(director/writer: Peter Yates; screenwriters: Edward Boyd/George Markstein; cinematographer: Douglas Slocombe; editor: Reginald Beck; music: Johnny Keating; cast: Stanley Baker (Paul Clifton), James Booth (Inspector George Langdon), Frank Finlay (Robinson), Joanna Pettet (Kate Clifton), Barry Foster (Frank), William Marlowe (Dave Aitken), Clinton Greyn (Jack), George Sewell (Ben), Glynn Edwards (Squad Chief), Michael McStay (Don), Robert Powell (Delta Tarin Guard); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Michael Deeley/Stanley Baker; Embassy Pictures; 1967-UK
“It’s only routine cops and robbers doings.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An entertaining Peter Yates film (“Eyewitness”/”The Deep”/”Suspect”). At times it’s a fast-moving thriller loosely based (mostly fictionalized) on the £ 3 million Great Train Robbery of the Royal Mail, a night mail train heading from Glasgow to London in 1963, and is much influenced in its penchant for detail by Rififi. Its success was the reason Yates went to Hollywood a year later to make his biggest hit Bullitt. It’s only routine cops and robbers doings, but excites with a jewel robbery and then a wild chase sequence through the London streets in its twenty minute sequence to open the caper film. That sequence has no dialogue. The rest of the film pales in comparison, but it does offer some suspense as it chugs along in a documentary style with its precision robbery plans until the exciting climax when the police close in at an unused airfield as the robbers divvy up the booty. The script by Edward Boyd, George Markstein and Yates offers only a few surprises.
Paul Clifton (Stanley Baker) executes a simple jewel theft in order to finance his more ambitious heist project, to mastermind the robbery of the Royal Mail. He thereby recruits various specialists, fifteen in all, and even arranges for the jail escape of Robinson (Frank Finlay)–a convicted currency expert. After the train is successfully robbed, Clifton calls his estranged wife (Joanna Pettet); but the savvy Scotland Yard man Inspector George Langdon (James Booth) has tapped her phone and the police arrive at the place where the gang is dividing up the loot and grab everyone but Clifton. He escapes to the US with the money (supposedly, the real gang leader is now living in Brazil with his new wife and children).
REVIEWED ON 10/28/2008 GRADE: B-