Generally considered a footnote in British Cinema history, Robbery is a curious little film which seems to have exerted a lot of creative influence without ever really entering the public consciousness.
Producer Michael Deeley bought the rights to Peta Fordham’s 1965 book The Robber’s Tale, a purportedly ‘true account’ of the so-called Great Train Robbery. The 1963 crime had captured public imagination and elevated the robbers to almost celebrity status. Even with the book rights, Deeley was concerned about potential lawsuits and the decision was made to adapt only the actual robbery scene (from court transcripts) and to use ‘fictitious speculation’ to make the rest of the film.
Deeley brought on Peter Yates and the two shopped the script around, eventually approaching Stanley Baker. Baker and Deeley would share producing duties with Baker also starring. They approached Vanessa Redgrave to co-star (she turned the film down), George Raft to appear (he was refused entry to the UK) and Jason Robards to play a US backer (his scenes were shot but abandoned from the final cut). The cast they did get is a glittering who’s who of British character actors from 60s tv.
Along side Baker, the films ensemble cast includes Barry Foster, William Marlowe, George Sewell, Rachel Herbert, Clinton Greyn and Frank Finlay - All familiar faces on British television in 1967. Mike Pratt and Ivor Dean appear uncredited, as does a very young Robert Powell - Powell would go on to appear in The Italian Job (1969), also produced by Deeley by the production company he ran with Baker. That same company, Oakhurst Productions, would later make Perfect Friday (1970), starring Baker and featuring his Robbery co-star Patrick Jordan in a minor role. Further to this, the law is represented here by James Booth and Glynn Edwards; both had appeared with Baker in Zulu (1964), the film on which he had first cut his teeth as a producer.
In many ways, Robbery feels like a dry run for The Italian Job. A lot of the elements are here: the opening car chase, the meticulous planning of the crime, the recruitment of villains and internal power struggles. But where the later film often plays for laughs and includes any number of classic quotes, this film plays it all deadly seriously. There are long stretches where characters don’t speak, and when they do the dialogue is concise and sharp - even dark, as Baker threatens Frank Finlay’s family to ensure his cooperation, or grimly explains to his wife why he has a gun in the house (“I’m not going back to prison..”).
That isn’t to say the film is too dark or serious - actually it hits just the right note. It is, to use a cliche, a ‘taut thriller’, pin-sharp and very intense. The fact that most of the characters are sketched in, with little discernable motivation beyond Making A Lot Of Money doesn’t really hurt the film at all. Perhaps its the hard work of a talented, but not showy cast. Perhaps its just that the film is very well made. Its almost two hours long and it really is just about a robbery, but it never once flags. There is no fat to trim and I was entirely hooked throughout.
Although not a huge success, Robbery was not a failure either and appears to have done ok. One particular element seems to have had the most influence - that opening car chase, as the villains evade the police having committed one robbery to fund the main event. Its incredibly well made, an intense ten minutes of high octane nonsense through London suburbs, trying to shake the police and avoid the pedestrians. At least two people were very impressed - received wisdom has it that Steve McQueen and producer Philip D'Antoni saw the film and were inspired to hire the director, Peter Yates, for their next venture: Bullitt (1968).
Day One:Festival/Kissing Booth
Happy billdipweek 2017 guysss!
- If they’ll try to kiss you i’ll make pay them far more than 5c - Something like… life? - Din Din! Right answer lil Sapling, your prize is a kiss!
AHHH I’M SO EXITED! IT’S STUPID BUT IT’S THE FIRST TIME I PARTECIPE AT AN EVENT LIKE THAT AND ADSBHSDBKCHKSHCABSKH I’M HAPPY AHHHHH *shut up Mochi.*
I don’t know if i can do all the day because this is the last week of school so it’s full of tests (yes………. the last week…………………………..) and then i will have a really important exam so i have to work hard and study, but I’LL TRY!