A Great Car Chase, A Great Film
Written by Troy Kennedy Martin, produced by Michael Deeley and directed by Peter Collinson and featuring a soundtrack by Quincy Jones, the 1969 movie “The Italian Job” comes in at number #5 on the list of the best car chases in a film.
The Italian Job is a wonderful movie, featuring stellar performances from Michael Caine, who plays the lead character, mobster Charlie Croker, and Noel Coward playing Mr Bridger, an incarcerated criminal mastermind who nonetheless runs a gangland empire from within jail.
The plan is to stage a massive gold bullion robbery in Turin, and, by sabotaging the city’s traffic control computer, make good an escape by creating a massive traffic jam.
But it is not Croker’s idea, rather it is Roger Beckermann (Brazzi) who is the mastermind. When Beckermann is killed by the Mafia while out on a drive in the Alps, his wife hands Croker the plans.
And what a grand plan it is! The get-away route needs to be carefully planned, and the cars need to be small, fast and nimble – the Mini fitting the bill perfectly. Next Croker needs to form a gang of accomplices, the most notable being Professor Peach (Benny Hill).
Should We Expect A Realistic Portrayal Of The British Underbelly With Noel Coward And Benny Hill As Lead Actors?
The entire movie builds to the getaway sequence, it no doubt being the reason why it is so well remembered. But perhaps that would be selling the film a little short. There is little doubt that the film did not accurately portray the British underworld – having Noel Coward play the part of a criminal mastermind should have been a giveaway.
And Benny Hill was, well, Benny Hill. His genius as a comic no doubt helped the film attract a wider audience, although authentic as a crim he was not. Nit-picking we hear you say, and you would be right, as it was indeed the inclusion of Benny Hill, along with other arguably less suited actors, that make the film such an enjoyable experience.
Sure, if you want an accurate depiction of 1960's crime gangs, then The Italian Job is not for you. If, on the other hand, you wish to be entertained, then this film must surely be be in the top 100 films ever made (or so we think here at Unique Cars and Parts).
Beautifully Filmed, At The Expense Of Geographic Accuracy
What the film does offer is outstanding cinematography, beautiful and vivid colors evocative of the swinging 60’s, good acting and, of course, the getaway sequence. And it was this sequence that is so well done, it arranged in such a way that as many sights of Turin as possible are shown. (Of course this means that the chase therefore has no relevance in terms of the Turin's geographical layout).
After the heist, the gang transfer the gold to the Minis in the entrance hall of the Museo Egizio.
The three Mini's then race through the stylish shopping arcades of the Via Roma, up the sail-like roof of the Palazzo Vela, around the rooftop test track of the famous Fiat Lingotto factory building, then down the steps of the Gran Madre di Dio church (and this while a wedding is in progress).
The gang finally escapes the city by driving through large sewer pipes, throwing off the police in the process.
The gang make their final getaway on a six-wheeled Harrington Legionnaire bodied Bedford VAL (actually used to transport the crew), driving up a ramp on the back whilst the coach is still travelling at speed. The getaway Mini's are then pushed out of the still-moving coach as it negotiates hairpin bends in the Italian Alps.
Successfully on their way to Switzerland along a winding mountain road, the gang celebrate in the back of the bus. A mistake by the driver sends the coach into a skid, with the back end of the bus teetering over the edge of the cliff, the gold slipping towards the rear doors.
As Croker attempts to reach the gold, it slips further, and the audience is left not knowing whether the coach, its contents, and its occupants survive a literal cliff-hanger ending. Croker's last line is "Hang on a minute lads, I've got a great idea! Err..."