Big Deal on Madonna Street
(I soliti ignoti
, also released as Persons Unknown
in the UK
) is a 1958 Italian
, 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
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!".