Magazines in the movies: The Italian Job

The tale of a daring robbery in Turin – ‘The Great Drains Robbery’ – that graced the front page of this copy of Tit-Bits involved the thieves gaining access through the city’s drains. It sounds like the plot of the 1969 film The Italian Job, but the real robbery took place 13 years earlier, in 1956. And it’s a frogman who travels through the drains, rather than souped-up Minis.

Troy Kennedy Martin would have been 24 when that copy of Tit-Bits came out. I wonder if he read it, liked the idea and tucked it in a drawer for later inspiration? His first credit listed at IMDB is two years later, for the 1958 TV movie Incident at Echo Six.

The Italian Job came out in 1969, with the Minis symbolising the go-getting Britain of the Swinging Sixties and Michael Caine in the lead role. It’s a caper movie – which coins the classic quote, ‘You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!’ – and centres on an ingenious plan to steal gold being transported across Turin and then escape in three Mini Coopers by creating a massive traffic jam. As part of the escape, the Minis drive through the city’s underground storm drains to avoid the gridlock.

It’s difficult to imagine Benny Hill and Noël Coward in the same film but they are both in The Italian Job. As for walk-on parts by newspapers and magazines, Mr Bridger, the criminal underworld supremo played by Coward is seen reading newspapers – the Daily Express and the London Evening News – in his luxury prison cell, the walls of which are covered in photographs of the Queen. He is also given copies of the Financial Times and Daily Telegraph to read in the toilet. Later, in the prison governor’s office, there are three chromolithographs on the wall from the Victorian-era Vanity Fair magazine.

Finally, Bridger is given a copy of the Illustrated London News, ‘because there’s a picture of the Queen in it’.

And there’s a surprising bit part for Private Eye – a poster for the satirical fortnightly is on the wall of the flat Caine’s character goes to after he is released.

Kennedy Martin would later write for TV series such as Colditz, Z Cars, The Sweeney and Reilly: Ace of Spies. He crafted the superb Edge of Darkness in 1985 (not to be confused with the weak US remake of 2010).

One Response to “Magazines in the movies: The Italian Job”

  1. Private Eye’s ‘naked bunny’ in the movies | Magforum blog Says:

    […] a recent ‘magazines in the movies’ post, I listed the many walk-on parts for magazines in the 1969 film The Italian Job and mentioned a Private Eye poster. The poster is on the wall next to a photographic montage of Bob […]

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