The Great Train Robbery (1978) Poster

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  • Edward Pierce (Sean Connery) and his two accomplices—Robert Agar (Donald Sutherland) and Miriam (Lesley-Anne Down)—mastermind a plan to steal the gold shipment from London to the Crimea while on the moving London-to-Folkestone train, a heist that had never before been attempted because the gold was placed in two strongboxes which were then loaded into two 550-pound safes constructed of ¾-inch tempered steel, each locked with two keys. For additional security, each of the four different keys were individually protected. Two keys went to the railway dispatcher who kept them locked in his office, a third key was given to Edgar Trent (Alan Webb), president of the Huddleson & Bradford Bank, and the fourth key was given to Henry Fowler (Malcolm Terris), manager of the Huddleson & Bradford. In order to pull off the heist, which took a year in planning, Pierce and Agar have to get their hands on all four keys, make wax copies, and then return the keys without getting caught. They then have to get on the train, secure access to the luggage van where the safes were housed, steal the gold, and get it and themselves off the train before it pulls into Folkestone. Edit

  • The film is based on American author Michael Crichton's 1975 novel, The Great Train Robbery. Chichton loosely based his novel on the Great Gold Robbery of 1855, which took place on a train carrying a load of gold from London to the British Army during the Crimean War [1853-1856]. Crichton also wrote the screenplay as well as directed the movie. Edit

  • Crimea is an autonomous republic of the Ukraine, located on the northern coast of the Black Sea on a peninsula of the same name. The Ukraine is bordered by Poland and Romania to the west and Russia to the east. A map of the Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula can be viewed here. Edit

  • "Oh my, think I'm going to die. Oh my, think I'm going to die." Edit

  • After Pierce and Agar toss the gold off the train for Barlow (George Downing) to pick up, Agar notices that Pierce is covered with soot from the train smoke. Agar gives his clean clothes to Pierce and then climbs back into the coffin. Pierce takes the clothes back to his first-class compartment and changes into them. When the train arrives at Folkestone Station, the coffin (with Agar in it) is loaded onto Barlow's wagon. As Barlow and Miriam wait for Pierce to catch up with them, Pierce hurries down the station platform, not knowing that the topcoat he got from Agar is ripped up the back. Scotland Yarder Sharp (Robert Lang), who has accompanied the train to Folkestone, notices it however, and has Pierce arrested. At his trial, Pierce is asked by the judge why he conceived, planned, and executed such a dastardly crime; Pierce answers simply, "I wanted the money." Pierce is led out of the courthouse into the paddy wagon to take him to prison and is kissed by an old woman (Miss Miriam in disguise, who passes him the key to the handcuffs in her mouth). The paddy wagon is being driven by Agar. Pierce knocks out the two policemen guarding him, jumps on the back of the wagon, and Agar speedily drives away as Pierce waves to the cheering crowd. Edit

  • Those who have both seen the movie and read the book mostly agree that the movie is faithful to the book, with a few exceptions. One notable difference is that the minor role of Miriam in the novel is expanded to a major role in the movie. Another is in the scene where Miriam plays a prostitute in order to get the key from around Fowler's neck; in the novel, the prostitute was a 12-year-old girl. Certain events are changed in their order, and the ending of the movie is also different from the book in that in the movie Pierce is arrested right after the robbery at Folkestone whereas in the book Agar turned in Pierce and Burgess the guard six months later after he himself had been arrested on a totally different charge, and it was Barlow who picked up Pierce outside the courthouse, not Agar. Edit

  • Due to United Kingdom's strict animal violence policy, the scene involving dogs fighting the rats has been altered for the UK. Unfortunately this master was later on used for nearly all European DVD releases. Edit

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