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This is one of my earliest TV memories. There were a lot of semi
TV shows on German television in the sixties. Most of them about the Nazi
but this was about the famous English Train Robbery.
I have seen it many times since then and it never fails to amaze me.
this haunting music by Heinz Funk then the off voice that tells us about
gentlemen in a very matter-of-fact way always in balance between being
impressed with and making fun of the "gentlemen". There is no tone of
but also not (really) any hero worshipping.
Actually, there is not very much happening. No way a producer would go away with it these days. Most of it is about the preparation of the coup. So we see "the major", Horst Tappert - very good here, and I really hate him in his famous later role as Derrick - buying pans and other house hold stuff. Then there is the robbery and later we see them hiding in a farm house. There are some tensions and it is not quite clear what exactly the role of the other strong character Guenther Neutze (one of my all time favorites) is, but it is a pure joy to just listening to these two guys arguing. Neutze had one of the great voices of the century. He really had this natural authority and the way he had to play second fiddle to Tappert makes the whole thing work.
But the entire cast is fantastic. Karl-Heinz Hess was never better, Lowitz certainly was, but he had the gift of adding a touch of dignity and irony to every film he was in. And Kai Fischer playing the German was beautiful and very unhappy to get involved.
What fascinated me most as a kid was at the end when the off voice said This was the story of the robbery and the credits started to roll in and then he came back saying, Pardon that was the story as of... And then the story continues, telling how some of the gang members were rescued from prison etc. Very, very effective.
You have to scan German regional public TV stations carefully to capture one of the occasional replays of this wonderful TV event about the greatest British train robbery that ever was. Again a very German view on British events (we can not only beat them to pieces in the soccer ground !)from Germany with a very German British style (trenchcoats, pubs, inserts from Piccadilly square and greyhound race tracks, even correct left side driving) with the most German actors you can think or and a not so unnerving voice over commenting. Why only a 7: Because the score is basically unnerving "dong dong dong dong do dong dong dong....". Bert Kaempfert could have given them something much better, had they only asked. But if you can get it, don't miss it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Die Gentlemen bitten zur Kasse" or "Der große Postraub" or "The Great Train Robbery" or "The Great British Train Robbery" is a West German mini series from 1966, so this one had its 50th anniversary last year. And while there are several very short films about great train robberies during the early days of film, here we have a pretty long take on the subject. Each of the three episodes runs for slightly under 80 minutes, so you can watch the entire thing in almost 4 hours. The first episode is basically all about the group's preparations for the robbery with an unexpected delay. The second episode is probably the best from the trio and really a lot happens there, most of all the robbery itself, but also power struggles within the group of criminals and we find out about the investigators. The final chapter is about the hunt for the criminals and also about the trials and about the thoughts of those that got away. Quality-wise, it's maybe between 2 and 1. The delayed ending in the last segment was fairly annoying though and almost the only slight shot at comedy in these four hours. Other than that, it is as sterile and serious as most other Horst Tappert films. And there we are with the cast. German film buffs may recognize some others too. Boettcher, Lowitz and Meisner may be the most obvious candidates. As a whole, I would say that this was not a rewarding watch because only the middle chapter of this black-and-white mini series was interesting enough I guess. The subject is a pretty interesting one in my opinions and robberies are half a century later still a good subject in new movies, but what they made of it here did not impress me at all. It was never really tense or exciting I felt and they maybe should have fit it in a 110-120 minute movie and this way they could have done without the quite a few lengths. Of course, they would have made the right cutting decisions and who knows if they had. We will never know. Another problem here is that the film just has too many robbers and I as an audience member had no clue who was who and how they would be different from everybody else with 2-3 exceptions perhaps including Tappert's character. Luckily they realized this somehow and shied away from introducing all their women too, just some. Overall yes, with the narration, this had a documentary touch at times, but it certainly wasn't remotely captivating. Watch something else instead.
The first time I saw it on TV was on German TV in 1966, and after
having seen it several times, I was lucky to buy the series of 3
episodes on DVD.
The documentary style in which it is presented makes clear that this great trainrobbery really has happened and one can hardly believe that there is any fiction in it. The actual facts were frontpage news; not only in the UK, but in many countries.
The acting crew - with some of the finest German actors - did a fabulous job.
It still keeps on fascinating me; the 3 episodes ... I mostly want to see them all in one evening. Probably every year I'll watch it over and over again.
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