7.0/10
13,831
59 user 26 critic

The First Great Train Robbery (1978)

In Victorian England, a master criminal makes elaborate plans to steal a shipment of gold from a moving train.

Director:

Michael Crichton

Writers:

Michael Crichton (screenplay by), Michael Crichton (based on his novel)
Reviews
Popularity
4,782 ( 3,711)
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

Photos

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Sean Connery ... Pierce
Donald Sutherland ... Agar
Lesley-Anne Down ... Miriam
Alan Webb Alan Webb ... Trent
Malcolm Terris ... Fowler
Robert Lang ... Sharp
Michael Elphick ... Burgess
Wayne Sleep Wayne Sleep ... Clean Willy
Pamela Salem ... Emily Trent
Gabrielle Lloyd ... Elizabeth Trent
George Downing George Downing ... Barlow
James Cossins ... Harranby
John Bett John Bett ... McPherson
Peter Benson ... Station Despatcher
Janine Duvitski Janine Duvitski ... Maggie
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Storyline

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 John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Never have so few taken so much from so many.


Certificate:

6 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

MGM

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

14 December 1978 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Der erste große Eisenbahnraub See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$391,942, 4 February 1979, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$13,027,857
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby | Dolby (as Dolby Sound)

Color:

Black and White (sepia colour) (opening sequence) (closing sequence)| Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When she saw the movie, Sean Connery's wife Micheline was furious at him for doing his own dangerous stunt work on top of the train. See more »

Goofs

When Clean Willy escapes from jail, the shadow & sunlight on the ground change dramatically from when he first runs across the yard to when he makes it over the top of the wall. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Edward Pierce: [narration] 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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Alternate Versions

Under the terms of the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act 1937 all UK versions of the film are cut by 32 secs with edits to a scene where a dog hunts and kills rats in a show arena ('ratting'). See more »

Connections

Referenced in Murder, She Wrote: The Great Twain Robbery (1990) See more »

Soundtracks

I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls
(uncredited)
Music by Michael William Balfe
Lyrics by Alfred Bunn (1843)
Heard on violin offstage in bordello
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

If you've turned nose on me I'll see you in Lavender.
11 August 2011 | by SpikeopathSee all my reviews

The First Great Train Robbery is directed by Michael Crichton who also writes the screenplay. It stars Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland, Lesley-Anne Down, Wayne Sleep, Robert Lang, Alan Webb and Andre Morell. Music is scored by Jerry Goldsmith and cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth. The story is loosely based on the real Great Gold Robbery of 1855, where a rogue criminal named William Pierce and his cohorts executed the theft of £12,000 in gold from a speeding train on route to aid the British Army during the Crimean War.

A delightful period caper picture that's high on production value and fun characterisations. Split into two halves, Crichton's movie makes light of the actual crime to portray Connery and co as lovable rogues, thus hooking the viewer in to actually root for them to pull off the intricate crime. First half (well it's more two thirds of the film to be exact) details how the robbers obtained the four keys needed to get into the safe. Harder than it sounds since they are in different locations to one and other and guarded over by different officials. Naturally there are scrapes, skirmishes and obstacles to overcome during this complex operation, and no short amount of humour and tension either. Then it's on to the actual crime, which buzzes ferociously with derring do and ingenious cheek! It may have been loaded with chitter chatter and much bluffing of the way leading up to it, but the pay off is excellent and not without genuine excitement as Connery's (doing his own stunt work) Pierce and Sutherland's safe cracking Agar pull off the seemingly impossible.

Benefiting the film greatly is Crichton's attention to detail, where he thrives on the Victorian England setting. From the streets, the costumes, the dialogue and mannerisms of the characters, they all fit nicely within the narrative. Helps, too, that the cast are playing it with tongue in cheek, Connery and Sutherland are revelling in playing roguish dandies, splendidly attired facially with quality face fuzz and Down raises the temperature of Connery and male audience members alike. Probably her best ever performance, Crichton writes a good role for Down that sees her not only as a sexy head turner (it's unlikely that Victorian underwear has ever looked this sexy before in film), but also as an observant member of the gang; one who isn't too shabby on the disguise front either. Dancer Wayne Sleep is nicely cast as a fleet footed housebreaker, while Lang, Webb, Morell and Michael Elphick pitch their respective performances just right. Goldsmith's score is energetic and Unsworth's (his last film as he sadly passed away shortly after shooting it) photography is a lesson in quality without trickery.

Fanciful and tame if compared to the big budgeted actioners of today, The First Great Train Robbery none the less is testament that simplicity of plot and a keenness to entertain is sometimes all you need. 8/10


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