Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Film Review: The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery (1966)

It was good to sit down in the chair for an hour or so last Saturday to catch the 1966 movie The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery on ITV1.

The film is probably my favourite in the St Trinian's franchise because its typically 1960s in approach and feel and it features a great cast including Frankie Howerd, Dora Bryan, George Cole and Reg Varney (before On The Buses).

There are also appearances from such luminaries as Richard Wattis, Peter Gilmore, Raymond Huntley, Eric Barker, Colin Gordon and Terry Scott, a typical example of a film with a strong set of lead and support actors.

The real stars of these films were usually the girls themselves, descending in their hundreds (or so it would appear) to take out the villain of the piece towards the end of the film. Keen eyed viewers will notice Carole Ann Ford (Doctor Who's Susan Foreman) lending support in the film although the role of head girl fell to actor James Mason's daughter, Portland as Georgina.

Former child actress, Portland Mason is a particularly strong presence in this movie (among the 15 highest grossing UK films of 1966) and with an air of fresh-faced youth and beauty, its surprising the wasn't cast in many other major films of the 1960s.

There are lots of little quirky elements which also centre this film in the 1960s, for instance the criminals use of gadgets and an unseen criminal mastermind voice (provided by Stratford Johns) are all references to the James Bond films of the time. There are also references to the recently elected labour government possibly shutting down St Trinian's. The Ministry of Education become The Ministry of Schools in the film, presumably so not to imply too much confusion with the current government.

The film concludes with a train chase between Frankie Howerd's crooks and The St Trinian's Girls (along with George Cole's Flash Harry) on two stolen trains.

As the trains too and fro up and down the line, other characters including the local police force and Dora Bryan's set of teachers join in the chase. This appears to be a direct throwback to Will Hay's 1936 movie Oh! Mr Porter!, a similar style sequence would again appear in Dad's Army in 1973.

This is still a great sequence to watch particularly as the crooks who are in pursuit of their stolen money rescued by the St Trinian's girls are fended off with hockey sticks. The girls lead by Flash Harry are unwittingly given MBE's for their part in the retrieval of the money an award they duly accept. This references  awards given to The Beatles (earlier in 1965) in which numerous holders of the MBE returned their awards in protest of The Beatles recognition. A copy of The Daily Express dated November 4, 1965 proclaims 300 M.B.E's For St.Trinians - Thousands Return Their Medals! and an underneath strap line: "A Diabolical Liberty" says Ringo.

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