Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958)

Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958)

“Are we going through with this job or not?”

A group of inept thieves — including a boxer (Vittorio Gassman), a ladies’ man (Renato Salvatori), a safecracker (Totò), a Sicilian (Tiberio Murga) who keeps his chaste sister (Claudia Cardinale) locked away, and a photographer (Marcello Mastroianni) caring for his young son — attempt to carry out a heist but find their plans continually foiled.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Claudia Cardinale Films
  • Ex-Cons
  • Heists
  • Italian Films
  • Marcello Mastroianni Films
  • Satires and Spoofs

This comedic caper flick by Italian director Mario Monicello — a spoof of Jules Dassin’s Rififi (1955) — shows exactly how many things can go wrong (and will) when a group of bumbling crooks attempt to pull off a heist they’re so clearly incapable of.

Running throughout the featherweight screenplay are two would-be romances. Salvatori is interested in Cardinale:

… while Gassman woos a beautiful young woman (Carla Gravina) working as a maid for the elderly women who live next door to the joint they want to break into.

Meanwhile, Mastroianni takes loving care of his squalling toddler, whose mom is in prison for smuggling cigarettes.

Do the bungling thieves get away with their heist? (Your first guess is probably the correct one.) I’m sure audiences at the time enjoyed this type of escapist fare, but it’s not must-see viewing for modern film fanatics — unless you happen to have a specific interest in Italian cinema.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Gianni de Venanzo’s atmospheric cinematography
  • Good use of neorealist sets

Must See?
No, though it’s worth checking out if you’re curious. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958)

  1. First viewing (1/2/20). Not must-see.

    A lightweight Italian heist comedy that historically has a larger reputation than it deserves. Possibly intended as a comedic response to Dassin’s ‘Rififi’, its potential as such never seems fully realized. The script feels as though it’s in a draft stage and its satirical slant on the basic Italian male types seems strained. (Nevertheless, it may still have served as inspiration for Neil Simon when he was writing his rich Italian spoof ‘After the Fox’.) Even though the cast is a high-profile and talented one, the result is never more than just very mildly amusing.

Leave a Reply