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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 August 2011
The First Great Train Robbery is directed by Michael Crichton who also writes the screenplay. It stars Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland, Lesley-Anne Down, Wayne Sleep, Robert Lang, Alan Webb and Andre Morell. Music is scored by Jerry Goldsmith and cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth. The story is loosely based on the real Great Gold Robbery of 1855, where a rogue criminal named William Pierce and his cohorts executed the theft of £12,000 in gold from a speeding train on route to aid the British Army during the Crimean War.

A delightful period caper picture that's high on production value and fun characterisations. Split into two halves, Crichton's movie makes light of the actual crime to portray Connery and co as lovable rogues, thus hooking the viewer in to actually root for them to pull off the intricate crime. First half (well it's more two thirds of the film to be exact) details how the robbers obtained the four keys needed to get into the safe. Harder than it sounds since they are in different locations to one and other and guarded over by different officials. Naturally there are scrapes, skirmishes and obstacles to overcome during this complex operation, and no short amount of humour and tension either. Then it's on to the actual crime, which buzzes ferociously with derring do and ingenious cheek! It may have been loaded with chitter chatter and much bluffing of the way leading up to it, but the pay off is excellent and not without genuine excitement as Connery's (doing his own stunt work) Pierce and Sutherland's safe cracking Agar pull off the seemingly impossible.

Benefiting the film greatly is Crichton's attention to detail, where he thrives on the Victorian England setting. From the streets, the costumes, the dialogue and mannerisms of the characters, they all fit nicely within the narrative. Helps, too, that the cast are playing it with tongue in cheek, Connery and Sutherland are revelling in playing roguish dandies, splendidly attired facially with quality face fuzz and Down raises the temperature of Connery and male audience members alike. Probably her best ever performance, Crichton writes a good role for Down that sees her not only as a sexy head turner (it's unlikely that Victorian underwear has ever looked this sexy before in film), but also as an observant member of the gang; one who isn't too shabby on the disguise front either. Dancer Wayne Sleep is nicely cast as a fleet footed housebreaker, while Lang, Webb, Morell and Michael Elphick pitch their respective performances just right. Goldsmith's score is energetic and Unsworth's (his last film as he sadly passed away shortly after shooting it) photography is a lesson in quality without trickery.

Fanciful and tame if compared to the big budgeted actioners of today, The First Great Train Robbery none the less is testament that simplicity of plot and a keenness to entertain is sometimes all you need. 8/10
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on 5 December 2005
This film is brilliant! No other word for it....A previous reviewer said the 1855 great train robbery was a work of fiction by Michael Crichton - Not so! It really did happen, just google it and see. The film obviously misses some points and adds others, but overall it is a thrilling yarn. Connery and Sutherland in their prime. Go buy it!
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VINE VOICEon 2 February 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.
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on 9 February 2005
This ones a gem really top notch it's got everything Sean Connery is as handsome as ever Donald Sutherland is quite hillarious in places ( look out for the scene with the dead cat!!) and then there's the female bit with Lesley Anne Downe whos ,well ,young.
A really excelent film with fine performances could watch it time and again a must have film!!!!
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on 27 April 2004
I came across this film on TV one sunday afternoon, and am SO glad I sattrough it. Absolutely fantastic. Its funny, very clever, the cast couldnot be any better at all - Sean Connery is as sexy as ever, DonaldSutherland is funny, and Lesley-Anne Down is ... um ... young! It is anace film that portrays the whole train robbery fiasco superbly, as one ofthe other reviewers has sed, with very little violence. I think it drawsthe audiences attention to actually how things were done rather thantrying to grip the imagination with bloodshed and bad language, yet it isstill packed with suspense.
I absolutely love this film and I recommend it to everyone who is willingto give something different ago. I was doubtful at first because the filmis older than me and on a subject I know relatively little about. But whenit came down to it, it made no difference at all.
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on 17 December 2002
This film is a treat. It presents gentlemen robbers in the form of Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland in a film that relies on plot rather than violence to deliver its impact (an idea sadly lost on many modern film makers).
This films carries you with it as you watch the plans unfold and get rewritten as the characters overcome the various obstacles in their way. Perfectly cast and wonderfully shot. If you want a crime caper that's free of excessive violence and excessive swearing - this is it. One of my top ten favourite films of all time.
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on 3 June 2011
So goes the thick scottish accent of Sean Connery, in the opening scene of this movie.
Donald Sutherland plays his sidekick, and Lesley Anne Down plays the love interest.
The story centres on Edward Pierce, played by Sean Connery, a master criminal, who devises a plan to steal gold bullion from the London to Folkstone express in 1855.
But there are three sets of keys that have to be duplicated first, and the way that these keys are obtained varies, giving rise to some of the comedy element, from Lesley Anne Down pretending to be a prostitute, to Donald Sutherland comicly racing up and down invisible stairs. The actual robbery played out by Sean Connery is classic entertainment.
The period setting of this movie is one of the best ever, and also full marks for the costumes.
The dvd is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2:35:1, and is also supported by a pretty good 5.1 soundtrack, considering the age of this movie. Picture Quality is also good.
If you like period dramas then this is a very worthy addition to any collection.

(This film was actually based on a true story).
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on 18 July 2016
It's 1855 and Britain's monthly shipment of gold bullion bound for the Crimea is at risk as Sean Connery plays Pierce, a gentleman master thief, who's assisted by lock-opening rogue Donald Sutherland; in a sophisticated plan to be the first criminals in British history to rob a moving train on its way to Folkestone from London. Connery is amorously assisted throughout by the attractive Lesley-Anne Down as this ripping yarn richly and atmospherically recreates mid-Victorian Railway England (even though it was largely filmed in Ireland). The boldness and sophistication of this crime of crimes in the mid-nineteenth century is beautifully captured by both talented direction and a rather romantic touch to the filming. It's a real treat to watch and demonstrates that huge doses of violence, blood and gore are not always necessary to enjoy an extremely watchable historical jaunt. For their bare-faced cheek alone, you'll find that you'll be rooting heartily for these lovable rogues.
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on 16 May 2016
This ingenious and thrilling crime caper, starring Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland, is based on the true story of the first heist on a moving train in Victorian times. Connery is a master thief who conceives a plan to steal a fortune in gold from a railway payroll car. But to pull off this most daring robbery, he must join forces with a master safecracker (Sutherland) in a series of plotted thefts that will test all of their nerve, camaraderie and larcenous skills. The sequences of Connery leaping across the roofs of the speeding train and lowering himself into the payroll car are breathtaking - he does all his own stunts. All the railway sequences were filmed in Ireland. Highly recommended.
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on 12 October 2016
Great film!
This is the first DVD I have purchased in a number of years as I nearly always buy Blu-Ray these day's.
With this film not being available in Blu-Ray (why not I wonder?), I had little hesitation in acquiring the same.
I actually saw this film for the first time years and years ago on the telly, and it really blew me away. I had never even heard of it before, and I was frankly amazed at just how good it was.
Excellent cast, great script, and a really good story.
Highly recommended.
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