Robbery [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (15th January 2020).
The Film

Peter Yates, who would direct the Steve McQueen hit "Bullitt" (1968) and the definitive criminal film, "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" (1973) caught a lucky break with this taunt film that was based on an authentic train robbery in England in 1963; McQueen had seen "Robbery" and was certainly impressed with the exciting opening car chase scene that he requested Yates direct "Bullitt". As readers will recall that film featured a hair-raising car chase between McQueen and two hit men on the hilly streets of San Francisco and that exciting sequence was no doubt inspired by the opening scenes of "Robbery". Featuring some impressive hand held camera work, the initial scene sets the pace and tone for the film to follow. We see an identified man place a type of gas bomb with a timer device inside of a car as it is parked on a London street. The car departs with its driver and passenger in the back seat, but we realize that this is someone of import because the passenger is handcuffed to a brief case that contains several diamonds. The gang, of whom we havenít met yet, are waiting dressed as attendants in an ambulance that is tailing the vehicle in question. At the appropriate time, the bomb is triggered, filling the car with a cloud of white gas that knocks out both the driver and the passenger simultaneously. Good thing that the ambulance is nearby and they spring into action removing the passenger to the waiting vehicle along with the briefcase. The handcuffs are cut off and the briefcase opened to reveal the dayís haul: diamonds. However the gang is unaware that they have been followed by the police and soon the ambulance is abandoned and a getaway car comes by to pick up the men. What follows establishes several themes quickly: these men are professional thieves, not rank amateurs and everything has been timed and carefully thought out. The men donít waste time with stupid banter and there are long periods of silence except for the straining sound of the car engine as it is put through its paces. Yates handles the chase scene in an impervious manner with plenty of close-ups of the passing scenery as seen through the car windows. The men jump from the moving car one by one as the police continue to follow close behind until a near calamitous accident involving several school children at an intersection; the men resume their more ordinary lives that act as the front for their criminal endeavors.

The gang, as they are gradually introduced, includes Dave (William Marlowe), Frank (Barry Foster), and Jack (Clinton Greyn). Paul (Stanley Baker) is the mastermind of these men and he persuades them to use their newly gained resources to bankroll a much more ambitious job, the famed ďone last job and then weíre out for good.Ē But we all have seen too many movies to fall for that gag and I thought to myself, thatís what they all say, but letís see what Yates has in mind for these men. The only problem with pulling this last grand job is that they will need additional help and that includes Ben (George Sewell) who is currently in prison for embezzlement, but that is a mere detail as Ben boldly goes over the walls, with some assistance. The plan is to steal an estimated three or four million pounds from the night mail train as it proceeds from Glasgow to London. Clifton reasons that the train will be loaded with dough because he has timed the job for the Tuesday after the bank holiday weekend. The men are shown skulking about the railroad line dressed in dark clothing and armed with stop watches; the job demands perfection in all details and there is no room for mistakes.

Meanwhile the school teacher (Rachel Herbert) who had a close call with the fleeing getaway driver is brought to police headquarters to take a look at various men in a line up. She positively identifies Jack and this leads to Inspector George Langdon (James Booth) being suspicious that the gang are planning another heist. Langdon goes to Jack and Daveís places of work in order to let them know that they are suspects in the diamond heist and the two act innocent; they are hardworking individuals that no longer need to rely on crime for their expenses. Langdon is no push over; he is like a hound that has gotten a snootful of the retreating preyís scent and he is not going to back down easily. Yates gives both sides an equal showing: the villains work hard at their wrongdoing, but the law is also tireless in its pursuit of the criminals. I enjoyed the comparison and contrast of the perpetrators with the investigators; they are indeed two sides of the same coin.

With the pressure mounting as the deadline nears, Paul and his wife Kate (Joanna Pettet) are shown frequently quarrelling; she is all too aware of Paulís checkered past and the fact that he has recently been released from prison has not soothed her suspicions of Paulís late hours. Paul is in a precarious position because not only does he have to deal with the demands of the gang, but he also is playing babysitter to his former cellmate Robinson, who refuses to heed Paulís warnings about contacting his family. As they say, a chain is only as good as its weakest link, and in this case Robinsonís impracticality will lead to the gangís eventual downfall.

Yates efficiently moves the action along, often selecting moments of silence that help ratchet up the tension, not clogging up the filmís flow with unnecessary dialogue. It is obvious that this film and Yatesí previously mentioned filmography helped pave the way for newer films such as Michael Mannís "Thief" (1981) and his own heist film "Heat" (1995). Historically one can trace this film's criminal lineage back to the Jules Dassinís jewel heist epic "Riffi" (1955) and to John Hustonís classic "The Asphalt Jungle" (1950) prior to that. I really enjoy the premise of the heist film and its doomed destiny ultimately illustrating the old clichť, that crime doesnít pay. Using the facts of the actual train robbery, the screenplay by Edward Boyd, Peter Yates and George Markstein captures plenty of the details of the robbery itself. This is universally considered one of the most daring crimes of the 20th Century and the film concludes with the escape of mastermind Paul Clifton.

The actual robbery of the train itself is shown in realistic terms and we are witness to exactly how the act was carried out. Tension is superbly maintained throughout and Yates makes excellent use of authentic locations and the camera work by Douglas Slocombe is excellent. The cast is very good however the performance of Stanley Baker as the ringleader is notable. This is a classic heist film presented for the first time on Blu-ray.

Video

Presented in widescreen 1.67:1 mastered in HD 1080p 24/fps using AVC MPEG-4 compression, the color scheme is totally acceptable and the blacks are fairly strong, lots of details are displayed. There is some very good contrast levels used and the natural lighting in many scenes reproduces fairly well.

Audio

Audio is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track with a very good score supplied by Johnny Keating. There are long takes where there is no dialogue and only ambient sounds are heard. Yates makes very good use of silence in many scenes. Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired.

Extras

Kino Lorber has included a lively and extremely well researched audio commentary track with film critic Nick Pinkerton is supplied. Pinkerton actually names the streets used in the opening jewel heist scene.

The film's original "Historical" theatrical trailer (1:48) is included.

There are also a collection of bonus trailers for:

- "The High Commissioner" (1:56).
- "Street People" (2:23).
- "Midas Run" (2:33).
- "Loophole" (1:26).
- "The House on Carroll Street" (1:59).
- "An Innocent Man" (2:19).

Packaging

Packaged in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

Overall

I have read that the film is sourced from the same 2K remaster as a British Network that was released several years ago, but this is a very good version of the film.

The Film: A Video: A Audio: A Extras: B Overall: A-

 


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