AMC's Breaking Bad had a cliffhanger keeping us in suspense for almost a year. Luckily tonight, the waiting ends and we'll continue down the dark path of Walter White. So in honor of my favorite show on television, I present a movie with a cliffhanger (although more comedic) on par with Breaking Bad: The Italian Job.
Directed by Peter Collinson in 1969, The Italian Job is your typical heist movie in which a band of British merry men plan to steal pallets of gold from the Italian Government. It's a complex job that requires the heist team to disable the city's computer traffic control system so they can take advantage of the chaotic streets. Once they manage to steal the gold, the team quickly transfers the pallets into Mini Coopers so they can easily manipulate through the Italian city of Turin. With the police and the Mafia on the crew's tails, will the team be able to get away with the gold?
The heist team is led by Charlie Croker, played by the suave Michael Caine. When I think of Caine, I think of Alfred, Batman's butler or that crazy hippy guy from Children of Men. Although the humor aspect is epitomized, Caine also played Nigel Powers, a definite homage to Croker, a witty man loved by the ladies, yet heavily respected by his crew.
Each member of Croker's crew is essential in completing the job. Of all the members, the most beautiful is Lorna (played by Maggie Blye), the only American member at his side (or I at least assume since she has a Texan accent). He is funded by Mr. Bridger (played by Noël Coward), the prison warden purchasing the team's resources and equipment (Croker had to break into jail to get Bridger to sign on). And finally, the man responsible for scrambling the traffic control system is Professor Simon Peach (played by Benny Hill), a comedic and strange fellow who has a fetish for fat women.
So now you ask, how does the Italian Job come full circle with the ultimate cliffhanger? After watching Mini Coopers drive through Turin's off-terrain passages and bumpy stair paths (entertaining scenes I cannot describe but need to be watched), they load the gold onto a stripped-out bus. As the bus leaves the city streets, they maneuver through the twisting and mountainous roads of the countryside. They're almost free when the driver tragically takes too sharp of a turn and sends the bus teeter-tottering off the edge of a cliff. As the group of men cautiously shift all their weight to the front of the bus, they fearfully watch the mountain valley peering through the rear window. With the catchy lyrics of "Getta Bloomin' Move On" (aka "The Self Preservation Society") queued and ready for the ending credits, Croker concludes the film with these final words: "Hang on a minute, lads, I've got a great idea!"
Nevertheless, The Italian Job is an entertaining caper with some awesome car chase sequences. Although I'll never know the fate of Michael Caine's crew in their literal "cliffhanger," at least by the end of tonight, I'll get some catharsis on how Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul get out the mess they were left in last year.
So on Death List Five, The Italian Job (1969) ranks #4.