Caught red-handed for a crime he swears he didn't commit, the hopeful criminal mastermind and--for now--small-time thief, Cosimo, entrusts the square-jawed boxer, Peppe, with the plan for a seemingly fail-proof pawnshop heist on the quiet Madonna Street. However, as the news of this lucrative job spreads like wildfire, instead, it's Cosimo's band of maladroit petty criminals--including a destitute photographer with fatherly obligations--who will take action for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But, will things work as planned?Written by
This movie turned actress Claudia Cardinale into a major star of Italian cinema. During the production she was twenty-years-old and secretly pregnant with her first child. See more »
The thieves should know enough to wear gloves to hide their fingerprints. However, the main comedic beat of the movie is how the band is composed of incompetent thieves who are way over their heads, except for veteran Dante Cruciani who doesn't take part in the actual robbery. See more »
Stealing is a serious profession. You need serious people, not people like you. All you can do at your best is work.
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Tall, handsome Vittorio Gassman stars as Peppe, the womanizing glass-jawed palooka who, along with several keystone criminals, stumblebum their way to...not much. Also featured in this comedy by Italian film legend Mario Monicelli are Marcello Mastroianni and Claudia Cardinale, who would go on to fame and fortune, but here have only modest parts. Mastroianni, who would later star in La Dolce Vita (1960), Il Bell'Antonio (1960), Divorzio all'italiana (1961) and many others, plays Tiberio a photographer without a camera, whose wife is in jail, who has a constantly crying baby to take care of with one of his arms up in a sling with a board under it. Cardinale, who would go on to become one of Italy's most famous beauty bombshells, plays Carmelina, a young woman locked up by her brother in order to protect her honor until she marries.
Also featured are Carla Gravina (Nicoletta), a very pretty 17-year-old who went on to only a modest career, and the veteran Toto who plays the incompetent safecracker, Dante Cruciani. Notable is Renato Salvatori as Mario who wins Carmelina's heart, Memmo Carotenuto as Cosimo who fails at purse-snatching, and Carlo Pisacane as Capannelle who looks like an aged member of the Bowery Boys.
The story begins when Cosimo is caught trying to steal a car. In prison he learns of a nice sting that he can pull off if only he can get out of jail. So he tries to hire a scapegoat to confess to the crime so he can be freed. Finally Peppe, after getting knocked out in the first round of a prize fight, decides he needs the money. However when he goes to confess, the police see through the ruse and throw him in jail without releasing Cosimo. But Peppe does get out, and he and the motley assortment of would-be jewel thieves plot their crime amid hilarious missteps, pratfalls and mass confusion as they break into an apartment that they have the keys for to knock down a wall (which wall?) to gain access to a safe they probably can't crack. Will they succeed despite all the mishaps? There is a sense of both recovery and poverty in post World War II Italy in the backdrops and the asides and the circumstances of the characters that lend to this comedy a realistic edge. We see the petty thievery as an understandable and almost acceptable way of life, at least for the time being. Mario always buys or steals three identical things for his "mother" who turns out to be three women who raised him at the orphanage. Tiberio has to sell his camera and then steal one. Skinny Capannelle is always eating. And in the jail several men share one cigarette while they blow the smoke into a bottle to capture it so that others might get a little nicotine as well! (Sure, and I have some gum I can recycle.) The Criterion Collection DVD that I viewed has excellent yellow subtitles, but some of the lines come so fast and with such comedic as well as denotative intent that it is easy to miss something. Knowing Italian would help! See this for all the "bumbling criminal" movies that it both imitated and inspired, and for the fine work by the talented cast.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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