Sun, Jan 25, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Briton solves cliffhanger of 1969 film ‘The Italian Job’


Some of the Britain’s brightest minds have resolved one of the country’s biggest cinematic cliffhangers: How the robbers could have got away with the gold at the end of The Italian Job.

The 1969 film ends with the robbers’ bus teetering over the edge of an Alpine road, with their loot — and their lives — in doubt.

On Friday the Royal Society of Chemistry offered fans a little closure, announcing the winner of a competition to find a scientific solution to their predicament.

“Like many people, I watched the film from when I was a young boy,” said John Godwin, the winner. “It’s one of those classic British films, with great actors — Michael Caine, Noel Coward, Benny Hill — and a great car chase, and at the end of the day they’ve done all the hard work and it seemed a waste to leave them hanging on that mountainside.”

The Italian Job follows Charlie Croker, played by Caine, as he assembles a team of crooks to steal a stash of gold in Turin, Italy. The ensuing car chase, which cuts across the rooftop test track of Fiat’s Lingotto building and down the steps of the Gran Madre di Dio church, ranks among the most gripping in movie history.

But things end badly when the gang’s getaway bus slides halfway off a mountain road on its way to Switzerland. The bus seesaws precariously, with the men gathered at the front and the gold weighing down the back, which is hanging over the cliff. A wrong move could send the bus tumbling into the chasm below, but Croker says: “Hang on a minute lads — I’ve got a great idea.” Then the credits roll.

Royal Society of Chemistry chief executive Richard Pike said the competition was aimed at “promoting science and chemistry to a wider audience in an entertaining way,” adding that some 2,000 people had tried their hand at extricating Croker’s gang.

Godwin said his fix took him an afternoon to work out: Break the windows at the back to reduce weight. Then break two windows at the front, hold one man upside down out of the window to deflate the front tires and stabilize the vehicle. Drain the fuel tank through an access panel at the bottom of the bus. The gang leaves one by one from the front, collecting stones to replace their weight. Then keep adding stones until someone can safely go to the rear to retrieve the gold.

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