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The Italian Job is a British caper film, written by Troy Kennedy Martin, produced by Michael Deeley and directed by Peter Collinson. It was released in 1969 and was popular in Britain; subsequent television showings and releases on video have established it as something of a national institution in the UKmarker.

Its soundtrack was composed by Quincy Jones, and includes "On Days Like These" sung by Matt Monro over the opening credits, and "Getta Bloomin' Move On" (usually referred to as "The Self Preservation Society", after its chorus) during the film's climactic car chase. Lead actor Michael Caine can be heard among the singers in the latter.

In November 2004, the magazine Total Film named The Italian Job the 27th greatest British film of all time. The line "You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!", said by Michael Caine in the film, was voted the favourite film one-liner in a 2003 poll of 1000 film fans.


The film starts with a driver's-eye view of a Lamborghini Miura driving through the Italian Alps as the titles roll. Following the car as it negotiates the turns at high speed, the scenery is cut off when the car enters the darkness of a tunnel and subsequently explodes. The viewpoint changes to the other end of the tunnel, where the remains of the ill-fated Lamborghini are pulled from the tunnel, wrapped around the front of a bulldozer.

Some time later dapper mobster Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) is released from prison. He is soon met by a woman (Lelia Goldoni) who is the wife of the victim of the car crash, former friend and fellow thief Roger Beckermann (Brazzi). She gives Croker the plans for a daring robbery that Beckermann was in the midst of planning, which attracted the attention of the local Mafia with fatal results. The plans outline a way to rob a four million dollar shipment of gold from China to banks in Turinmarker, a payment to Fiatmarker for licensing their car designs for production in China.

Croker decides to continue the plan in spite of the risks, but needs to put together a large gang in order to pull it off. In order to fund the attempt, Croker breaks into jail to meet with Mr Bridger (Noël Coward), an incarcerated criminal mastermind who nonetheless runs a gangland empire from within the jail. Croker explains "The Italian Job" and is able to arrange the needed funding. He assembles a group including computer expert Professor Peach (Benny Hill), electronics handler Birkinshaw (Fred Emney) and several getaway drivers. The plan calls for Peach to infect Turin's lauded computerised traffic control system to create a traffic jam that will prevent the police from recapturing the gold after it is stolen. Three Mini Cooper S will provide the escape route for the gold, able to navigate the gridlock in unconventional ways, using a route through Turin devised by Roger. Planning and training for the job takes up the first half of the film.

The second half of the film takes place as the plans are carried out. Aware that the British will make another attempt, the Mafia boss Altabani (Raf Vallone) is waiting for Croker when he arrives. Instead of killing him, he damages the two Jaguar E-Types that have accompanied Croker and pushes Croker's Aston Martin DB4 off the side of the Alps and points him in the direction of England. Undeterred, Croker gathers the gang and Peach starts loading the broken software into the traffic control system the night before the heist. The next day Birkinshaw breaks the closed circuit television system that covers the route, just before Peach's software "goes off" and the city comes to a standstill. The rest of the gang quickly converge on the gold convoy, overpower the guards, and break into the armoured car holding the gold.

The Getaway
After the heist, the gang transfers the gold to the Minis in the entrance hall of the Museo Egiziomarker. The three Minis then race through the stylish shopping arcades of the Via Roma, up the sail-like roof of the Palazzo a Velamarker, around the rooftop test track of the famous Fiatmarker Lingottomarker factory building and even down the steps of the Gran Madre di Dio church 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 coach (actually used to transport the crew), driving up a ramp on the back whilst the coach is still travelling at speed. Once the gold has been unloaded from them, the getaway Minis are pushed out of the still-moving coach as it negotiates hairpin bends in the Italian Alps.

In the Alps, Charlie and the mini crew meet up with the rest of the gang, who had sneaked out of the city disguised as England fans in a minivan. Successfully on their way to Switzerlandmarker along a winding mountain road, the gang celebrate in the back of the bus. However, a mistake by the driver sends the coach into a skid, with the back end of the bus left teetering over the edge of the cliff and 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 cliffhanger ending. Croker's last line is "Hang on a minute lads, I've got a great idea! Err..."


Noël Coward, who played the part of Mr. Bridger, was the godfather of the director, Peter Collinson. Coincidentally, the character Mr. Bridger is obsessed with Queen Elizabeth, while Coward was a friend of several members of the British Royal Family. Bridger's fellow convict and confidant, Keats, was played by Graham Payn, Coward's long-time partner. Michael Caine's brother Stanley also appears as one of Croker's gang. The gang also included Robert Powell, in his first film role. American distributors Paramount wanted Robert Redford to play the lead role.


According to a "Making Of" documentary, the film's ending was the brainchild of producer Deeley. He was unsatisfied with any of the four endings written at the time. He conceived of the film's current ending as a (literal) cliffhanger appropriate to an action film which also left open an opportunity for a sequel. The documentary describes how Deeley envisioned a sequel would begin: helicopters would be used to save the bus seen teetering on the edge of a cliff at the end of the first film. The grateful gang would soon discover that it is the Mafia that has saved them, and the sequel would have been about stealing the gold bullion back from them.

