Monday, 15 June 2009

“The Italian Job” on BLU RAY. A Review of the 40th Anniversary reissue of the Iconic 1969 British Film Classic.

“…I’m Glad You’re Out Sir…I Mean Back…”

I ripped the shrink-wrap off this little gem this morning with the glee of a six-year old delinquent given a day pass to Cadburys. I then sat down to watch it and emerged two hours later with the grin of a 51-year old Cheshire cat on Viagra.

We all know “The Italian Job” is a Sixties classic, but what you don’t know is that this 40th Anniversary reissue of it (issued today 15 June 2009) is simply off the charts good…

First up is the print - which is GLORIOUS – as pristine as you could hope for and a joy from start to finish. And although it doesn’t state it on the outer box, this is the fully restored British Film Institute version, which has been cleaned up frame-by-frame (and those clean shots are used in the “Making Of” extras too). One of those features is the 30th Anniversary reissue trailer from 10 years ago, which uses the famous “…doors off…” van sequence. Untouched - it’s covered in scratches and has no definition whatsoever – it allows you see what the film stock did look like as opposed to how beautiful it looks now after restoration.

There are so many scenes that now stand out – as Matt Monro’s cheesy song “On Days Like These” plays and the car drives through the Alps in the opening credits - when Charlie comes out of prison as he walks through the gates and Maggie Blye greets him in a stolen car from the Pakistani Embassy – when the three Mini Coopers climb the roof of the football stadium with the Italian cops in pursuit – it’s just all BEAUTIFUL. The BFI have also done “Zulu”, “The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner” and “Saturday Night And Sunday Morning” and this is up to the same stunning standard as they are (see my reviews).

The extras are generous too (nearly two hours worth):
1. Commentary with Screenwriter Tony Kennedy Martin and Author Matthew Field
2. Commentary by Producers Michael Deeley and Author Matthew Field
3. Mini Adventures (in HD)
4. “Self Preservation Society: The Making Off The Italian Job” (in HD) – features new interviews with the cast, writers, producers including Michel Caine, Maggie Blye, Troy Kennedy Martin, Michael Deeley, reminiscences on Noel Coward, the Director Peter Collinson, Quincy Jones on the cool score etc…
5. Music Video (in HD)
6. The Deleted Scene With Commentary by Author Matthew Field
7. Theatrical Trailer
8. Re-release Trailer

The casting of course was a mixture of luck, fate and genius – Caine perfect as Charlie Croker the likely lad, Benny Hill as the groping computer boffin, the suave yet deadly Raf Vallone as the Turin Mafia boss and Tony Beckley as the dandily dressed Camp Freddy. But the biggest coup of all was Noel Coward as Mr. Bridger - the master-criminal doing time in her Majesty’s prison service. He has tea and scones, worries about the British economy and has his cell plastered with pictures of the Queen. Coward is just priceless as he lords about the decking of the prison block, “Rule Britannia” played behind him by a string quartet – it’s enough to make you howl with laughter…

You see you forget how funny The Italian Job is – the catty gay tailor saying Charlie's pre-prison clothes could now be part of a museum exhibit, Coward standing beside two prison guards as they hand him his two newspapers and a toilet roll. Prison Governor John Le Mesurier’s look of astonishment as Coward complains that ‘his’ toilet has been invaded by Michael Caine (pitching the heist to him) – a man’s toilet is his castle… The snooty garage manager played beautifully by John Clive counting the money Michael Caine has just given him for looking after his Aston Martin DB – it’s been in his garage for two years while Caine was away in ‘India’. “I was shooting tigers old boy…” Garage owner counting the fifties, ” …there must have been an awful lot of tigers sir…”

The Turin locations are wonderfully colourful, the mountain scenes as crisp as those in the James Bond reissues and Caine’s freckles clearer than ever - all of it - what a peach!

I’ve reviewed a lot of oldies on the new BLU RAY format of late – some successful, some woeful – but this is up there with the very best. In fact, as a man who adores the medium and believes in its possibilities, I suspect it’ll tickle Michael Caine pink that his films “Zulu” and “The Italian Job” are both going a long way towards establishing BLU RAY as 'the' format to restore old movies to and preserve them properly. Onwards to David Lean boys…

As you can tell – and if you’ll forgive the pun – I was blown away.

Loved it, loved it, loved it. Recommended - big time.

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