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VINE VOICEon January 13, 2006
Based on the book and directed by Michael Crichton, this enjoyable caper movie from 1979 brings together a fantastic cast in an authentic 19th century Victorian environment to tell a story based around the true story of the first great train robbery. I saw this movie many years ago on British television and have always found it enjoyable so it was an easy buy for me.
In addition to a superb Sean Connery as the suave mastermind Edward Pierce (is Connery ever NOT suave) and the always amazing Donald Sutherland as his accomplice Agar, we also have Lesley-Anne Down as Miriam. Down was a favorite actress of mine from this era with movies like "The Pink Panther Strikes Again," "Rough Cut" and "Sphinx." Here she plays Connery's lover who is not afraid to use her quite incredible feminine charms to aid Pierce character.
Joining the three leads are such well known faces as British television celebrity Michael Elphick (as the railway guard who aids Pierce and Agar); Pamela Salem as Emily Trent (Salem would be reunited with Connery four years later in the rogue 007 film "Never Say Never Again") and Alan Webb as the bank president.
Filmed in Ireland with a modest budget of only $6 million, the script is intelligent, the action appropriate and the dialogue both witty and engaging. The showpiece stunt with Pierce on top of a moving train has since been copied many times since, including in the 1983 James Bond movie "Octopussy" with Roger Moore in the role that Sean Connery made famous). But this stunt sequence is distinctive in that Connery performed his own stunts. The train was supposed to be traveling only 35 miles-per-hour, but Connery argued that the train was actually moving much faster, an assertion that was confirmed by the helicopter pilot who measured the speed of the train at 55 miles-per-hour.
The movie, set in 1855, tells the story of the three conspirators attempts to steal $25 million in gold bullion that is being transported by train to pay British troops fighting in the Crimean War.
To gain access to the gold Pierce and Agar need copies to four keys and the bulk of the movie involves their efforts to obtain each key in what can be described as four separate caper tales.
The effort and difficulties facing the thieves is ably outlined by Connery in the opening narration to the movie:
"In the year 1855, England and France were at war with Russia in the Crimea. The English troops were paid in gold. Once a month, twenty-five thousand pounds in gold was loaded into strongboxes inside the London bank of Huddleston and Bradford and taken by trusted armed guards to the railway station. The convoy followed no fixed route or timetable. At the station, the gold was loaded into the luggage van of the Folkestone train for shipment to the coast and from there to the Crimea. The strongboxes were placed into two specially-built Chubb safes constructed of three-quarter inch tempered steel. Each safe weighed five hundred and fifty pounds. Each safe was fitted with two locks, requiring two keys, or four keys altogether. For security, each key was individually protected. Two keys were entrusted to the railway dispatcher who kept them locked in his office. A third was in the custody of Mr. Edgar Trent, president of the Huddleston and Bradford. And the fourth key was given to Mr. Henry Fowler, manager of the Huddleston and Bradford. The presence of so much gold in one place naturally aroused the interest of the English criminal elements. But in 1855 there had never been a robbery from a moving railway train."
There are some definite differences between the actual robbery on which Crichton based his work and the movie. The actual plot involved four criminals - Pierce, Agar, the railway guard Burgess, and a railway clerk named Tester and all four keys were kept on railroad premises in London and Folkestone. But as it turned out the two Foilkestone keys were not used. In addition the guard's van was not locked from the outside; Pierce and Agar were let in by Burgess, and a share of the loot was handed out to Tester at stations.
The crown jewel as far as supplementary material is concerned is the scene specific commentary by writer-director Crichton. Even given the intervening 18 years between the release of the movie and the recording of the commentary Crichton seems to have a wealth of anecdotal and technical recollections of the making of the movie and displays a genuine affection for the movie. We learn about the research he did for the book and the machinations that went on behind the scenes. Apparently the largely British and Irish crew initially had little respect for the young director until he ordered a copy of his 1978 movie "Coma" for them to watch, after which he got more respect. In another incident Crichton's hair caught on fire when the locomotive emitted burning embers.
There is also (as was common for MGM releases in the earlu days of DVD) an 8-page glossy, full color booklet with trivia surrounding the making of the movie.
11 comment46 of 48 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on June 9, 2001
I was very lucky to have been introduced to this film at a young age, as I have had countless hours of joy watching this masterpiece... time and time again.
The Great Train Robbery has a unique quality, that all films strive to achieve, which is the capacity to entice an audience to return! It is an intelligent, crime comedy, with so much to offer any individual.
Superb performances from the likes of the greats Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland, for which I shall always remember them for, with a great supporting cast of familiar British faces.
The story tells of a handful of criminals, equipped with their own individual skills, who aspire to pull of the biggest train robbery to date. Set in a Victorian London, the film takes us through trains, stations, courts, prisons, and the streets of London... in a chase to outrun the police and each other. The crime's success depends on their charm, speed, cunning, love of cats and a change of clothes!
For me the film is complete with the final scene, which is one of the most exciting and gratifying that I have ever had the pleasure to watch. It's escapism at its best... watch, but be prepared for admiration of the two characters, of Connery and Sutherland! The film is great, in its truest sense!
