Clare's Criterion Collection

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Big Deal on Madonna Street – Review # 14


Spine # 113

Available on DVD

Special Features:

  • Gorgeous new digital transfer
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition
  • New cover illustrations by John Wilkinson, design by David Zachary Cohen

Please note that whilst I try to not give away vital plot details/scenes/developments of the film, some reviews may contain mild spoilers.


I wanted to start 2014 with a Criterion and I also wanted to have a good laugh.  By choosing Big Deal on Madonna Street I most certainly got both.

The first thing that struck me about the film was the music.  I rarely pay much attention to the soundtrack, once the opening credits and theme tune fade away I tend to concentrate on the actual film and the music is just something in the background, in my subconsciousness.  Not so with this film.  The score is upbeat, jazzy and had me tapping my fingers and bobbing my head in time with the beat all the way through.

The film follows a hapless group of petty thieves whilst they try to pull off the “big deal”.  Had the gang possessed more than a few brain cells between them they may have had more success.  Instead we get a series of comical events that begin whilst the mastermind of the job is looking for someone to take a rap for him.  Given that most of his associates and connections are either already in jail or have records, this proves to be a difficult task to achieve.  Finally someone without a criminal record is found and along the way our gang is formed.

Before the “job” can take place, a few obstacles need to be overcome.  A Father must reunite his Son with its Mother.  Not as simple as it sounds when you learn that the Mother too is crook and already in jail.  He is not too happy about the situation:

“No, no, the kid’ll go to jail when he’s all grown up”

Another task is to find out the combination code for the safe they want to rob.  After a trip to the local market and “acquiring” the necessary tools to perform the surveillance, they head off on their spying mission.  Now I must give them credit for this impressive plan to obtain the required information; it was just a shame they decided to put it into action on laundry day!

The film is littered with comical moments and none more so than when Cosimo, the original mastermind of the plan, tries to rob the pawnshop.  Everything that happens from the moment he walks through the door made me laugh so hard that I had to stop the film and compose myself.  This took a bit of time because whenever I looked back at the screen I would start to laugh again.  I am even having a good giggle whilst I write this review.  It is not only the nonchalant reaction from the cashier that gives this scene such hilarity but Cosimo and the priceless look on his face!  Flying chamber pots contents and an seemingly never-ending arguing couple all add more comedy to the film.

Onto the job itself.  Unbeknown to our friends and due to the fact that the original plans had been made months before (it took them a while to get organised, when you watch you will understand why), a few things had been moved around.  This of course meant, predictively, that everything would quickly head south and go pear-shaped.  All I will say about the outcome is at least they got themselves a good feast for their efforts.  Oh, and on your way out, don’t light a match!

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