Great Train Robbery, The (1978)

The Great Train Robbery (1978), written and directed by Michael Crichton.

Aka The First Great Train Robbery.

The problem with this one is that -- given the title -- we'd like to get to the exciting robbery, but that is not until the last half hour. The first three quarters of the film is taken up with locating and duplicating four keys to the gold bullion safes. This allows much period detail, crime lingo and satirical looks at Victorian England, which can be interesting, but I suspect a lot of viewers were lost or simply bored.

It is a good role for Sean Connery as the master criminal. Donald Sutherland and Lesley-Anne Down (Hanover Street (1979)) are fine as other members of the plot.

The quest for the keys does have clever mission-impossible shenanigans. Historical bits that stuck with me:

All train heist films have dangerous climbing around on the outside of the cars. Connery insisted on doing his own stunt work but it was much harder than he expected. The train was running faster than it should have and he was burned by cinders and blinded by smoke, falling for real more than once. Those overpasses really do seem to have only an inch to spare.

Michael Crichton directed his screenplay adapted from his own novel. The story is loosely inspired by the Great Gold Robbery of 1855.

Jerry Goldsmith score. Photographed by Geoffrey Unsworth.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. Not much hidef detail here; filtered lenses were used to give a soft antique look. No subtitles, but tracks are available online.