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THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY

             

For Hicksflicks.com, Sept. 26, 2014

The 1979 comedy-thriller "The Great Train Robbery" is a most enjoyable heist picture with a great cast led by Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Lesley-Anne Down.

And it was written and directed by Michael Crichton — the novelist most famous for "Jurassic Park" and dozens of other medical/science-based thrillers. His most famous book may have been adapted by Steven Spielberg but Crichton was also a filmmaker in his own right, at this point having two hits under his belt, "Westworld" and "Coma."

Crichton based "The Great Train Robbery" on his own novel, making the movie much more comedic than the book. But the book is closer to the true story upon which the film is based, a gold robbery committed in 1855.

          

Sean Connery doing his own stunts in 'The Great Train Robbery.'

The mid-19th century also provides the setting for the film. Connery stars as a prominent member of London's social crowd but he's actually a master thief and is plotting to steal a shipment of gold with the assistance of his actress-girlfriend (Down) and a pickpocket acquaintance (Sutherland), along with a driver and a guard who's been bribed.

But, as you might expect, during the planning stages things go awry, accomplices commit double-crosses and various other complications cause problems. Eventually, of course, the robbery takes place and the chase is on.

One of the things that struck me when I saw this movie the first time in 1979 was how obvious it was that Connery was doing his own stunts, especially when he's running around on the moving train. It's quite impressive and adds another level of excitement to the proceedings.

           

Crichton was a pretty straightforward filmmaker, without particular flourish. But he was quite adept at action sequences, and there's plenty here to keep your heart pumping, even while you're chuckling.

"The Great Train Robbery" is yet another film that the Kino Lorber label has upgraded to Blu-ray and it's available at the company website or at Amazon.com, and probably other online stores as well.