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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Sometimes crime does pay...

6/10
Author: farne from England
22 April 2005

Jonathan Wild was one of the most interesting characters in 18th century London. Long before the city had a police force, Wild turned himself into the capital's "thief-taker", arresting and bringing criminals to trial and making himself rich in the process. At the same time, he was also the greatest criminal mastermind in the country and had most of the city's major criminals under his control. When they became troublesome Wild would set them up for arrest, and then collect his bounty as thief taker.

In this film Wild is played, rather well, by Stanley Baker, who also produced through his production company Oakhurst, with the novelist James Clavell directing. The story focuses on Wild's relationship with another notorious 18th century criminal, Jack Shepherd, here played by the '60s singing star Tommy Steele. Shepherd is forced to work for Wild to save his brother from the hangman, but then manages to assert his independence and work for himself. Wild then sets him up, only for Shepherd to escape from one jail after another. Shepherd's exploits, especially his escapes, make him a celebrity, and Wild's attempts to capture him become increasingly important to the maintenance of his image as thief taker. Steele isn't ideal casting as Shepherd, but he does manage to acquit himself reasonably well, and his scenes with Stanley Baker are among the best in the film. Overall, the film is something of a mixed blessing, however. The story is a winner, there are some interesting character bits and, as was increasingly the fashion in the '60s, it shows the grot, grime and filth of 18th century London quite well. But it does go overboard at times with the local colour, the pace slackens a bit occasionally, and there are some decidedly cheesy 1960s songs on the soundtrack. However, it's an interesting story and is probably worth a couple of hours of your time, especially if you're interested in the period.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

True to real life

10/10
Author: p.newhouse@talk21.com from England
16 September 2005

When commenting on this film, one must realise that it is based on a true story, and must therefore be reviewed for the quality and accuracy of it's portrayal of the events, as well as its entertainment value. It may well be implausible that Jack Shepherd should surrender twice to Jack Wild because Wild had captured Edgeworth Bess. None the less, it happened. It must also be noted that the director was young and inexperienced, which explains why he relied upon tried and tested techniques. There were occasions when Clavell did not have the confidence to follow the script as written. The film would be better if he had. And yes, I used to have a copy of the script (Stanley Baker's copy - one of five), which I returned recently to my father, Rafe Newhouse, the writer.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A True Story

8/10
Author: loza-1
2 July 2005

Even though I saw this film when I was very young, I already knew the story of Wild the Thief-Taker and Shepherd who famously escaped from Newgate prison.

Apart from the liberty taken right at the end, the film more or less faithfully follows the true story. The temptation to bend the facts which is the hallmark of so many so-called historical films is resisted in this film and the film makers must be praised for that.

Of the performances, There is scarcely a poor performance, and Tommy Steele is ideally cast. Also good is Stanley Baker as the Thief-Taker and Alan Badel is good as always.

Because the film sticks to the facts, it makes it suitable to be watched by all the family.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Well made film, although a bit predictable. A must for the hard-core Clavell fan!

8/10
Author: mecompco (mecompco@gwi.net) from Waterville, Maine
15 January 2001

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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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Enjoyable

9/10
Author: rtogr81 from Indianapolis, IN
22 December 2012

I saw this movie in Germany while stationed there from 69-72. I found it to be very enjoyable and fun. I have been hoping it would come out on DVD so I could own it. It is a great movie to immerse yourself in a story of the period. It was romantic, adventurous and at times witty. If you are looking for a movie that will create a few hours of escape from your own reality then this is a movie for you. I especially found the ending to be delightful lending to the feeling of a potential sequel giving the character a new adventure in the Americas. As with most of Stanley Baker's movies I thought it was well done even thought it may have been a bit self serving, non-the-less a very enjoyable movie.

