A rollicking cinematic ride that features one of the most memorable getaways and some of the coolest cars in movie history, the original version of The Italian Job mixes thrills, comedy, and plenty of automotive stunts into its standard heist plot. A seductive '60s vibe enhances the fun and a brand new Dolby Vision HDR transfer struck from a 4K scan of the original camera negative brings this European odyssey to brilliant life. Excellent audio and a massive supplemental package sweeten this 4K UHD release of a beloved classic. Highly Recommended.
A love letter to the automobile disguised as a heist flick. In a nutshell, that's The Italian Job. Made expressly for the male libido, the original 1969 film gives guys everything they lust after - money, cars, and beautiful women. Mix in a hefty dose of male bonding, some adolescent humor, gorgeous European locations, and a stunt-filled getaway and you've got a slick, mindless, utterly entertaining movie that's a perfect '60s time capsule.
When career criminal Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) gets sprung from prison, he instantly goes to work on his next caper, the theft of $4 million of gold bullion in the Italian city of Turin. Charlie conspires with the dapper Mr. Bridger (Noel Coward), a legendary crime boss who's still in jail but is treated by the guards and inmates like the lord of the manor. From the inside, Bridger helps Charlie assemble a team to pull off the robbery, a key element of which is the dismantling of a computerized traffic system that will cause a jam of epic proportions and thus enable the gang of thieves to escape.
Charlie and his cohorts must contend with the pesky - and ruthless - Italian mafia and some unexpected snags. All the turmoil culminates in a classic, climactic car chase that comprises almost a third of the film. A trio of Mini Coopers performs an array of breathtaking stunts as they navigate a series of crazy obstacles throughout the city that lead to a literal cliffhanger ending. I won't spoil it, but it really does transpire on the edge of a cliff with a vehicle hanging off of it. It's clever and just goofy enough to fit the tone of this rollicking madcap romp.
Though The Italian Job was hip and happening when initially released, today it evokes nostalgia for a bygone era. The shameless chauvinism characterized by a gaggle of scantily clad, ditzy, and ornamental dames, all of whom only seem to have sex on their minds, is cringe-inducing in our current culture, but that was the '60s and, let's face it, at its core The Italian Job is little more than a male fantasy. To their credit, director Peter Collinson and screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin don't waste much time with women. Like the title implies, The Italian Job is all about the job - the plotting, the prep, the build-up, the opposition, the execution, and the aftermath. A couple of dalliances supply some spice, but then it's back to business. Style rules, and with so much of it on display, we don't miss substance at all.
Croker is like a cut-rate, working-class, Cockney James Bond and Caine plays him with just right the mix of bravado, cool, and impish glee. On the flip side is the elegant Coward in what would be his final film, mixing veddy-veddy British sophistication with quiet intensity to create an over-the-top yet completely endearing convict. Benny Hill is sadly underused as the quirky computer nerd Professor Peach (not to be confused with Professor Plum from the classic Clue game) but brings his patented brand of lunacy to his few brief scenes, and though Rossano Brazzi's ultra-suave character meets a fiery end after the opening credits, he gets some welcome screen time later on in some key footage filmed before his demise.
Caine, Coward, and the rest of the cast shine, but the real stars of The Italian Job are the cars. Mini Coopers, Fiats, a Lamborghini, an Austin Martin, and an Alfa Romeo are only some of the sleek, shiny autos that steal the spotlight, clog the Turin thoroughfares, careen off cliffs, and perform fascinating feats during the lengthy chase at the end of the film. James Bond's cars are loaded with gadgetry, but Croker's fleet doesn't need any frills or accouterments to provide flash and muscle. When compared to the mayhem in the Fast and the Furious films, the stunts in The Italian Job look a little tame, but they're all real, and back in '69 they were pretty damn dangerous.
