Why should "You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off" become a catch phrase that would haunt Michael Caine for the rest of his career? It's a bit like "Not a lot of people know that."

On the face of it, The Italian Job is an unlikely cult movie. Practically all the supporting actors are comedians. The stars are stunt drivers. Noel Coward plays a master criminal, operating his empire entirely from jail. When he says in that wonderfully mannered voice, "There's more to life than breaking and entering", it's like listening to crystal beads falling into a bed of velvet.

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Caine has just made Alfie. He's everybody's favourite lad. And now he's playing Charlie Crocker, a con artist/crook/wide boy, with girls falling over themselves to have the pleasure and the world waiting to be taken advantage.

A dead Mafia boss has left him a roll of film, describing how to steal $4million in gold from a van in the centre of Turin. He gathers his team, which includes Mini Cooper drivers and a professor (Benny Hill) who has a weakness for fat women. The plan is to cause a gigantic traffic jam by switching the computer reels at the transport HQ, snatch the gold and drive like hell to the Swiss border.

The film has a pristine, timeless quality. It's fun and it's clever and it's well made. Caine has the Cockney wit and authority to give Crocker an heroic cheekiness. The audacity of the raid is matched by an inventive script by the creator of Z Cars, Troy Kennedy Martin.

What must have been considered nothing less than a caper when it came out has grown in reputation and stature ever since. While being terribly British, it is not apologetic. "We all work together as a team," Crocker says. "That means you do everything I say." His confidence is catching.

Reviewed on: 13 Oct 2002
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The Italian Job packshot
Michael Caine and three Mini Coopers pull off gold heist in Turin with the help of a traffic jam.
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Director: Peter Collinson

Writer: Troy Kennedy Martin

Starring: Michael Caine, Noel Coward, Benny Hill, Raf Vallone, Tony Beckley, Rossano Brazzi, Margaret Blye, Irene Handl, John Le Mesurier, Fred Emney

Year: 1969

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK/Canada

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