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Reasonably accurate depiction of the era, mediocre script

6/10
Author: ladybug2535
12 November 2014

Felt like a made-for-TV movie, it wasn't bad but wasn't really very good either. Loosely based on a true story and a genuine character, I really appreciated the attention to detail, especially in the way they captured the dirt, grit, cruelty and unfairness of the times. I especially appreciated how they captured the huge economic and social gap between the classes and the use of children in all sorts of demeaning, dangerous and menial jobs--most period pieces ignore the poor treatment of children. While the storyline didn't accurately follow the time line and documented events of our "hero", the characters, their behavior and the scenery as well as costuming seemed reasonably authentic. Some of the plot devices were very loosely based on the true story, but I believe that a more accurate rendition of the Jack's real exploits would actually have been FAR more interesting.

It's strange when a filmmaker takes liberties with an historical event (as most do for the sake of clarity and storytelling) and makes it not only less entertaining but less credible than the real thing....This was a missed opportunity and I'd love to see some modern studio take a crack at it. They should have played up the "cult of celebrity" of the times, a phenomenon that allowed sometimes truly cruel and debauched human beings to become famous and revered through the power of propaganda--in the sense that newspapers, tabloids and gossip played up the sensationalist nature of their activities and sometimes, through the use of outright lies, made terrible people into heroes and legends. This is something we still see today (you can add the internet into this modern day machine of celebrity) and an aspect that would have resonated with audiences. While it would seem that this particular real-life celebrity, Jack Sheppard, captured the public's imaginations by thumbing his nose at the establishment and the hypocritical purveyors of "law and order" and was not a violent or cruel "villain", make no mistake--he was no Robin Hood either. There are several ways they could have told this story--it would have made a great comedy, or a meaningful historical drama--or even a musical! and while his tale is "satisfactory" in this film, I mean it when I say I would really love to see a modern studio shoot it as it really is a great story and an interesting historical character. .

My main grievances are with the sometimes flat and sometimes strange delivery of the lines, and the mediocre script. The main character who played our hero did very well in his role and did his best to redeem the film. The main female lead's delivery was very uneven and she seemed like a tacked on character--"oh, he's GOT to have a love interest" type of thing, and she served more as a distraction (literally) and a lame plot device than as an integral part of the story, despite her generous screen time. A few of the supporting roles were reasonably well done and added to the film. I just really, really wish the female lead had been better developed (not THAT way, she was quite amply endowed, thank you!) and not only added more to the plot but was more interesting and better acted. As it was she was mainly eye candy--and even given the production year of 1969 they could have done better.

PARENTS REVIEW; Mostly family appropriate unless you disapprove of historically accurate indifference and cruelties. Sadly, it really does play like TV movie, so take it as it is--though that is likely why it is as family-friendly as it plays. Given the context it could have been far more bawdy and violent. The accents are very easy to understand, no thick cockney to wade through. No nudity, no swearing--hinted at sex, but nothing you'd have to hide from the kiddos (our hero unlaces the back of the girlfriend's bodice, oh and sometimes you fear our lady lead is going to jump out of her corset, but that's as racy as it gets). There is some suggested violence (faky fights, bloodless shootings and the like), hints of abuse and lots of drinking (even kids--true enough for the times). This particular film could work as a great jumping off point for a history and civics lesson: especially the disparity between the classes of the times, the lack of child labor protection laws, lack of social protections, corruption of the law, etc.

CONCLUSION: Recommended with aforementioned reservations. I heartily approved of the film for being careful in it's depiction of the era. That was exceptionally well done even if the movie overall was just average. I enjoyed the ending--even if it stretched one's credibility--and sometimes it doesn't hurt to play "what if", especially in this type of film, based on real people. Yeah, it COULD have happened that way--and it is kind of nice to think that perhaps it did.

'Nough said. :)

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3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Lacklustre and overlong.

Author: Simon Peters (Simon_peters@yahoo.com) from BATH United Kingdom
4 August 2002

This film is distinguished both in art direction and cinemaphotography.

Unfortunately the script is poorly structured and repetitive and overall the film fails to engage the viewer. Performances vary with, surprisingly, Tommy Steele finding a fairly confident middle ground between Stanley Baker's melodramatic approach and Fiona Lewis's ludicrous and unconvincing stab at Cockney. At a whisker under two hours long the film would have benefited from some cutting - Jack Shephard surrendering once to Jack Wild because he has captured Edgworth Bess seems possible, for him to do it again suggests the writers had seriously run out of ideas.

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