big deal

Big Deal on Madonna Street

Big Deal on Madonna Street (I soliti ignoti, also released as Persons Unknown in the UK) is a 1958 Italian criminal-comedy film, directed by Mario Monicelli, and considered to be among the masterpieces of Italian cinema. Its original title translates as "the usual unknown persons", a journalistic an bureucratic euphemism for "unidentified criminals". The film is a comedy about a group of small-time thieves and never-do-wells who bungle an attempt to burglarize a state-run pawn shop called Monte di Pietà in Rome. The main roles are played by Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio Gassman Mario Salvatori, Carlo Pisacane and Tiberio Murgia. The careers of both Gassman and Mastroianni were considerably helped by the success of the film, especially Gassman's, since before then he was not deemed suitable for comedic roles. Claudia Cardinale also featured in a minor role, although she would later rise to fame for other works.

The production was initially very skeptical about the film, as witnessed by a rather misleading original poster, which features the very famous comedian Totò in a central, prominent position (while he has little stereotype of a chaste, black-clad Sicilian girl, almost held prisoner at home by her overbearing brother, played by Tiberio Murgia).

The film is currently distributed in Region 1 by The Criterion Collection and for the Italian market in Region 2 by 20th Century Fox.


A sequel directed by Nanni Loy followed in 1960, reuniting the entire cast aside from Totò and Mastroianni, entitled Audace colpo dei soliti ignoti (released in English as Hold-up à la Milanaise). A further sequel was directed by Amanzio Todini titled I Soliti ignoti vent'anni dopo (1987). It was released on DVD in the United States as Big Deal On Madonna Street - 20 Years Later by Koch Lorber.


Two remakes of the film were shot in the USA: the 1984 film Crackers by Louis Malle (set in San Francisco, and the 2002 film Welcome to Collinwood by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (set in Cleveland).


-"Tell me, little boy, I am seeking for one Mario"
-"People named Mario go a dime a dozen in this 'hood"
-"But the Mario I am seeking for, you know, is a thief"
-"They still go a dime a dozen!".

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