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There are not many films which can claim to have inspired movies, music videos and computer games. What makes The Italian Job even more impressive is the fact that it was made over thirty years ago. The movie launched the career of Michael Caine, and thirty years on he is still renowned for his role as Charlie Croker. Now for one of the biggest revelations of the year…. I have never seen the The Italian Job! I am not quite sure how I managed it, but thankfully I have been able to catch it on DVD.

Italian Job, The  
Movie
As mentioned above Michael Caine plays the lead role as Charlie Croker. Charlie has just been released from a British prison, and is widely tipped to carry on his criminal activities as soon as he has been freed. He is an experienced criminal who has contacts throughout the world. Upon his release Charlie is contacted by one of his associates from Italy. Unfortunately his Italian friend had been killed just before a ‘job’ and sent his wife to meet Charlie.

Via a video recording Charlie is told about the job he is entrusted with. As the movie runs we are shown that this is no ordinary job. As you can probably guess from the title, the job is based in Italy. It involves a caper to steal $4 million in gold from a major city during the rush hour. The gold bullion is being transferred from China to Italy, but it has to pass through Turin City centre on the way. This is the weakness that Charlie plans to exploit. He persuades Professor Simon Peach (Benny Hill), a computer genius, to break into the local traffic control centre. The professor’s role involves sabotaging the centre in order to cause complete chaos on the Italian roads. Charlie also recruits various other people to make up his gang. As this is such a complex job, Charlie requires expertise in several areas. Not only do the gang have to avoid the local police, but they also soon find out that the Mafia have an interest in the robbery.  Within a matter of hours, the gang are tracked down by the powerful Italian group and are warned to get out of the country.

If you were to ask someone what he or she remembers from the The Italian Job, then they are bound to mention the robbery which is set during the last half-hour of the movie. In true British style the getaway cars that are used are Mini Coopers. Most people would have chosen faster cars for the job, but Croker decided that the smaller models would be more mobile and provide a British emblem. The getaway chase is the real highlight of the movie. The cars are pursued through the streets of Turin by the local police. This is where we see the real benefits of the minis as they screech through tiny gaps, and outwit the police on numerous occasions. Made in 1969, you might expect the chases to appear less spectacular compared to today’s standards. However this couldn’t be further from the truth. The chase scenes are very exciting and don’t need any of the special effects that are littered throughout movies these days.

What makes The Italian Job so popular is the fact that it is very British, and it is seemingly proud to be so. From the cast of Michael Caine (with his unforgettable English accent!) through to Benny Hill’s antics, The Italian Job is a resounding British success. There are rumours that the remake will be very American, which makes me think that it will probably be a huge let down. Michael Caine is superb in the lead role. It may not be his most accomplished part, but he seems a natural playing this character. Croker is meant to be a commanding cockney character, and Caine plays the part convincingly. As well as being a serious heist movie, the film epitomises the 60s with its style and British humour. It is actually quite funny, with intentional moments of amusement added to keep the movie flowing.

Italian Job, The
If you have seen the The Italian Job before then chances are you are reading this review because you loved the film and want to see what the DVD release is like. Well I have joined you in being a fan of the movie. My only regret is that I didn’t see it sooner!  

Visual
Considering that the film is over thirty years old, I was not really expecting much from the visual side of the disc. However Paramount have pulled out all the stops in providing us with an anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 transfer. It is a fine transfer too - you could easily mistake it for a recent Hollywood movie. The picture may not be as clear as recent movies, but aside from that this transfer is equal in every other way. Colours are surprisingly vibrant and true. As the movie is set in Italy, you would expect lots of pretty colours and blue skies. This transfers deals with them all precisely. Skin tones are also accurate and there are no signs of edge enhancements. Print damage is nowhere to be seen, which is also surprising considering the age of the movie. This transfer is nothing short of astonishing.

Audio
We are provided with three soundtracks on this disc, the most impressive being the English Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Dialogue is clear throughout. The soundtrack mostly makes use of the front speakers, but occasionally during the movie the rears are used to good effect, and the car chase demonstrates this perfectly. I cannot recall my subwoofer getting much of a workout during the movie, but there are very few scenes which would warrant its use. Also supplied on the disc are English and German Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. We are also provided with subtitles in nineteen different languages.

Italian Job, The
Also worth mentioning are the menu systems. When the disc is first inserted we get to see a short clip from the movie involving the van explosion. Next is the good bit! Three minis then come crashing through the picture and then spin around the screen. The minis are animated and the detail shown in this sequence is amazing. I would even go as far as saying that this is one of the most impressive main screens that I have seen on DVD in recent times.

