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“Hang on lads…” LFF checks out the ultimate The Italian Job book

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Fifty years after cinema-goers first saw Michael Caine and his crew stage a daring getaway in three red, white and blue Mini Coopers, author Matthew Field drops The Self Preservation Society: 50 Years Of The Italian Job. An absolutely stunning and lavishly illustrated book that is released on the 1st of July 2019 to celebrate the cult classic film’s golden anniversary.

Based on more than 50 in-depth interviews with the cast and crew, and beautifully illustrated with hundreds of never-before-seen photographs and production documents from the filmmakers’ private collections, this new book takes a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at how the British classic made its way to the big screen.

In 2017, The Italian Job was voted the greatest British film ever made and in his concise foreword, star Michael Caine puts his finger on why: “People often ask me why it has endured. The Italian Job is a snapshot of that time – the 1960s – and perfectly encapsulated the decade: the cars, the fashion, the fun and the optimistic attitude that was in the air.”

From there, The Self Preservation Society thoroughly examines absolutely every aspect of the film and its creation and its legacy in pain-staking and beautiful detail. A weighty and shiny hardback, the book feels luxurious and exhaustive. Field sucks you into the chronological creation of the film, and tells its story with excerpts from everyone involved at every stage, amid profiles of all the players and pristine images ranging from headshots to studio letterheads, to behind-the-scenes and beyond.

It is pure joy to read and page after page is presented full of pictures you had never seen before and details about things you never even thought to ask about. Example: one page will leave you poring over a handwritten receipt for on-location vehicle hire, before you flip to a section on every actor, and then on to in-depth examinations of all the vehicles and all the clothes, amongst MORE interviews and MORE vintage paperwork like call sheets and Paramount’s purchase orders for all of the Minis.

AND THEN THE MINIS AND THE STUNTS. It honestly just gets better and better and more exciting as you go on. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops though. A nasty accident is not shied away from near the beginning of this bit, letting you know that from now on when the stunt drivers are discussing the dangers in all the action sequences you know it’s not hype – so when you get to the film’s audacious rooftop jump your heart is in your mouth as much as theirs were in ‘69.

There’s also a nice chunk on the film’s iconic soundtrack and all the promotional materials, which was some more of my favourite stuff. I’ve seen a lot of different Italian Job posters, but there were lots that were new to me, and some cracking little things like a Radio Times cover with The Italian Job on the cover as “The Big Film on Sunday”.

The party doesn’t end with the film’s release though. There is then plenty on the films it has influenced over the years, and even the 2013 remake that starred my mans Jason Statham. There’s behind the scenes pics for this one too, as well as tickets from the premiere and a little nugget about how Michael Caine very nearly set to appear in it in the Mr. Bridger role.

The author, Matthew Field, wrote his first book on The Italian Job when he was 18 after becoming obsessed with the film after watching it aged five. Matthew had always resolved to write another, more in-depth book on his favourite film and now, to coincide with the 50th anniversary, he has produced a sumptuous, essential and absolute volume, and the final chapter shows the level of his affection and dedication to the movie.

The Self Preservation Society is an eye and imagination-catching tome that you will be constantly drawn to flick through and delve into. Full to bursting with info, interviews and photos, you will just keep finding something new and wonderful whenever you pick it up – there’s even a cool little easter egg at the very end that maps out the getaway across Turin so you can recreate it next time you’re on a city break.

Out now, The Self Preservation Society is a loving and gorgeous document of one of the best British films ever made that will blow your coffee table’s bleeding doors off.

The book costs £45 and is available from Porterpress.co.uk

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