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Blu-Ray Review: Kino Lorber’s The Great Train Robbery (KL Studio Classics) 

The Great Train Robbery

Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland team up for The Great Train Robbery.  New from Kino Lorber on Blu-Ray

The Film 

Everyone loves a good heist film.  

The Great Train Robbery is not just a good heist film but a great one.  Leisurely paced and packed with the kind of detail you expect from a novel written by Michael Crichton about the time and place.  The film’s pace is matched by a trio of magnetic performances by Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland, and Leslie-Ann Down.

Edward Pierce (Connery), Miriam (Down), and Agar (Sutherland) set about stealing a cache of gold meant to fun the Crimean War.  Pierce has embedded himself into high society, allowing him to plan, hoodwink, and execute the perfect robbery.  All the while no one knows he’s a thief of the highest order.  With an almost impossible task ahead of them these three methodically plan and often improvise as said plans never go according to their wishes. 

As with any good heist film, it isn’t the goal but what’s in the way of the goal that elevates the film.  Not the masterful The Hot Rocks but within that rarified are of great heist films where things delightfully go wrong.  Crichton understands that the heist is secondary to the characters, their charm, and their chemistry together.  Here with a trio of superstars working in their prime, it’s almost as though he just stepped back and let things play out.  

Of course, that isn’t the case with The Great Train Robbery as it is one of the more elegantly shot films of the 1970s.  It should come as no surprise to anyone that with the above statement that Crichton worked with the legendary cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth. Similar to his work on The Assassination Bureau a few years prior, it is as elegant and beautifully diffused as it is witty and clever.  Though here the work is less manic resulting in a film that always purposely understands where the camera should be at all times for maximum effect.  

The Great Train Robbery is for those that love quirk in their heist films.  Ones that don’t mind them being the pace of a lazy Sunday sipping tea.  

The Transfer

The Transfer is the same one from the prior release but with the added benefit of a dual-layered BD50 disc which the original was not.  The larger disc and compression software updates since the original disc that Kino released have improved giving us a fresher fuller transfer.  The image retains the sharpness but adds the layer of Unsworth’s patented diffusion giving a beautiful patina painterly image throughout the film.  Unsworth’s work is as tricky as any cinematographer’s work to reproduce properly (having seen archival prints of Superman: The Movie and Murder on the Orient Express on the big screen).  Here they get it right. Bravo to Kino for going back and allowing the most important part of any disc, the visual representation thrives on a more spacious disc.  

The Extras

They include the following;

  • Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Michael Crichton
  • TV Spots
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Archival Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Michael Crichton, which was recorded during the heady days of Laserdiscs, begins with Crichton discussing how the story of a Victorian-era heist on a Train came to be a film and novel.  Some of the details include the development of the book and the deals how it came to be; working with Geoffrey Unsworth; the social norms and research that Crichton did about the era for his book that he brought to screen; working with Sean Connery – and plenty of interesting personal anecdotes; a larger discussion about how the various crimes like pick pocketing, key copying, et. al. that are seen in the film; the “ratting” scene – including a few very strange anecdotes about the dog they cast and the production of the scene itself, note this is well BEFORE animal safety; working with costume designer Anthony Mendleson; a larger discussion about the huge and various issues of making a period piece; working in Europe on his third directorial effort – the difficulties and challenges, and how Unsworth helped with the matter; the issues with maintaining a PG rating at the time; the massive work done to bring the train station and train to period accuracy; a great story about the use of CGI in the film; the color timing and color of the film and its purposeful use; discussions throughout about the film’s stunt work and how they achieved them; and much more. Crichton’s track is an old-school informative track that’s from the heyday of truly great commentary tracks (yes, the Laserdisc tracks are consistently better as the participants take a mentor-like role delving into how a film is made) and proves Crichton was as considerate a director as he was a novelist – one of the true renaissance people of the last part of the 20th Century. 

TV Spots (1:05) – 2 30-second TV Spots 

Rounding out the special features are trailers for The Great Train Robbery (2:52); Cuba (1:55); Ordeal by Innocence(2:41); Grand Slam (3:52); Breakheart Pass (3:07); Murder by Decree (3:33) 

The Final Thought 

The Great Train Robbery is a devilishly good time.  Kino Lorber has done a wonderful job of this new upgraded edition with picture and sound.  Highest Possible Recommendations!!! 

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray edition of The Great Train Robbery is out now 

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