Miscellaneous Ramblings

How Should 'The Italian Job' Have Ended?

Charles Moore - 2009.01.22 - Tip Jar

The 1969 flick The Italian Job, directed by Peter Collinson and starring Michael Caine, Noel Coward, and Benny Hill (as a proto-computer nerd/geek) quickly became something of a cult movie among car freaks, despite the fact that the carnage wreaked on an awful lot of delectable British and Italian exotic iron was enough to bring tears to your eyes, including an iconic Lamborghini Miura, an Aston Martin DB4 convertible, and two Jaguar E-Types that get trashed in the very first scene.

Poster for The Italian JobAutomobile enthusiasm aside, The Italian Job was also a great comic caper movie about a plan to steal a gold shipment from the streets of Turin, Italy, with the three getaway British BMC Mk1 Austin Mini Cooper S's that are the four-wheeled stars of the film, carrying the gold being driven through the city's subterranean shopping arcades, over rooftops and staircases, in sewers, and outrunning a gaggle of Alfa Romeo Giulia police cars that are handily outdriven by the Minis in a manner anticipating the Dukes of Hazzard's many escapes from Sheriff Roscoe P. Coletrane in their General Lee by some 20-odd years, even including a Dukes-esque roof-jump filmed on the rooftop test track of the Fiat Lingotto factory building in Turin (Highbeam Research reports that in a survey of more than 3,000 people at cinema website pearlanddean.com, The Italian Job was named as having the best movie car chase of all time with a massive 25% of the vote).

Also notable was TIJ's music soundtrack composed by Quincy Jones. In 2004, Total Film magazine named The Italian Job the 27th greatest British film of all time, and I would say that's not really giving it its due.

Great stuff! Loved it when I first saw it in '69. I was tickled that the model of automobile I was driving at the time, a BMC Austin Cambridge (and therefore fraternal cousin to the heroic Minis), made a cameo appearance with one falling off the upper deck of an auto transporter in a chaotic Turin traffic jam. The (loosely based) remake set in Los Angeles with Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, and Donald Sutherland in 2003 was lame by comparison.

Yes, There Is a Computer

"What relevance does this have to computers or IT topics?" you might ask.

Well among other things, The Italian Job was one of the very first movies in which computer technology, and more specifically computer hacking, figured prominently in the plot. Charlie Croker (Caine) and his crew conspire to cause an über traffic-jam by hacking the mainframe computers running the city's traffic control system, creating a diversion that facilitates their Mini-borne getaway with the gold.

The Italian Job ended with a spectacular literal cliffhanger. The gang make their getaway from Turin in a 6-wheeled Harrington Legionnaire bodied Bedford coach (the bus actually used to transport the film crew), first driving the gold-laden Minis one by one up a ramp at the back while the bus travels at speed along the Autostrada, then casting them adrift. As they celebrate while speeding through winding hairpin turns in the Alps on the way to Switzerland, driver error sends the back end of the bus off the road, leaving it teetering on the edge of the cliff with the gold slipping towards the rear doors. As Charlie Croker attempts to reach the gold, it slips further. Croker's last line (and the film's) is, "Hang on a minute lads, I've got a great idea! Err...," (see a photo of the scene in How Should The Italian Job Really End?) reportedly as the setup to a sequel that was never made, alas (although a sequel to the 2003 version is reportedly being floated).

Now Sir Michael Caine revealed in an interview that the original ending would've had Croker

"In the coach, I 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. There are a load of Corsican Mafia at the bottom watching the whole thing with binoculars. They grab the gold, and then the sequel is us chasing it."

How Should It End?

Last year the Royal Society of Chemistry announced a competition for members of the public to propose solutions to how The Italian Job's cliffhanger ending could be solved consistent with a plausible basis in science, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Periodic Table of Elements by the Russian chemistry professor Dmitri Mendeleyev, of which gold (Au) is number 79 of the 117 elements. The Royal Society of Chemistry will announce the winner on Friday from among a short list of finalists.

And if you've never seen the real 1969 version of The Italian Job, like cars, or just enjoy a good caper film, you really must put it on your movie rental short list.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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