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The First Great Train Robbery (1978)

Duration1h 50m
RatingsUK: PG, USA: PG, Norway: 16 
Source of storyLoosely based on events recorded in a book of the same name by Michael Crichton
DirectorMichael Crichton
Writers/ScriptMichael Crichton
StarringSean Connery, Donald Sutherland, Lesley-Anne Down, Michael Elphick, Wayne Sleep, Brian Glover, 
RatingsIMDb: 6.9/10 by 17k people.  Rotten Tomatoes: 74% by 27 reviewers. Review2view: 7.5/10

Elevator Pitch: It is 1855, the heyday of the railways, and the South Eastern Railway has the job of transporting gold from London to Folkestone once a month to pay the troops fighting in the Crimea. Precautions involve the use on two safes in the guard’s van, each of which has two locks, the keys to which are various distributed between the railway and the senior management of the bank. Edward Pearce, a society gent, with no visible means of support recruits a safebreaker to assist him, and together with Miriam his mistress, they go about copying the keys. Then with the robbery planned, the railway company take precautions which cause them to change their plans. But can they succeed?

Content: Lesley-Anne Down appears once in her 1855 underwear (just for the poster I think). Pearce and the bank owner’s young wife engage in some fun double entendres. A cat-burglar is assisted to escape from Newgate, during a hanging. Pearce goes to a pub where “ratting” takes place, in order to get together with the bank’s owner. The bank’s manager is enticed into a high class brothel, to get at his key. The police are sort of on the case. One person is killed. A lot of drama as Pearce is forced to climb over the roofs of the railway carriages.

A View: I had read the book, and the film is very similar. Both are from the point of view of the criminals so really you are rooting for them. Several critics comment on Sean Connery’s comedic competence, but the whole film is fun and despite its age has weathered well. My favourite moment – the bank manager and Miriam, Pearce’s mistress in a carriage together. He asks her if she’d like to join “the fifty mile an hour club” And the train is real. So with all these goodies, well worth a watch.

   If you have a penchant for heist films here are some others. The Italian Job (for the second time), Heist, Ocean’s Eight,   

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels



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