Friday, 11 June 2010

Seven Golden Men (1965)

Seven Golden Men (Sette uomini d'oro) is an insanely entertaining 1965 Italian crime caper movie. It deserves to be regarded as one of the all-time classic heist movies.

The Professor is the diabolical criminal mastermind behind a plan to steal seven tons of gold from a Swiss bank. Only he’s not really diabolical at all, he’s quite a nice guy. He just likes robbing banks. It’s a harmless hobby.

He has a few odd little obsessions. Particularly with the number seven, which is why he wants to steal seven tons of gold, using a team of seven expert thieves. And the entire team comprises men whose names start with the letter A.

The entire movie consists of the robbery and its aftermath. There’s no build-up, no time spent on the planning of the operation, no back story. The movie doesn’t need any of that. It cuts straight to the chase, which gives it a punchiness and economy sadly lacking in so many modern thrillers. And the heist is one of the most elaborate, most ingenious and wittiest ever put on film. It provides more evidence that to do this sort of thing successfully you don’t need big budgets, expensive special effects or CGI. What you need is visual imagination and style, and director Marco Vicario has that in spades.

You also need pacing. And again Vicario has things under control. There are no dull moments in this film.

Of course you know there will be plot twists, and this one has all the expected plot twists. But then it adds even more plot twists and pulls off some genuinely unexpected ones.

It’s all done in a light-hearted fun way. This is not a movie to be taken seriously, and it never takes itself seriously, even though the robbery scenes compare very favourably indeed to any movie in the classic heist-movie mould. This is a good-natured romp, and these thieves are likeable and engaging.

There’s a mix of action and humour, some great visual gags, and some superb set-pieces. This being 1965 there’s no sex or nudity. This is a movie totally lacking in sleaze, or in graphic violence either for that matter. But of course there has to be a beautiful female mixed up in such a robbery somewhere, and Rossana Podestà fulfils that role admirably as The Professor’s girlfriend Giorgia. She has to rely on old-fashioned glamour and sexiness but she has these qualities in abundance, as well as charm and a nice line in high-class wickedness.

Philippe Leroy is a delightful master criminal, underplaying his role but clearly having a great time. The whole supporting cast is excellent and it’s difficult to single out any particular performance.

There are cool gadgets, there are scuba divers, there are charmingly odd 1960s cars, lots of wonderful 1960s fashions and fashion accessories (Giorgia wears some of the most outrageous eyewear you’ll ever encounter) and there’s lots of glamour. Everything you ant in a 60s movie in other words. These people are the cream of the crop when it comes to international crime, all strictly high-class. This is crime as practised by the very best people.

The soundtrack is bizarre but that just adds to the enjoyment.

This is a movie that captures the spirit of the 60s before the hippies took over. It’s all style, and it’s all fun. Very definitely an overlooked classic.


Ninja Dixon said...

Okey, I NEED this movie after this review :) It looks like you have screenshots from a dvd, where is it released?

dfordoom said...

Unfortunately it's only available on grey market DVDs. Although the one I saw was superb quality, so prints of sufficient quality certainly exist to allow for a proper commercial DVD release.

There was a sequel as well.

The Vicar of VHS said...

One question: who is this Rossana Podestà and why have I not seen her before? She is STUNNING. Rowr, I say to you--and again I say "ROWR."

Like Ninja Dixon, I think I might need to see this one. For purely academic purposes, of course. ;)

dfordoom said...

Vicar, Rossana Podestà is in The Virgin of Nuremberg (La vergine di Norimberga), a rather good 1963 gothic horror flick helmed by Antonio Margheriti. It's available on DVD and it's worth picking up.

I think Margheriti's gothic horror movies are very underrated.