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A new ending for 'The Italian Job'

The 1969 movie was a real cliffhanger. Now a contest has come up with

February 15, 2009|Raphael G. Satter

LONDON — Some of Britain's brightest minds have resolved one of the country's biggest cinematic cliffhangers: How the robbers could have gotten away with the gold at the end of 1969's "The Italian Job."

The film ends with the robbers' gold-laden bus teetering over the edge of an Alpine road, with their loot -- and their lives -- in doubt.

Recently, 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.

"The Italian Job" follows Charlie Croker, played by Michael Caine, as he assembles a crack team of likable crooks to pull off a complex plan to steal a stash of gold in Turin, Italy.

But things end badly when the gang's getaway bus slides halfway off a mountain road on its way to Switzerland. The bus seesaws, 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. Croker says, "Hang on a minute lads -- I've got a great idea."

Then the credits roll.

Godwin said his fix took him an afternoon to work out:

* Break the windows at the back to reduce weight.

* Break two windows at the front, hold one gang member upside down out of the window to deflate the front tires and stabilize the vehicle.

* Drain the rear fuel tank through an access panel at the bottom of the bus.

* Gang members leave one by one, collecting stones to replace their weight.

* Keep adding stones until someone can safely go to the rear to retrieve the gold.

Godwin said gathering the data he needed for his equations, like the fuel efficiency of a 1964 Bedford VAL14, the weight of a window or the price of gold in 1968 -- needed to establish the weight of the haul -- was fairly easy.

"The Internet's a great place," he said.

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