0Comment18 of 20 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on September 21, 2014
Sometimes I wonder if it is worth it to replace a DVD with a new blu-ray reissue. This blu-ray of "The Great Train Robbery" is really grainy throughout the film. It's easy to forget that it is a blu-ray disc because it doesn't look that much better than my DVD.

Oh well, as usual though, we tend to replace all our DVD's with blu-ray releases because sometimes, there may be a slight improvement. Small though that improvement may be.

This blu-ray may be worthy of selling for about ten dollars, but as you can see as of this date, it is very expensive for what wasn't much of a remastering effort at all.
33 comments9 of 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 9, 2004
I remember being completely taken with this movie when I saw it in 1979. Sean Connery was on THE TODAY SHOW when it was released and discussed doing his own stunt work during the robbery scenes. Stumbling atop the rattling train, he was certain they had to be moving much faster than 35 MPH. When he asked the engineers how they knew they were going 35, they said they calculated it by counting the telephone poles going by! The train was actually going well over 50 MPH!
Director Michael Crichton recounts the same story in his commentary. I would've given this film five stars but, after listening to him voice his disatisfaction with it, I took one star off. I should've left the commentary for another time!
Crichton does offer a lot of interesting insights into the film. The difficulties of recreating a London that doesn't exist anymore, the moral dilemma of filming a dog killing rats (the "ratting" scene is real), the filming of the train scenes.
Connery brings his cool authority to the proceedings and Donald Sutherland is always interesting. Lesley Anne Down is gorgeous.
I really loved Jerry Goldsmith's elegant score. It really pulled the film together musically and I still have the soundtrack album.
I just wish I'd been in the soundbooth with Mr. Crichton after he finished his commentary: I would've said, "Come on, give yourself a break: you made a very cool movie!"
0Comment10 of 11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on August 31, 2002
I bought this movie because I couldn't find it to rent, and the plot and cast seemed like a guarantee of a great movie to me. I wasn't disappointed but I might have chosen to rent rather than buy if I had been able. Sean Connery in his prime (well, isn't he still in his prime) and Donald Sutherland star in a classic heist movie based on the true story of the world's first robbery from a moving train. They're after a fortune in gold bullion, and must cleverly figure how to steal a set of keys to the safes, get on and off the train safely, etc. It takes place in London in 1855 and the sets and costumes are great. Do they get away with it - I won't say.
It's all very well done but oddly predictable, perhaps because since this movie was made (1972 I believe) a lot of similar movies seem to have come out. And although Donald Sutherland makes a great roguish pickpocket, he'll never pass for English. His accent is closer to the English they speak on the Planet Mars than the English of 19th-century London.
Still, it's worth a look.
0Comment15 of 18 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 13, 1999
I happen to really like this film. It's one that I can watch repeatedly and always enjoy. But the DVD version has such poor video quality that I returned it and have kept the VHS. The sceen in the graveyard, in particular, is not what I'd expect if a decent master has been used for the transfer. Check it out, but keep your receipt!
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on April 1, 2001
"The Great Train Robbery" is an excellent film. Filled with a great cast, it has the added benefits of good writing (and historically accurate language), and a clever premise. Essentially this is a complex 20th Century caper plot in a 19th Century setting. Chrichton also does a good job directing. A good movie for a sophisticated viewer.
0Comment4 of 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 6, 2012
This is an excellent movie - well acted, good plot and character development... but truly miserable video quality. It appears to have been "mastered" from the VHS issue... and not very well at that. Truly a shame.
0Comment6 of 7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on May 23, 2003
This over-looked gem is superb in every detail. The plot concerns a charming rogue, faking a 'sharp businessman' played by Sean Connery, trying to relieve a fortified railway train of its gold. The film is based on a thriller written by Micheal (Jurassic Park) Crichton and is quite thrilling. It has superb Cinematography by the master Geoffrey (Superman) Unsworth B.S.C. and the outstanding score is by the superlative Jerry (Star Trek) Goldsmith. The film grips you from the start and includes a superb cast. The film details the planning and exection of the robbery of a railway train transporting gold from London to the Crimea. The effort of relieving the gold from the train by Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland is meticulous and quite exciting, helped by the fast moving script, cinematography and score. The atmosphere of 1850s London is startling and extremely well conveyed to the screen. This is a highly recommended and thrilling movie.
0Comment5 of 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 4, 2012
Everything about this DVD movie of Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery is marvelous except for the truly abysmal, grainy low resolution quality of the video itself. I don't know what the source of the problem is, but the result is one of the worst DVD's I've ever viewed when it comes to the actual video quality of the product. Virtually every scene is grainy and out of focus. It's a shame such great sets, great acting, great costumes, and great plot are all marred by the genuinely bad video quality. In sum, if you value video quality, do not buy this DVD. And, just to be clear, I'm not judging this DVD against a blu-ray. I have seen VHS tapes with as good and even better video quality than this DVD has. Someone should make a new transfer/copy/version of this, or even better, make a good quality blu-ray. I wish I had read the reviews more carefully as I probably would not have purchased this had I known how bad the video really is.
0Comment5 of 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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