In addition to the glorious alpine scenery and urban flavor of Turin (three-time Oscar nominee Douglas Slocombe was the cinematographer), composer Quincy Jones, a seven-time Oscar nominee, supplies a stellar score and bookends the movie with two very different songs. The lyrical "On Days Like These," sung by crooner Matt Monro, plays over the opening credits and beautifully frames Brazzi's idyllic drive along a twisty, scenic mountain road, while the rousing "Getta Bloomin' Move On," with the oft-repeated refrain of "This is a Self-Preservation Society..." (once heard, it's impossible to get it out of your head), helps fuel the car chase. Jones might seem like an odd choice to write music for what is essentially a European picture, but his themes perfectly complement the on-screen action.
Like a frenetic joyride, the original Italian Job is loads of fun. The far-fetched plot sputters at times, but the charismatic Caine keeps it chugging along and the film's engine hums during the extended climax. Every subsequent car film owes this classic a sizable debt, and it's a hoot to travel back in time and revisit the movie that started a craze that's still a speeding juggernaut today.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
The Italian Job arrives on 4K UHD packaged in a standard case inside a sleeve with a matte finish. A 1080p Blu-ray disc that contains the feature film and all the supplements is also included in this set. Video codec is 2160/HEVC H.265 and default audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. (A DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is also included.) Once the disc is inserted into the player, the full-motion menu with music immediately pops up; no previews or promos precede it.
A new HDR/Dolby Vision master by Paramount Pictures struck from a 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative yields an often breathtaking transfer that showcases the beauty of the Italian Alps and shiny, sleek exteriors of the cars. Exceptional clarity and contrast, deep blacks, bright, stable whites, and brilliant hues produce a vibrant, well-balanced image that still exudes a filmic feel. The opening credit sequence, which features bold red titles set against the lush mountain greenery, jagged, snow-capped peaks, a crystal blue sky, and a snazzy red Lamborghini, sets the tone, and though the English scenes look a bit drab (probably by design), when the action shifts to Italy the landscapes and cityscapes pop. Crisp reflections, sharp close-ups (you can see the freckles on Caine's nose), the loud, colorful costume patterns that scream '60s fashion, vivid background details, natural flesh tones, and terrific shadow delineation bolster the transfer's appeal, but it's the enhanced color spectrum of Dolby Vision that really revs the image's engine. The blue, white, and red Mini Coopers, Margaret Blye's orange blouse, Caine's electric blue tie, the red leather interior of one of the autos, the orange flames from myriad explosions, and the green, red, and white of the Italian flag light up the screen, as does the magenta jacket pictured below. Despite all the frenetic action and stunts, the picture remains stable throughout and not a single nick or errant scratch mars the pristine source material.
Though I don't own any previous home video edition of The Italian Job, it's impossible to imagine the movie looking any better than it does here. The enclosed Blu-ray looks mighty good as well, but lacks the extra razzle-dazzle that almost always sets 4K UHD apart. If you're a fan of this madcap romp, an upgrade is certainly in order.
Both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono tracks are included. Excellent fidelity and tonal depth distinguish the 5.1 track, which features palpable stereo separation up front and some noticeable, albeit sparse, rear bleed. A wide dynamic scale handles all the highs and lows of Quincy Jones' alternately elegant and goofy music score and all the dialogue is easy to comprehend. Sonic accents like explosions, revving engines, honking horns, sirens, a jackhammer, and the pings and bongs of a primitive computer pack plenty of punch, while subtleties like footsteps crunching against concrete and chirping birds are distinct. The 2.0 mono track also supplies high-quality sound, but lacks the expansive feel that makes a film of this type come alive. Both tracks are pure and not plagued by any age-related hiss, pop, or crackle.
A massive supplemental package adds even more luster to this sumptuous release. All the supplements from the 40th and 50th anniversary UK Blu-rays have been ported over to this 4K UHD edition, but Kino adds a few more extras to sweeten the deal. The two audio commentaries reside on both the 4K UHD and standard Blu-ray discs; all the other supplements are exclusive to the Blu-ray.
