The Great St. Trinian’s Train Robbery (1966)
Director: Sidney Gilliatt, Frank Launder
Cast: Frankie Howerd, Dora Bryan, George Cole
Synopsis: The all-girl school foil an attempt by train robbers to recover two and a half million pounds hidden in their school.
Six years after its previous release, the St. Trinian’s franchise was briefly revived with only middling results. The key components of Alastair Sim as the school’s morally dubious headmistress and Joyce Grenfell as the jolly hockey sticks policewoman-cum-schoolmistress (if I remember correctly) were sorely missed, even though the inclusion of some prominent names of British comedy and the return of George Cole as Flash Harry goes some way to redressing the balance.
The schoolgirls aren’t quite as anarchic in this one. They get wind of the plan of a motley crew of train robbers to spirit away their loot from its hiding place beneath the floorboards of the old building that has recently become their new home, and set out to foil their plan, meaning they’re on the side of right for once, even though there’s a belated attempt to show their pursuit of the villains as purely for personal gain. To be honest, the girls have only a supporting role, with most scenes going to Dora Bryan (Sim’s replacement as the school’s headmistress) and Frankie Howerd as the leader of the gang. Other familiar members of the gang of inept thieves include Reg Varney, Norman Mitchell and Arthur Mullard.
The second half of the film comprises almost entirely of a prolonged chase along a deserted stretch of railroad, and it’s only really when this chase gets underway that the film acquires any momentum. It’s reminiscent of the slapstick chases of the silent era – which is quite ironic seeing as this was clearly an attempt to update the series to the swinging sixties – and is quite enjoyable, even though, like its protagonists, it doesn’t really have anywhere to go.
(Reviewed 31st July 2012)