Michael Caine brings his trademark Cockney charm to this landmark in Euro-sceptic entertainment. Loaded with gags, girls, cars and gold its depiction of plucky Brits making off with Italian loot is fast, funny and always worth revisiting.
Assembling a motley gang of low rent losers Charlie Croker (Caine) heads out to Turin where, through an audacious piece of traffic management, the lads rob an armoured car and get away with £4 million in bullion - or do they?
It's a film that evokes a sort of fantasy England where amateur heroes succeed against Johnny Foreigner, but it's not afraid to send itself up. Noel Coward's Mr Bridger, the operation's prison-bound backer is obsessed with the Queen and his bowels. ("You've interrupted my rhythm," he tells Caine when he's disturbed at stool.) Benny Hill's Professor Peach is a schoolboy lech, forever pressing himself up against fat lady's bottoms, while Caine himself is a comedy entrepreneur buoyed up by sixties optimism.
Director Peter Collinson drives the film on by cutting swiftly to the chase and the stunt scenes are still spectacular. An icon of British design when the film was made, the Minis are presented as characters in their own right and the driving is as carefully choreographed as ballet. The famous cliff hanger conclusion was left deliberately open to allow for the possibility of a sequel but it makes for an agreeably odd close. This would be Collinson's only real hit and he died 11 years later aged just 41. He's as much traffic warden as director here, but that a film so of its time should have aged so well is a tribute to that famous last line: "Hang on lads. I've got a great idea."