Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5
Original title: I Soliti Ignoti
Alternate title: The Usual Unidentified Thieves
Italy, 1958. Cinecittà, Lux Film, Vides Cinematografica. Story by Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli, Screenplay by Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli, Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Mario Monicelli, based on the short story Furto In Una Pasticceria by Italo Calvino. Cinematography by Gianni Di Venanzo. Produced by Franco Cristaldi. Music by Piero Umiliani. Production Design by Piero Gherardi. Costume Design by Piero Gherardi. Film Editing by Adriana Novelli.
Highly influential, wonderfully funny heist film that’s sort of the goofy cousin of Dassin’s Rififi. After taking the fall for a fellow thief and ending up in jail with him instead of for him, Vittorio Gassman tricks his cellmate into giving him a lead on a good robbery.
The job turns out to be breaking into the apartment of two old ladies and finding their hidden jewel safe, and the accomplishing of the task involves gathering a group of equally inept robbers (including a pre-Dolce Vita Marcello Mastroianni) whose personal problems are almost as complicated as the details of the heist itself: one has to take care of his infant son while his wife does time for selling stolen cigarettes, another is highly protective of his virginal sister (a sweet young Claudia Cardinale), and the third is hot for the sister, while Gassman has to romance the maid who works in the apartment in order to make sure she’s out of the house when they pull off the robbery.
Delightful performances, a polished script and some hysterical twists of fate make for one of the best that the genre ever had to offer.
The Criterion Collection: #113
Academy Award Nomination: Best Foreign Language Film