The Italian Job passes the 40th Anniversary quality test with what, I hope, most will regard as flying colours. Presented in 1080p High Definition in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.35:1, I personally found it to be a rather impressive, quality transfer for such an old movie. Detail is pretty damn good, better on the close-ups but even the longer Italian vistas stand up to scrutiny. It’s not to say that there isn’t a twinge of softness, but nothing to really quibble about. Now here’s where the issue lies however – purists are obviously a bit disappointed because, in order to get the picture to look this good, there appears to be a certain amount of DNR work done. Some have stated that it ruins both the grain structure and the appearance of the characters, suggesting that it gives them the same plastic look that has been complained about ever since the terrible Predator remaster. Honestly, The Italian Job isn’t that bad at all. Sure, it doesn’t have the amount of grain that you would expect but, conversely, it also doesn’t have any signs – in my opinion – of an overly plastic-like look. I think it’s hard to balance between retaining perfect grain structure, having too much noise, and having a plastic-like look with no grain, and that this transfer just about falls on the right side of this balance, succeeding in providing detail and a smidge grain, without too many overt, annoying side-effects. The colour scheme is expectedly a little faded and dated, but they have made it look as authentic and rich as they can, and it shows off in some scenes more than others. Black levels are decent enough, and there’s even some depth to the image. Personally I think that this is a significant step up from SD-DVD and worth the upgrade. It's just shy of an 8/10, and certainly not the Predator-like disappointment that many fans have been wary of.
On the aural front we get several different language options, but the two key native English-language flavours are the original mono track – restored for this High Definition release – or a reworked Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. It’s got to be down to personal preference which one you choose – purists will love the original soundtrack, those who like their surround-sound action (irrespective of the age of the movie) will love the addition of the 5.1 track which, whilst not even comparable to the latest Hollywood fare presented in the same format, still does remarkably well with material which was previously fairly limited in terms of aural scope. Assessing the six-speaker track (because you surely know exactly what to expect from the mono offering) we get clear and coherent dialogue throughout, largely coming from across the frontal array; effects, whilst none too common, create a tangible atmosphere for the movie, and the more exciting, action-orientated moments (i.e. the last half-hour) even boasts some surround separation which will probably pleasantly surprise home audience members. Bass is pretty non-existent, but the fun song tracks – the highlight of which has surely got to be the self-preservation society theme, complete with Michael Caine vocals! – remain a noteworthy aspect of the mix, again pretty-much summing up the movie’s sentiment. I can’t imagine The Italian Job has ever sounded better so, whilst this isn’t a standout track when compared to most modern fare released on Blu-ray (or even the best remastered classics out there – i.e. Apocalypse Now) – it is still more than enough to keep you happy, and entice you to upgrade.
For its 40th Anniversary, The Italian Job hit Blu-ray with a hefty selection of extras, most of which have previously adorned earlier releases. Noteworthy components include the two comprehensive commentaries and the feature-length making-of documentary, which is presented in HD, and the extras are largely bolstered by the participation of author Matthew Field, who wrote the book “The Making of The Italian Job” and clearly knows his stuff when it comes to this movie.
First up we get a commentary by author Matthew Field and screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin. It’s clear from the outset that this is very much an interviewer-interviewee style affair, only with a difference, as Field probes the co-screenwriter with questions that clearly display plenty of inside knowledge themselves. Field unquestionably knows a great deal about the production, and it’s nice because the commentary feels much more like a retrospective discussion between two experts on the film, rather than just a piecemeal scene-specific offering.
The second commentary is with Matthew Field again, this time paired up with producer Michael Deeley. Again he elicits some wonderful trivia and titbits from his co-commentator, knowing just the right questions to ask, and just what the producer has to offer, and the end result is another wonderful listen.
Self-Preservation Society: Making the Italian Job runs at a whopping, feature-length 90 minutes and is presented in HD. It’s a comprehensive offering which is only diluted somewhat by the fact that much of the information that is on offer has previously been discussed in one or both of the commentaries. Still, we get retrospective participation from a broader selection of the original filmmakers, including Caine itself, and many of the film’s fans will actually prefer this to the commentaries because of that fact, as well as the fact that it provides visual as well as aural background information.
Mini Adventures also comes in HD, a 17-minute companion-piece which looks specifically at the inventive, exciting driving stunts, as choreographed by Remy Julienne (who also did a half-dozen Bond movie stunt sequences).
We get two minutes of deleted footage, with optional commentary from author Matthew Field.
Finally we get a selection of trailers, both old and new (for the re-release), as well as a music video.
Depending what age, sex and nationality you are, the quintessentially British 60s heist caper The Italian Job is either massively overrated or unquestionably iconic. I can see the value in both arguments, as the film is, technically, quite flimsy - in terms of script and performances - and meanders through a very lightweight plot to get to what it an undeniably standout closing car chase. Bolstered by the charm of Michael Caine, peppered with some of the most memorable, oft-quoted lines in British film history, and brimming with all the trademarks of the glam, camp, swinging sixties, yes, the film is not great, but it is fabulous.
On Region Free UK Blu-ray we get video that may frustrate purists - it looks very good for its age, but leaves the grain structure far from intact - and a couple of key audio options which should please both those who prefer their 40 year old classics to be presented in their original mono, and those who are perfectly happy to have a fairly decent remix. There's a wealth of comprehensive, quality extras, including everything from the previous SD-DVD special edition, and fans should consider this a quality upgrade, especially considering its now-bargain price. Lightweight saturday afternoon fare it may be, but bloody good fun it is nonetheless.
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