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  Biggest Bundle of Them All, The Rare Bit Of Welch
Year: 1968
Director: Ken Annakin
Stars: Raquel Welch, Robert Wagner, Godfrey Cambridge, Vittorio De Sica, Edward G. Robinson, Davy Kaye, Francesco Mulé, Victor Spinetti, Yvonne Sanson, Mickey Knox, Femi Benussi, Paola Barbani, Andrea Aureli, Aldo Bufi Landi, Carlo Croccolo
Genre: Comedy, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Cesare Celli (Vittorio De Sica) has just been to a funeral to pay tribute to his oldest friend and comrade in the world of Italian gangsters, and as he walks away from the ceremony towards his car, he reminisces with the other mourners and they nod in silent agreement until they point out his transport where the five of them will bring him to his home. However, as they travel with Celli in the back seat, he notices he doesn’t recognise any of them, and there’s a good reason for that: they are kidnapping him. As their plan is explained, he tries to explain back that no matter how much money they think he has to spare, he is more or less broke, living on the charity of his colleagues, but the leader Harry Price (Robert Wagner) won’t take no for an answer…

But never mind what they think, the poster to The Biggest Bundle of Them All made it clear what the production was banking on, for it emblazoned an image of Raquel Welch in a bikini towering over the other representations of her co-stars: this was one for her fans to sit back and admire her pulchritude, and never mind anyone else who might be appearing in it. As the film wore on, it was obvious dressing her in a variety of cleavage-baring outfits was all it really had going for it, since as a comedy it was lacking in laughs and as a thriller it barely qualified, it was merely a bunch of bungling characters milling around for almost two hours with very little reward for either them or the audience.

Still, if you liked the look of that cast list then you might have a pleasant enough time of it watching them interact, but the script lacked zing when it was all situation and no wit to go with it. There were occasional compensations, such as watching Edward G. Robinson grooving with Raquel in a nightclub, one image that proves hard to shift, even more than her bikini poses, but even if her Juliana role provided a moral centre come the finale, it was difficult to get away from her purely decorative presence. At least Edward had a purpose in the plot, as he suggests the heist that will come as no surprise to crime comedy aficionados was what we were building up to, yes, it was another riff on Rififi.

Sometimes it seems like most of the movies set in Europe out of the sixties were either James Bond rip-offs or heist movies, but you could say that about a lot of other continents’ big screen entertainment, and this wasn’t even Italian, it was one of those American productions that took advantage of the locations across the Atlantic and relatively cheap costs in doing so to stage what they hoped would be profitable at the box office. That many of these were pieces of cinematic fluff didn’t deter them, and indeed there remains a following for this period’s lightweight comedies and thrillers to this day since they were often brightly coloured and undemanding to watch, with a certain glamour all their own.

That was about the best you could say about The Biggest Bundle of Them All, neither the worst nor the best of them (certainly not the best, it had to be said), which once it had dispensed with the introduction where Celli (one of the acting jobs director Vittorio De Sica took to supplement his other career) persuades his captors they are on a hiding to nothing if they want to kidnap him for cash, set about the heist bit where the gang decide to follow his advice on stealing big from a train carriage holding five million dollars of platinum bars. It was a film that seemed busy, yet not a lot was going on when you started to examine it, a supporting cast for example including gang recruit Godfrey Cambridge who is a concert violinist purely because producer Josef Shaftel used to be one, and he’d penned the story so it was his movie and he could do what he liked. Climaxing with an escapade including a stolen tank and a stolen bomber aeroplane (with added Victor Spinetti), for the most part you’ll be musing over why some characters spoke Italian then English with no distinction between the two. Music by Riz Ortolani.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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