In interviews in 2003 and 2008, the now-Sir Michael Caine revealed that the ending would have had Croker "crawl up, switch on the engine and stay there for four hours until all the petrol runs out... The van bounces back up so we can all get out, but then the gold goes over." The bus containing the gold would crash at the bottom of the hill where the Mafia would pick it up. The sequel would then have Croker and his men trying to get it back.

In 2008 the Royal Society of Chemistry held a competition for members of the public to propose solutions to how the cliffhanger was solved, insisting that the solution had to have a plausible basis in science, and was to take not more than 30 minutes and not use a helicopter. The idea was to promote greater understanding of science, and to highlight the 100th anniversary of the periodic table, of which gold is one of the 117 elements.

The winning competition entry, submitted by one John Godwin of Surrey, was to: Break and remove two large side windows just aft of the pivot point and let the glass fall away outside to lose its weight. Break two windows over the two front axles; keep the broken glass on-board to keep its weight for balance. Let a man out on a rope through the front broken windows (not to rest his weight on the ground) and he deflates all the bus's front tyres, to reduce the bus's rocking movement about its pivot point. Drain the fuel tank, which was aft of the pivot point; that changes the balance enough to let a man get out and gather heavy rocks to load the front of the bus. Unload the bus. Wait until a suitable vehicle passes on the road, and hijack it and carry the gold away in it.


The chase sequences were entirely filmed in Turin, although the scene where the robbers' Minis are chased through a sewer tunnel were filmed in the Sowe Valley Sewer Duplication system in the English city of Coventrymarker, in Stoke Aldermoormarker, filmed from the back of a Mini Moke. The person on the far side that closes the gate at the end of sewer tunnel is the director, Peter Collinson. Collinson was also the person that clung to the back door of the coach as the Minis entered it at high speed.

The jail used in the film that held Mr. Bridger was Kilmainham Gaolmarker in Dublinmarker, Irelandmarker. The office block that doubled as the Turin traffic control centre was actually the Twickenhammarker head office of the television rental chain DER.

The training sessions, shown in the film, for the Mini drivers were held at the Crystal Palacemarker race track in Sydenhammarker, South London. The practice attempt to blow the doors off the bullion van, which led to its destruction and Croker's famous line, took place at the Crystal Palace Sports Centre. The Crystal Palace BBC transmitter can clearly be seen in the background of the shot.

A portion of the car chase, a surreal 'dance' between the Minis and the police cars, was filmed inside Pier Luigi Nervi's distinctive Exhibition Building with a full orchestra playing 'The Blue Danube'. It was cut from the final version of the film and appears as an 'extra' on the DVD of the film. A great deal of the chase sequence was used in the MacGyver episode "The Thief of Budapest" set, as one might expect, in Budapest rather than Turin.


According to the director's commentary on the DVD, despite the huge publicity the film would give to the Mini, the car's maker, BMC, were not completely committed to the project. BMC only provided a token fleet of Minis and the production company had to buy the remaining number needed for filming, albeit at trade price. By contrast, the Italian manufacturer Fiatmarker grasped the commercial potential of the film and offered the production team as many super-charged Fiat cars as they needed, several sports cars for the Mafia confrontation scene, plus a cash lump sum of $50,000, but the producers turned down the offer because it would have meant replacing the Minis with Fiats.

As Croker walks through the garage where the Minis are being prepared for the robbery, we hear that "Rozzer's having trouble with his differential" and we clearly see that the back of the red Mini Cooper is jacked up and Rozzer is obviously working hard. This is probably an insider joke since the Mini is a front wheel drive car and does not have a rear differential. In the early 1960s, front wheel drive cars were a new and rare occurrence, asking a novice car mechanic to repair a Mini's rear differential was a popular snipe hunt.

Gold cost about $39 per troy ounce in 1968 so four million dollars in gold bars would have weighed about 3200 kg (7000 lb), requiring each of the three Minis to carry about 1070 kg (2300 lb) in addition to the driver and passenger. Since a 1968 Mini only weighs 630 kg (1400 lb), each of these diminutive vehicles would have had to carry over 1½ times its own weight in gold.

The coach used at the end of the film, was a 1964 Bedford VAL with Harrington Legionnaire Body, distinctive for its twin front steering axles. Following the filming, the coach had its improvised rear doors welded up and was subsequently used on a Scottish school bus route until the mid 1980s and was scrapped according to the Legionnaire register. The Lamborghini Miura that has an unfortunate accident in the opening scenes was a real Miura P400 that was on test plates, and then was sold as "new" afterwards. The car that is tumbled down by the Mafia's buldozer, was an original Miura which had suffered a serious accident sometime before and killed its driver, an Arab prince.

