The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery (1966)

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Released 9-Feb-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1966
Running Time 90:13
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Sidney Gilliat
Frank Launder
Studio
Distributor
British Lion Films
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Frankie Howerd
Dora Bryan
George Cole
Reg Varney
Raymond Huntley
Richard Wattis
Portland Mason
Terry Scott
Eric Barker
Godfrey Winn
Colin Gordon
Desmond Walter-Ellis
Arthur Mullard
Case ?
RPI $14.95 Music Malcolm Arnold


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, Schoolgirls smoking.
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Polaroid, Nestles.
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Welcome aboard for our review of The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery. If you have been with us on the trip so far you will have met The Belles of St. Trinian's and shuddered at their shenanigans in Blue Murder at St. Trinian's. As with the earlier films in the series, this fourth entry continues to entertain us with the misadventures at St. Trinian's School for Girls, conjured from the wicked cartoons of Ronald Searle. This was the first of the films I saw on its premiere (the others I saw as reruns). I had not seen it since, and remembered only that I thought it was rather fun. With the passage of time I now appreciate many of the jokes aimed at adults, but it is not as funny as it once seemed, though the train chase during the last 20 minutes is still a good laugh.

    A few of the series regulars are still along for the ride. Luckily one of them is George Cole, who again shines as 'Flash' Harry, former boot boy and now school bookie. Richard Wattis is still suffering at the Department of Education and has to endure another trip to the school. Astute viewers will also recognise the lift operator from the Department, who had a key role to play in Blue Murder. Of the newcomers, Dora Bryan does well as Amber, the new headmistress (though I miss Alastair Sim in the role). Not so effective are British Comedy stalwarts Frankie Howerd and Reg Varney as members of the train robbery gang.

    Which brings us to the plot. The film opens with a highly organized train robbery, with the thieves managing to steal 2.5 million pounds. To hide it all until they can dispose of it the gang stash it under the floor of a large abandoned building. We jump to the Ministry of Education where the civil servants are cheering the election of a Labor government, which they hope will close down a number of private schools, including St. Trinian's. Unfortunately for them, the incoming Minister of Education is having an affair with Amber, and instead of closing the school down he gives her enough money to buy a new school building (after the last 3 burnt down). Of course, she buys the building that has the loot hidden in it.

    There are some amusing moments as Amber gathers her teaching staff together; first is her deputy, "due out of her holiday home on Wednesday" (she is released from prison). The Maths Mistress is busy cheating at poker when she receives the call of duty, and the Art Mistress is in the middle of a striptease (and made quite an impression on me back when I was 10). After the amusing opening, the pace flags significantly until the chase at the end, but these closing moments are so funny they might allow you to forgive what has come before. Part of the reason the film is not as good as the first two films in the series is that it has a very 60s feel to it - the others were quaint but more timeless. The supporting characters are also less memorable - there is no Police Sgt. Ruby Gates or equivalent on offer here. On balance this is still worth a look at the budget price, especially if you have watched and enjoyed the earlier films.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer on offer here is slightly below average - it looks like a low budget film which is starting to show its age.

    The aspect ratio of the transfer is 1.33:1, and so it is not 16x9 enhanced. I have been unable to find a definitive statement of the original theatrical release ratio, but am fairly sure it was not 1.33:1. If I had to guess I would say that it was probably produced at an aspect ratio of around 1.66:1. My reasons for this comment are:

    The picture is reasonably sharp, which is about its best feature, but shadow detail is woeful. I hardly need to quote an instance as the poor evening scenes are so prevalent, but take a look at 20:22 for one. Thankfully there is little low level noise in the dark segments of the picture. There is also frequent variation in the amount of light during scenes.

    At 8:54 Penelope (one of the members of my sample audience and number 2 child) said "Hey, it's in colour". This comment came about for two main reasons; firstly, the other two films in the series we had watched had been in Black & White, and secondly, the colour in the early part of this film is so drab it had failed to register with her that she was now watching a colour film. Apart from the problems with the night scenes already mentioned, the colours on offer here are nice enough, though dated. While flesh tones can be pleasant at times, there is a generally faded look about the whole thing.

    There are artefacts aplenty on this print. They range from the irritatingly common telecine wobble during the opening credits to great big diagonal slashes of damage across the print (14:52). The picture jumps at times. Reasons include telecine wobble (at 25:48) to damaged frames (26:32). You will see frequent positive and negative artefacts, but luckily aliasing is fairly minor.

    There are no subtitles, and no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer on offer here is, like the video transfer, slightly below average.

    There is only one audio track on offer, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track encoded at a bitrate of 224 Kb/s. I am starting to hate these tracks, as for some reason the sound placement is often imprecise, and frequently wanders across the front of the screen. Switching to Pro-Logic mode on my amplifier offered little improvement.

    Initially the dialogue is rather shrill and difficult to understand. At around 28:30 it suddenly changes in character and becomes deeper in tone and much easier on the ear. I can only assume the original reels had a different character; I would hate to think that the producers of the DVD noticed the poor sound during encoding and changed the tone without going back and doing the same to the earlier part of the film. The audio sync on the transfer is fine.

    The music in the film is again by series regular Malcolm Arnold. While the main themes which return from the earlier films are handled well, the rest of the music is not as distinguished - it seems as if Arnold's heart was not really in his work this time around. The opening song is particularly poor, which is especially disappointing in light of the major contribution the opening tunes made to the other films. The overall level of the music is fine.

    I hardly need to mention surround presence, as there isn't any. If your subwoofer needs to go out for a service, now is the time.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    No Extras.

Menu

    Static, with 10 Scene Selections available off the Main Menu.

    That's all for this section folks, please move along.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This film is not currently available on DVD in Region 1. In Region 2 it is available as part of a four film set of St. Trinian's films, which would be the preferable version if available at a reasonable price. (The third entry in the series, The Pure Hell of St. Trinian's, does not seem to be on the release schedule in Region 4 as yet).

Summary

    While The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery is reasonably entertaining in parts, and is available at a budget price, it is hard to recommend it as a purchase unless you really love the series. It is presented here with below average picture and sound, no Extras, and it seems to be at the wrong aspect ratio.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Thursday, February 19, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K350, using Component output
DisplaySONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderKenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationKenwood
SpeakersKenwood

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