Fifty Years Of The Italian Job - Hang On A Minute Lads, What A Great Idea!
"Four million dollars!" Charlie Croker exclaimed whilst watching the video of Mr Beckerman walking around Turin, detailing the greatest robbery of its time. As Altabani looked on towards the end of the film reel, the suspense built up into what would make one of the best films of the twentieth century. The Italian Job is fifty this year and it's only right we give it a fitting tribute.
There's this certain charm about the overall film, when a bunch of plucky British men go on a jaunt to Italy's industrial capital and remarkably pull off one of the best raids of its type. What's more, its usage of three Minis, in Union Jack colouring, allowed it to ooze patriotism and give that true sense of Britishness. The Minis would go on to cement themselves as one of film's greatest cars, along with the Ford Mustang in Bullitt as an example, whilst the chase scene ultimately portrays that British character of perseverance. As Charlie states to Mr. Bridger when he has "invaded his toilet", the bullion raid is an attack on "Europe… the Common Market… Italy… the Fiat car company…". Indeed, it seems like Charlie Croker has somewhat foreshadowed the outcomes of British society today.
The chase scene that The Italian Job contains is one of the most famous parts of the film, besides Michael Caine's catchphrase of "You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!". The quick changes of direction, combined with some incredible driving, allows for a fast-paced, action-filled set of scenes that would go on to cement The Italian Job as one of the best British films.
Besides the chase scene, there is some brilliant dialogue in the film that makes it a fantastic production. For instance, where Charlie goes out to collect his Aston Martin DB4 and is met by the garage attendant, whom he pays the princely sum of £200. What makes this scene is the joke about Croker being in India for two years, shooting tigers. Obviously, Croker has been in Wormwood Scrubs and uses a little trick to do with a lack of air in the second carburettor to remove his hidden wallet.
It's a great shame that the Blue Danube 'car ballet' scene wasn't included in the final cut, but it can be found on the DVD extras and is a joy to watch. The automotive choreography is incredible, although if this scene had been left in, it would have slowed the film down and cut the tension a little.
Obviously, the film is of its time in many ways, especially with the character of Professor Peach, played by one Benny Hill. Hill's character is someone who is absolutely perverted and the casual sexism that his lines are littered with is not the most pleasing watch to say the very least. It comes as little surprise to me that the lines for Peach were written in by Benny Hill himself, with the rest of the script coming courtesy of Troy Kennedy Martin.
What is nice however is the representation of Camp Freddie, played by Tony Beckley. Besides Croker, Camp Freddie is my personal favourite character and is someone who doesn't get the credit he deserves. The late sixties marked a high time for the true beginnings of freedom of expression and where homosexuality was beginning to be accepted. 1969 and The Italian Job marked the first time in film where the word 'Camp' wasn't used in a derogatory sense. Camp Freddie is a true expression of self-love, with the pastel pink suits and obsessive nail filing, but he's central to the development of the plot and the film wouldn't be half as good without him.
The Italian Job is one of the best out there. Being fifty years old this year only allows it to become even better. It's aged like a fine wine and as British cult classics go, it's hard to look any further than this masterpiece. To quote Charlie Croker - "Hang on a minute lads, I've got a great idea..." - If you haven't seen it, go and watch it. If you have seen it, watch it again! And again, and again...