Charlie Croker picks up an Aston Martin DB4 Convertible from a garage after his release from prison. The Aston Martin scene in the original film was mostly improvised by the two actors, which caused slightly visible lighting problems in the scene as the crew didn't know where the actors would be. According to several sources, the car that was tossed off the cliff was actually a Lancia Flaminia mocked up as the Aston. The original Aston belongs today to a private English collection. The two E-type Jaguars that also have suffered from the Mafia's revenge were restored to their original condition. Unfortunately the car from the Mafia Boss, a black Fiat Dino Coupé, didn't had a good fate. It was bought by Peter Collinson after the film shooting, but was later on abandoned and became so rusty that only its doors remain nowadays.

The Italianmarker police cars frequently seen around Turinmarker were all Alfa Romeo Giulias.

In 2006, what remained of the original film Austin Cooper S's went to auction at Cheffins in Cambridge. The three original numberplates HMP 729G, GPF 146G and LGW 809G were auctioned in January of that year. All three registration numbers were purchased by Mr. D. Morton. This sale was covered in the world press stating that 'a piece of cinematic history has been sold to a private collector'. It is believed that Mr. Morton is currently working with Remy Julienne (from the original 1969 film) completing three exact film replicas on which the original film plates will be transfered. The three car number plates make reference to the film's star, Michael Caine's prison number, HMP 729G, while LGW 806G was the team's flight number and GPF 146G was inspired by the Grand Prix Flag.


The soundtrack was by jazz specialist and record producer Quincy Jones. The main title theme "On Days Like These" was performed by Matt Monro, and the final theme "Get a Bloomin' Move On" ('The Self Preservation Society') was performed by the cast. The song's lyrics consist of Cockney Rhyming Slang. Many of the incidental themes in the film are based on British patriotic songs, such as "Rule, Britannia!" and the National Anthem.


US theatrical release poster
Set in Londonmarker and Turinmarker and filmed with vivid colours in anamorphic format, the film remains an iconic evocation of the swinging sixties, although its rose-tinted view of London's criminal underworld was in sharp contrast to the brutal reality. In fact, Caine has stated that he took the lead role in Get Carter (which portrays the same underworld with brutal realism) largely in order to correct the overly romantic picture of organized crime painted in The Italian Job. An example of the light-hearted and comedic characterizations is that Mr Bridger's gang is run by an effeminate-seeming dandy called Camp Freddie, played by Tony Beckley.

Apart from the colourful vision of a certain time and place, the film is also notable for its inventive and exciting car chases and stunts, arranged by Rémy Julienne. The film's cars were almost as much part of the cast as the people: the ill-fated Lamborghini Miura in the opening sequence, various Aston Martin DB4 convertibles, Jaguar E-Types, a Land Rover Series IIa and an array of police Alfa Romeo Giulias which are outdriven by the heroic British Mk1 Austin Mini Cooper Ss. The Alpine setting through which some of the chases passed was another memorable aspect of the film.

Although it received a Golden Globe nomination (for "Best Foreign Film in the English Language") the film was not a success in America. Michael Caine blamed its failure there on an unattractive and misleading advertising campaign. As a result, plans for a sequel were shelved.

A 2003 remake of the film, also called The Italian Job, was set in Los Angelesmarker and stars Mark Wahlberg as Charlie Croker. It featured Donald Sutherland as John Bridger, played as more of a father figure to Croker than a criminal mastermind. It also employs the updated Mini Cooper for a chase scene towards the end of the film. There is also a video game based on the film, released for the PlayStation game console and Microsoft Windows in 2002 and published by Rockstar Games.

Allusions and references in other works

In season 3, episode 12 of As If, Jamie ends up delivering the package to the wrong restaurant and is subsequently given 24 hours to get it back. In a parody of The Italian Job Jamie recruits the rest of the gang to help him steal back the parcel. Somehow all six of them manage to turn up at the restaurant in a Mini Cooper.

Season 17, episode 8 of The Simpsons is titled "The Italian Bob", however the episode has little to do with the film.

In an episode of MacGyver entitled the "Thief of Budapest" (season 1, episode 3) the car chase seen in the episode uses extensive clips from The Italian Job leading to continuity errors as the setting is supposed to be Hungary.

British comedian Eddie Izzard parodies the film in his 1996 stage show Definite Article. The parody can be seen in Chapter 6 ("Best Laid Plans of Mice") of the show's DVD edition.

In a horror episode of The Basil Brush Show, some mummies surround Basil wanting a gem he has got. He shows them the safe, but can't remember the combination. The solution was to laugh his famous "Boom Boom" at the top of his voice, which (instead of destroying the safe) destroyed the entire building. Mr. Steven, wearing glasses as a mummy, tells Basil he was "only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!"

In the Barclays tv advert "Chasing Payments", gold bars are seen to slide away from a man when he tries to recover them


  1. The Italian Job soundtrack
  2. Total Film magazine, November 2004
  3. Royal Society of Chemistry press release: "Italian Job" cliff-hanger solution sought
  4. Daily Telegraph, Friday 23 January 2009, page 3
  5. Historical Gold Charts and Data - London Fix
  6. Reed, Chris. Complete Classic Mini 1959-2000. ISBN 1-899870-60-1.
  7. As If episode 3.12 guide
  8. Simpsons episode 17.3 guide
  9. MacGyver episode 1.3 guide

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