The Italian Job (1969)

Cars play such an important part in this fast-paced international caper that composer Quincy Jones, who appears at this screening, created a separate theme for the three Mini Coopers that dominate the thrilling getaway through the streets of Turin. Michael Caine stars as a high-living criminal out to pilfer $4 million in Mafia gold. He quickly assembles a crack team (including computer whiz Benny Hill and criminal kingpin Noel Coward) to create the biggest traffic jam in Italian history so his gang can spirit the bullion out of Turin. The chase that follows is one of the greatest in film history, with one roof-to-roof leap so perilous some of the stunt crew quit rather than risk it. Although the film failed at the U.S. box office, partly because of a poorly planned ad campaign, it was a huge hit overseas, particularly in England. There the iconic image of the red, white and blue Minis, the colors of the British flag, racing over rooftops and even through the sewer system, is viewed as a tribute to the national spirit.

Dir. Peter Collinson

In attendance: Quincy Jones