The Italian Job - Special Collector's Edition (1969)
Length: 99 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1, Anamorphic
Audio: DD 5.1
The Italian Job (1969), for those of you who have only seen the remake, is nothing like the 2003 follow-up. The original is much lighter fare, is rated “G”, and is “intrinsically English.” The remake (which has a lot going for it) is rated PG-13, and is decidedly American. Aside from the obvious parallels of the caper, traffic jams and Minis, they are quite different films. Each can stand proudly on its own.
The original stars Michael Caine as Charlie Croker. Freshly sprung from prison (we are never told exactly why he was there), he embarks on a caper which was left for him by a recently deceased colleague. The plan is to steal $4 million in gold in the heart of Turin, Italy, and escape in a fleet of Minis through a planned traffic jam of epic proportions. The caper is financed by a pampered prisoner, also a criminal mastermind, by the name of Bridger (Noel Coward, in his final film role). Aside from avoiding capture by the authorities, the protagonists must also thwart the Mafia’s efforts to stop them from completing the “job.” The first two acts introduce us to the players and set up the caper. The third act is like a half-hour long Keystone Cops routine, with Minis and police motorcycles taking on the roles of pursued and pursuers - becoming important “characters” in the process.
The Italian Job is a delightful film, iconic of 60’s Europe, and chock-full of subtle English humor. Michael Caine was made for the role (actually, vice-versa), and really sinks himself into it. Benny Hill turns in a marvelous performance as the computer expert for the caper. The cast is filled out by Raf Vallone as a Mafia boss, and Rossano Brazzi as Croker’s recently deceased colleague. Tony Beckley and Maggie Blye also star.
The film was directed by Peter Collinson, written by Troy Kennedy Martin, and produced by Michael Deeley. Wonderful photography by Douglas Slocombe includes some beautiful deep-focus shots of the Italian countryside. The memorable music is by Quincy Jones, and Remy Julienne provided the stunt coordination for the fabulous chase sequence.
The video is 2.35:1 and the transfer is anamorphic. Keeping in mind that this film is 34 years old, this is a very nice transfer. The picture is bright and sharp, with decent, but not excellent shadow detail. It’s a warm image, common for films of this vintage, and complimented by generally warm production design. Colors are perfectly saturated, doing the excellent cinematography justice. The film is largely absent of grain, but the transfer does suffer from a moderate amount of dust. Still, this is an impressive transfer of a film of this vintage, and a little dust is acceptable.
The film has been remastered in English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. The music is what really shines in this mix, filling the front soundstage, with subtle reverb effects in the rear channels. Sound effects and ambience also take advantage of rear effects on occasion. LFE is weak, but makes itself known on a couple of occasions. It’s a very nice sounding re-mix. The disc also features an English surround and French mono soundtrack. Now, here is the problem: the back cover indicates a restored English Mono soundtrack is included. There is no mono soundtrack on the disc, however. Sound purists will give the DVD a big demerit for this. I have asked for comment from Paramount about this, but I’ve yet to hear back. If or when I hear anything, I’ll amend my review. I do want to reiterate, however, that the soundtracks that are included are nicely done.
A Minor Problem for Some DVD Players
My Toshiba player was unable to play the French subtitles. After unsuccessfully trying to turn them on, and then turning them back off, the first scene of chapter 12 finds them turning on without my intervention - and they cannot be turned off at this point. This goes on for about 30 seconds, while there are burned in English subtitles on the screen (the dialog is in Italian). Then, the French subtitles disappear again without my intervention, and refuse to return for the rest of the film. Now, if I never try to turn on the French subtitles, they will not appear on their own in chapter 12, and if I activate, then deactivate English subtitles after doing same with French subtitles, before I reach chapter 12, the French subtitles will not appear on their own. Subtitles seem to perform normally on my computer DVD player, as well as an older model Toshiba - so I suspect there are only a few players affected by this problem.
The Italian Job includes a commentary by producer Michael Deeley, and Matthew Field (author of “The Making of The Italian Job”). Notes on casting choices and anecdotes on events surrounding the shooting of the film are reminisced. Director Collinson died a few years after making this film, so the commentary is lacking any serious insight on the mechanics of the shoot. There is some nice commentary on the Mini chase scene that dominates the third act. One thing we learn: approximately 30 Minis were purchased, at cost, for use in the film.
There is one deleted scene (supposedly the only deleted scene) included, with optional commentary by Matthew Field. The scene is a very cute “ballet” sequence, with the three Minis “dancing” on ice with three police cars, to the music Blue Danube. It’s a wonderful scene on its own, but it stole the momentum away from the chase, and so was cut from the film.
Included are three documentaries: The Great Idea (23:23), The Self Preservation Society (21:15), and Get a Bloomin’ Move On (24:21). The three were all obviously part of one program which was split into three parts for the presentation here.
The documentaries include recent interviews (whether from the film’s re-release in 1999, or special for this DVD release, I can’t say) with screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin, producer Michael Deeley, wife of director Hazel Collinson, director of photography Douglas Slocombe, production designer Disley Jones, and a few of the supporting cast.
Topics covered include:
The origin of the story
The casting of Michael Caine
The casting of Noel Coward
Other casting choices
Reminiscences of Collinson and Coward
Rounding out the cast with comedians
Notes on some of the locations
Notes on the famous chase
The Quincy Jones music
The original theatrical trailer and the re-release trailer are included, rounding out the special features.
The Italian Job is a fun British Comedy Caper. Excellent performances, and one of the most memorable car chases ever filmed make this a very enjoyable movie. Paramount presents this film in a special collector’s edition with some interesting added features. The menu sequence is also nicely done, with a 3D animated rendering of the three Minis. This menu animation is skippable, by the way.
The film looks very nice, considering its age. The transfer is excellent, and the re-mixed 5.1 soundtrack is nicely done. The only real caveat is the missing restored mono track.