward). After a quick bit of rumpy pumpy with a gaggle of dolly birds, Charlie is already planning his comeback job, a $4million gold heist in Italy. The only problem is, the last person to think about this job was taken out by the Italian mafia, who don’t take kindly to Britons muscling in on their home turf. Now, a job this big needs some serious backing, and it turns out, England’s biggest crime boss is… Wait for it… It’s only bloody Mr Bridger, the prison warden!
With Mr Bridger’s financial support, Charlie starts putting together his team. This is always one of the best bits of any caper movie. Building a rogue’s gallery of colourful characters with niche criminal skills and delightful quirks. The stand outs here being Benny Hill as computer expert Professor Peach, and Tony Beckley as professional dandy, Camp Freddie. Together, this ragtag group plans and trains for the perfect crime. And much hilarity ensues.
Once in Italy, everything is cranked up to the extreme. The moustache twirling mafiosos, the dick swinging cockiness of Michael Cain, and of course, the crazy car chases that make this one of the most iconic B-movie, genre pictures ever made. And B-movie is in no way meant as a slight. When a B-movie knows it’s a B-movie, you’re generally in for some amazing entertainment.
Everything about The Italian Job is ludicrous. Right up until (and especially during) the very last seconds before the end credits roll. But when done with such a wink and cheeky grin, the more ludicrous, the better.
Watching The Italian Job, it immediately became one of those cult classics that completely justified itself as a cult classic. Thrilling car chases that more than hold up almost half a century later, a rip roaring heist caper story that never slows down for a second, and Michael Cain at is Michael Caineiest. This is the Michael Cain performance that launched every Michael Caine impression you’ve ever heard. The handful of good ones, and the dozens of terrible ones.