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Sutherland and Connery wish to rob a moving train's safe in Victorian England. They need wax impressions of keys, coffins, dead cats, and a great deal of planning in order to pull it off. Written by
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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 ...
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With Mission Impossible like precision, Sean Connery, Lesley Anne Down, and Donald Sutherland pull off The First Great Train Robbery, years before Jesse James did it in the American West.
Of course holding up a train with a dozen masked bandit confederates doesn't equal the near precision complexity that it took to steal gold bullion off a train by three men in stealth. Connery is the mastermind of the scheme and he plays Edward Pierce with the usual charm we've come to associate with Connery.
It was interesting how Connery gets the idea for the heist in your typical Englishman's club with at least one of the responsible parties for the gold in that very room. The other club members know him as a retired industrialist who seems rather well fixed and comfortable. If they only knew the real source of his comfort.
Lesley Anne Down may have given her career performance here as Connery's girl friend. Their scenes fairly crackle with witty repartee and sexual innuendo. Down is certainly not above using her sex to help in the robbery. In fact the first part of the plan which took about a year in preparation was to get duplicates of four keys that unlock the safe on the train where the bullion is transported. She compromises one of the key custodians in a Victorian bordello which is the film's humor highlight.
Donald Sutherland is the safecracker friend of Connery's enlisted for the caper. He gets the dirtiest details of the caper. In fact the authorities get wind of some kind of plan in the works and Connery has to make some last minute adjustments to his plan. The adjustments call for Sutherland to get into the car in a coffin with a dead cat for odorous effect. What some won't do for money. Sutherland handles the whole thing quite well.
Connery has the dangerous part of the caper which calls for him to go from front to back on a moving train. Those sequences according to the Films of Sean Connery were shot in Ireland which better represented the look of rural 1855 England. I was stunned to learn that Connery himself did the stunts. Sean admitted himself that it was the most dangerous business he ever undertook for any film. What some will do for the sake of art.
The First Great Train Robbery is a stylish caper film set in Victorian Great Britain and the film really captures the look and manner of the period. One of Sean Connery's best films, definitely worth a look.
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