The Usual Unknowns: Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958)

“Stealing is a serious profession. You need serious people.”

Cosimo Proietti (Memmo Carotenuto) has just received a tip about a job that could make him a fortune and set him up for life. Oh, sure, it’s not exactly a legitimate enterprise — it entails breaking into a pawnshop on Rome’s (fictitious) Via delle Madonne through the empty apartment next door and opening a locked safe — but Cosimo isn’t the sort of man to quibble about legality. In fact, that’s the sole problem with this scheme: He’s already in jail for attempting to steal a car, and he isn’t scheduled to be released for over a year. His only hope is to convince someone else to claim responsibility for his crime, thereby setting him free. Although he offers to pay the scapegoat 100,000 lire, none of his acquaintances are willing to take the rap: Capannelle (Carlo Pisacane) would be facing a life sentence due to his past convictions, Mario (Renato Salvatori) fears upsetting his mother, Michele (Tiberio Murgia) doesn’t want to abandon his closely guarded sister Carmela (Claudia Cardinale) or jeopardize her upcoming marriage, and Tiberio (Marcello Mastroianni) not only has a prior offense but also has to take care of his baby son while his wife (Gina Rovere) serves time for smuggling cigarettes. “Guys, you’ll never get an ex-con for 100,000 lire,” Tiberio tells the others. “You need someone with a clean record.”

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