Customer Reviews: Big Deal on Madonna Street (The Criterion Collection)
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on October 30, 2002
I Soliti Ignoti- I absolutely love this movie. It is one great italian comedy with a brilliant cast at its best in portraying the simplistic and realistic roles of petty criminals. Because of the nature of the characters and their ridiculous behaviour in the proceedings of their scheme to rob a pawnshop, the viewers won't be able to refrain from laughter and enjoy this gang's hopeless adventure. For anyone who loves this movie as much as I do, I recommend to see its sequel made a year later by Nanni Loy: "Audace Colpo dei Soliti Ignoti", with only the absence of Mastroianni but the addition of Nino Manfredi- Sure it's not as great as the first, but having liked these characters so much it is natural that one would want to see them back in action with yet another "scientifically" schemed project along with all their mishaps as usual...and of course, a little more of the unfolding romance of the couple portrayed by Claudia Cardinale and Renato Salvatori. Unfortunately this movie will be hard to find, and it is without subtitles. (Do not confuse this with a third sequel made 20 yrs later which, by the way, I do not recommend at all.) For anyone who hasn't seen Big Deal On Madonna St, please do see it.
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on August 26, 2002
This Italian parody of Jules Dassin's *Rififi* turns out to be, after all is said and done, a better movie. Interestingly, it finally seems more original than Dassin's crime movie, despite its obvious mocking of Italian Neo-Realist pretensions AND the hard-bitten *Rififi* (itself a derivation of 1940's American film noirs). *Big Deal on Madonna Street* basically justifies director Mario Monicelli's career . . . at least in my eyes, for I've never much cared for most of his movies. His films have a very narrow interest, meaning, you really have to be Italian to "get" them. In *Big Deal*, Monicelli goes for something more universal with this spoof of the massively infuential French noir, and attains sundry brilliancies. Firstly, the characters are unforgettably individualized, with tics and situations that often turn the gangster archetype on its head. Marcello Mastroianni, for instance, is babysitting his infant while his WIFE serves a short term in jail for smuggling! And somehow the director manages to mock the post-War Italian cinema's unblinking view (a view which was monotonously repeated, starting with Rosselini's *Open City*) of the desperate plight of the country's working-class while AT THE SAME TIME carrying on most poignantly that tradition. For a comedy, there's a heck of a lot of dirty jails, dirty streets, and dirty people. The notion of a grand robbery -- a one-time "big score" -- is natural on these streets. The overall tone is light, but the grim realities are not hidden. This is not a "hilarious" comedy . . . at least until we get to the Big Caper, which is a smorgasbord of comic ineptness. I won't ruin it by describing it; see it for yourself. By the way, this movie was itself re-made (more or less) twice: Louis Malle tried to Americanize it in his *Crackers* (don't bother), and Woody Allen lightly essayed it just recently with his *Small-time Crooks*. Having praised *Big Deal on Madonna Street*, I will add the caveat that a prior knowledge of *Rififi* and Italian Neo-Realist cinema will enhance your enjoyment of the film. [I'm sorry to report that Criterion's DVD is, simply put, substandard. No features but a trailer, and the subtitles are poorly done, flashing on and off the screen like subliminal messages. As this is a later release (#113, I think), there are no excuses for the shoddiness. It's fair to expect excellence from Criterion, particularly because their products are so expensive. Oh well.]
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on August 3, 2001
I'm glad Criterion released this film, otherwise I probably never would have heard of it. Yes, it's a great comedy, but the few more serious moments are a nice contrast, and not too corny. With the music and visual gags, I thought Woody Allen was going to appear any second (watch this for influences on "Small Time Crooks"). The reason I am giving it 4 stars is not for the movie itself, but because of the subtitles. I hate to get picky or get dark on Criterion, but sometimes the subtitles flash on the screen without nearly enough to time to read them, and that just isn't necessary in most cases. Most often there would be enough time to keep them on the screen longer before another one comes up. Maybe it's not so bad, it'll just make me watch the movie again and try to catch a few more funny lines next time...Very enjoyable film!
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VINE VOICEon May 4, 2002
This movie is a classic comedy burglar caper. A collection of small time hoods gather to rob a pawn shop. Along the way, everything that could go wrong does in pretty hilarious fashion.
As other reviewers have mentioned, Woody Allen's "Small Time Crooks" was clearly inspired by this film, so if you liked that one, you'll probably enjoy Madonna Street. I also agree with the problem with the subtitles flashing too quickly. All the more reason to try to get it on DVD - I found myself having to pause the frame just to read the subtitles. Despite this problem, this movie really is funny and enjoyable. Highly recommended.
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on November 27, 2003
One of the best comedies ever made. A bumbling, utterly inept group of crooks resolve upon a seemingly simple heist. They fail in spectacular fashion. The scene in which Toto demonstrates the different methods for cracking a safe is unforgettably hilarious. A tour de force of casting, including Toto, Mastroianni, Gassman and Claudia Cardinale in her first major role.
As a shocked Italian media reported, "Welcome to Collinwood" is nothing more than a remake of this remarkable film. As is so often the case, the original far surpasses the remake.
Strange facts
#1 The actors play characters from all over Italy, yet almost none of them gets to play a character with an accent from the actor's own part of the country!
#2 Can you guess which of the principal actors was, in fact, a barista in the bar where the director used to go for his coffee?
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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.
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on March 17, 2014
Mario Monicelli is regarded as undoubtedly one of the top half-dozen directors representing Italy's Golden Age of Post-War Cinema during the 1950's and 60's. This is an early caper film very much in the vein of "IL Bidone" where we follow the activities of an inept and bungling cadre of not very bright would-be thieves in their misguided attempt to rob a business on Madonna Street. The entire plot is played for humor with the outcome always in doubt, but a foregone conclusion. Monicelli deftly directs his ensemble cast of characters in an almost surrealistic atmospheric world of criminal losers, some of which are retired, (and should have stayed so.)
The caper is engrossing as it unfolds and the viewer really roots for the unlikely success of the perpetrators. One of the diverse group of supporting players is Marcello Mastroianni, in one of his better roles. The cast also includes Vittorio Gassman and Toto,
with a very young Claudia Cardinale appearing in an almost insignificantly small part. Big Deal is a fun watch and Criterion has
done a beautiful job in creating and releasing a pristine new digital transfer from the original film elements. The new subtitles are easy to read, even though they flash on the screen almost too fast for a speed reader. I recommend Big Deal because of the
enjoyment it offers and the film has withstood the test of time in the pantheon of classic Italian films.
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on August 20, 2000
Have you ever seen a cast of low lifes going through the motions of a great heist? Well, get your bandages out will need them to contain yourself. The sight gags alone will drive you crazy and thats only if you catch them all.
Mastroianna, Gassman et all are aboslutely hysterical. Marcello has to babysit while his wife is in jail...and check out who is always eating the baby food.
As deft as it gets..a one of a kind film.
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on January 6, 2004
I just saw this movie for the first time about a year ago. I must have watched it at least 100 times and every time is like the first time. The characters are so lovable it's impossible to not like this film. This movie could cheer up even the saddest person.
I reccomend it to anyone who appreciates a good comedy. I do so cause it's the best I've seen and I've seen em all.
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on April 25, 2005
This is a a GREAT FILM!

I've seen it countless times and every time it's just like the first time: I laugh my butt off!!!!!!!!

I love every character in in this film, in fact, I couldn't imagine this film without Mastroianni and Gassman, they are hilarious!!!!!!!
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