Extras
Paramount usually furnish their back catalogues with very few extras, so it was a pleasant surprise to see an impressive list contained within the special features of this disc. First on the list is the commentary with Producer Michael Deeley and Matther Field (author of the making of The Italian Job). The commentary is more like a question & answer session with Field asking the producer questions. It is quite interesting at first, but slowly becomes tedious. There is a lot of interesting information to be gained from the commentary, but you have to be quite enthuastic to plough your way through the boring moments. Also provided with the commentary are English and German subtitles. This is a novel idea and means that you can listen to the original soundtrack while watching the commentary subtitles.

Also provided on the disc are deleted scenes. Well, the menu says ‘Deleted Scenes’, but upon further investigation there is only actually one scene. Apparently there was only one scene that did not make the final cut. The scene is known as the ‘blue danube scene’. It was rescued by the producer and cleaned up for the DVD. A few seconds either side of the scene are also included to show where it would have fitted in. You can choose to listen to a commentary while watching the scene. During it we are told that the makers of the movie were glad that the scene was removed as they believed that it would have slowed down the pace of the final chase sequence. The scene involves a stand-off in an ice hockey arena. The police are chasing the minis with ballet music playing in the background. The scene is very funny, but was rightly removed from the final cut. The deleted scene lasts for just over 2 minutes.

The most detailed section on the disc is unquestionably the documentaries. We are provided with three very comprehensive documentaries, which have a total running time of about sixty-eight minutes. The first documentary is called ‘The Great Idea’. The screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin starts off by talking about the fact that he got the idea for the film from his brother. The original script involved the job being set in Regent Street. Martin bought the idea from his brother and decided to make some changes. This documentary focuses mainly on how the movie came to the big screen, and we discover about how those who made the film got together. We hear from the producer, screenwriter, director and various other people who were responsible for bringing the film to the big screen. The documentary is very interesting and offers a detailed insight into the history of the movie. Highlights include the section which talks about the casting of Michael Caine. Apparently Robert Redford was also considered for the role originally, but the screenwriter insisted that Caine was the best option. This documentary has a running time of just over twenty three minutes.

Italian Job, The
The second documentary is called ‘The Self Preservation Society’. This elaborate documentary covers several interesting aspects of the film.  We get an insight into the behaviour of Benny Hill, which is quite amusing. He was apparently a very private man, who kept disappearing during scenes. Benny was embarrassed by the character he had to play and wasn’t completely comfortable with some of the things he had to do onscreen. We also hear that the original script was too comical, so was it toned down to make the movie more serious. While watching the three documentaries it became apparent that everyone who talked about the movie loved making it. They talk with great enthusiasm, and can remember every little detail about it. This makes it all the more interesting for the audience, as we get detailed descriptions of all elements of the movie. The main highlight of this documentary is the description of the explosion scene. We are provided with a detailed rundown of how the legendary van was blown to pieces. Also worth listening to is the section about how the film was not allowed to be shot in Milan. Apparently the filmmakers could not get permission to shoot there, so decided to go to Turin instead. The overall running time for this documentary is just over twenty one minutes.

The final feature on the disc is titled ‘Geta Bloomin’ Move On’. It lasts for about twenty four minutes and is basically a ‘making of’ documentary. It focuses mainly on the final chase scene. Highlights include a section explaining the scene where the cars drive through an arcade of shops. We are told that the shopkeepers were not amused and even tried to set-up obstacles to stop filming! The rooftop jump is also talked about in considerable detail. Most of the makers of the movie seem to think that the rooftop jump was not shot correctly. The stunt was actually a lot more dangerous than it appears to be in the film, and it would have been more effective if the camera angle had been higher. The documentary covers all the major stunts seen in the last half hour of the movie. It is very detailed and extremely fun to watch. The filming certainly looked dangerous and that is probably the main reason why the end result is so effective! While watching the movie I was amazed by how realistic some of the scenes looked, and now I realise that is because they were dangerous to film. Some of the world’s greatest stunt drivers were hired to drive the minis and that decision certainly paid off.  The insurers were apparently white with fear at the thought of the dangers involved in making the movie.

The last extra contained on the disc is a trailer. It serves as a typical example of how old trailers were made. There is very little narration and we are treated to some tacky logos moving across the screen. This however adds to the atmosphere set by the trailer and makes it even more enjoyable. The running time is just over three minutes, and this is probably one of the few trailers that actually gives little of the storyline away.

Italian Job, The
Overall
The Italian Job is a true classic in every way, and has inspired many movies since its arrival on the big screen. The fact that it is as popular now as when first released goes to show what an accomplished movie it is. The Italian Job is a fine example of a British film, and still remains popular many years on. Paramount have pulled out all the stops to provide us with a first class disc as well. The transfer is astonishing, and the soundtrack is not bad either! For a non-special edition, you won’t find many better discs than this one. The detailed documentaries are worth the purchase price alone. For fans of the movie this release cannot come soon enough, but I am glad to report that it was worth the wait. If you love the movie then I can easily recommend this disc, and if you haven’t seen it then don’t hesitate make it a purchase. A true classic has finally arrived on our favourite format.


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