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Based on the adventures of Jack Sheppard, the thief and jail-breaker who became a folk hero in 1720s London. Jack is working as an apprentice to a clockmaker when his brother Tom is sentenced to be hanged for theft. To save Tom (who has a wife and children) he goes for help to the brutal 'Thief-taker General' Jonathan Wild. Wild mediates between the government and the criminal underworld, fencing stolen goods and delivering thieves who don't pay him tribute over to the authorities. He assigns Jack a robbery in return for saving Tom from the gallows, but when Jack learns that Tom is instead to be 'transported' to the colonies for a life of hard labour he refuses to cut Wild in on the proceeds. An angry Wild has Jack thrown in Newgate prison, from which he escapes, forming his own criminal outfit with another of Wild's disgruntled associates, Joseph 'Blueskin' Blake. Determined to crush this affront to his authority, Wild uses Jack's mistress Bess to trap him and has him jailed again. ... Written by
Peter Brynmor Roberts
Well made film, although a bit predictable. A must for the hard-core Clavell fan!
Note: I've tried not to give away any important plot twists (or the ending) but if you're concerned about that, please think about viewing the film before reading further--Thanks!
This was obviously a fairly high budget production, released by Paramount. The story follows the (supposedly true)exploits of hiway-man Jack Shepard in 1700's London. He was a locksmith who got blackmailed into a life of crime by the nefarious "Thief-Taker" to save his brother's life. After being double crossed by the Thief-Taker, we turns into a sort of Robin Hood type figure and gains the support of the common folk. He proceeds to make escapes from several prisons (including the infamous Newgate) as well as having time to "entertain" numerous noble ladies.
I really enjoyed the film, even though the plot was a bit predictable. The film was shot in Glencree and Wicklow Ireland and the sets were very well done and seemed realistic. I think Clavell captured the bustling atmosphere of London in the 1700's quite well and I enjoyed his creative use of camera angles. And, unlike many films depicting this period, Clavell pulls no punches in showing us the deplorable conditions in which the poor lived (in one scene several folks fight over a meat pie that has rolled through the filth in the street).
Overall, I really enjoyed this film. I will admit that it lacks the wonderful scenery and underlying political commentary that Clavell's next film The Last Valley has (a parable to the Vietnam War), but it still merits a viewing or two. It is regrettable that it has not ever (to my knowledge) been released on video or DVD.
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