Audio Commentary by screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin and author Matthew Field - The more lively and interesting of the two commentary tracks, this chat between screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin and author Matthew Field covers how Martin got the idea for the script, the importance of the film's wardrobe, Martin's disagreements with director Peter Collinson, how Martin made the deal to make the movie with Paramount head honcho Robert Evans, deleted scenes, how Benny Hill's character was altered during shooting, the quagmire over the movie's ending, and why the film wasn't a hit in the U.S. Martin also recalls his lukewarm reaction to The Italian Job upon seeing it for first time and shares some entertaining anecdotes.
Audio Commentary by producer Michael Deeley and author Matthew Field - Also recorded in 2009, this more subdued, somewhat dull track features producer Michael Deeley. Deeley talks about how he became involved in the project, the impact of Quincy Jones' music, Caine's jaunty performance, and working with the Italian crew. He also provides memories of Noel Coward, identifies various British and Italian locations, and outlines how he came up with the idea for the ending (and possible sequel).
Documentary: "The Self-Preservation Society: Making The Italian Job" (HD, 87 minutes) - This breezy, substantive, and entertaining 2009 documentary chronicles the entire production from inception to release and includes interviews with all of The Italian Job's major players in front of and behind the camera. Actors Michael Caine and Margaret Blye, Paramount studio chief Robert Evans, composer Quincy Jones, stunt driver extraordinaire Rémy Julienne, screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin, cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, and director Peter Collinson's widow and son, among many others, take us behind the scenes and discuss every aspect of this classic film. Topics include casting, Caine's appeal, the long-standing connection between Noel Coward and Collinson, the conviviality on the set, how the cars were selected and secured, the chase sequences and stunts, the music, and the movie's misleading ad campaign that likely sabotaged its success in the U.S. Some of the footage in this excellent documentary was drawn from the 2002 featurettes described below, but the interviews with Caine, Evans, Jones, and Julienne can only be seen here.
Featurette: "The Great Idea" (SD, 23 minutes) - Screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin, producer Michael Deeley, Hazel Collinson (widow of the director), cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, and others discuss the story's genesis, the casting of Caine and Coward, and what would be a "tempestuous production" in this absorbing 2002 featurette. They also share fond memories of Peter Collinson, Caine, and Coward.
Featurette: "Getta Blooming Move On!" (SD, 24 minutes) - This 2002 companion featurette begins by honoring chief stunt driver Rémy Julienne through various crew reminiscences and anecdotes about the nuts and bolts of shooting the climactic car chase. The interviewees also rue how the famous car jump was photographed, examine the deleted scene (which is included on this disc), ponder various alternate endings, point out the danger the stuntmen faced, salute the film's music, and address the early death of director Peter Collinson.
Featurette: "Mini Adventures: Celebrating 40 Years of the Mini and The Italian Job" (HD, 17 minutes) - If you love Minis, this 2009 featurette is for you! Stunt drivers, a couple of Italian Job cast members, and Collinson's son talk about their love affair with the cars, what makes these unique vehicles so special, and how the film influenced their lives. They also show off some stunts, analyze the lengthy chase scene, praise the movie's stunt drivers, and laud the film's legacy in this fun piece that's packed with action clips.
Deleted Scene with Optional Commentary (SD, 2 minutes) - The film's only deleted scene is an automobile ballet featuring a half-dozen cars "dancing" to "The Blue Danube" by Johann Strauss II. Field provides some contextual remarks in an optional commentary.
Trailers (HD, 5 minutes) - The film's original theatrical and 30th anniversary re-release previews are included, as well as scads of previews for other Kino releases.
A stunning Dolby Vision HDR transfer struck from a 4K scan of the original camera negative, robust audio, and a boatload of supplements make Kino's 4K UHD upgrade of the original version of The Italian Job the definitive edition of this cool '60s heist flick. Michael Caine, Noel Coward, Benny Hill, a motley crew of bumbling British blokes, and a bevy of bikini-clad babes fuel director Peter Collinson's ode to the auto that's got more swagger and whimsy than the by-the-numbers 2003 remake. If you're crazy for cars, European atmosphere, and madcap comedy, The Italian Job will be right up your alley. Highly Recommended.