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The Italian Job is a classic film. It’s cheap, cheerful and filled with icons of the sixties: Minis, music, and Michael Caine. It also stars Caine’s famous “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” line.

In the sprit of the 60s, Caine’s girlfriend throws him a party (and more girls) when he’s let out of prison, but the Mafia throw expensive vehicles off mountain roads. The robbery involves some great car chase scenes, football (soccer) gets more than a passing mention, and the heist is seen as more of a source of national pride than theft. The whole movie portrays the British criminal as a likable scallywag (as they would say).

Only its not true.

Organized crime wasn’t filled with likable scallywags (they were a bunch of ruthless hard nuts), crime isn’t a source of national pride and most importantly they didn’t throw expensive cars down the Italian mountainsides. Which is a bit of relief if you like Lambos, Astons and Jags.

Take the opening. The Lamborghini Miura seen driving through a snowy mountain pass, sweeping through bends and generally looking glorious, isn’t the one that runs into the Mafia’s JCB in the tunnel. In fact, nothing ran into the digger. The car dragged out by the JCB was an already written off vehicle. They digger just carried it out of the tunnel pushed it over the edge of the road. Scratch one Miura, or not if you get my drift.

Then there’s the scene when Caine gets to Italy. His team they are stopped by the Mafia on a similar mountain road to the Miura crash. The JCB makes a second appearance. It crushes a couple of E-type Jags, but really it only scratched up their roofs and they were restored. The worst thing (car abuse-wsie) is that it appears to throw Michael Caine’s Aston Martin DB4 over the edge. Owww, a DB4. But fear not car lovers, the producers weren’t that rich or heartless. The car thrown over the edge was a Lancia Flaminia mocked up to look like the Aston. Phew.

And if you’re upset about the Lancia, don’t be. It was a Lancia, it would have been a pile of rust in a couple of years.

The heist involves Minis screaming around Turin. In true wave-the-flag tradition they’re always in the same red, white and blue order (I’m sure Her Majesty was amused). There’s not a lot of mocking up in these sections. Racing through the alleyways and passed shops was all choreographed and filmed with cars and drivers. No special effects or fakes here.

There’s the race through the sewer pipe with the cars rocking up and down the sides – such a vividly memorable images that Yorkshire Water recreated the stunt with new style Minis to mark the opening of a new sewer pipe.

Sure, they wrote off quite a few Minis doing all the stunts, but to me that’s isn’t a waste. Not that I’m biased against Mini’s, I’ve had three, I love them, but crashing a car doing what it’s supposed to be doing (driving flat out in this case) isn’t a waste to me.

These days they’d spend a million dollars on special effects and film the whole thing inside a disused warehouse. They did something like that when the re-made the movie in 2003 – the warehouse in question being the one used to assemble the first space shuttle. It wasn’t a bad film, but it didn’t come close to capturing the atmosphere the first one created.

So, the Italian Job, a great film and no real cars wasted. But not all films are so sympathetic to the automotive art. Have you cringed watching a great car being trashed for the sake of a scene? What film was it? Or do you rationalize it all in the name of art?


PS Oh yes, there was just one more lie the producers told us. In a movie full of action, glorious cars, brilliant driving stunts, the lead actor, Michael Caine, couldn’t drive!

(images courtesy of Wikipedia)

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