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Big Deal on Madonna Street/B,B

Italy/1960/English Subtitles/BW/Fullscreen 1.33:1/Mono/102 minutes/Directed by Mario Monicelli/Starring Vittorio Gassman, Renato Salvatori/Voyager/29 Chaps/CLV/$49.95

A lighthearted romp down the back streets of a small Italian city and a journey into the rich heritage of Italian neo-realism, Big Deal on Madonna Street does not fail to ignite laughs and synapses of memory. While the style is reminiscent of the raw images that distinguished Italian films after the Second World War, the content is flat out subversion of the serious nature of those films.

The charm of Big Deal on Madonna Street rests squarely on it’s characters shoulders and their ability to move forth with larceny in the face of consistent bumbling. The script does not fail to take some point blank shots at Italian bureaucracy while introducing it’s unlikely gang of criminals. The set-up is typical of the caper movie, introducing its characters in a series of vignettes, but it is done with swift and delightful execution by director Monicelli. Each character provides his own laughter parameters.

Vittorio Gassman is excellent as Peppe, the prize fighter with a roving eye and glass jaw. Gassman brings equal parts larceny and charm to his role. Carlo Pisacane is the very funny, rag-tag, Cappanelle, the butt of everyone else’s superiority. Marcello Mastroianni brings his charm to the supporting role of the baby-sitting photographer and Toto supplies some comic delight as a "professor" of safe cracking.

The source material for Big Deal on Madonna Street is in good condition, resulting in a transfer free of excessive scratches and dirt. The black and white images are consistently sharp in this full frame transfer. There are many night scenes in the film and they could have used a bit more punch, but shadow detail is fine. The mono sound is without hiss and the white shadow boxed subtitles are clear and easy enough to read.