Directed by Compton Bennett and written by Norman Hudis, Ronnie, earning very little from his own exploits, gathers together a band of villains to carry out a robbery on ‘The Flying Scotsman’ passenger train. The train is carrying withdrawn bank notes from Scotland to London to be destroyed. Starring: Lee Patterson, Kay Callard, Alan Gifford, Margaret Withers, Mark Baker, Jeremy Bodkin, Gerald Case, Margaret Gordon, John Lee, Kerry Jordan and John Dearth.
With the constant conversation about film runtimes these days, it’s almost unimaginable to have a feature coming in at just seventy minutes long but that’s what you get with The Flying Scot. It’s a pretty great example of what can be achieved in a brief amount of time. It’s paced extremely well and raises the tension and suspense as times goes on. There’s a nicely mysterious and nefarious air lingering in the background which ups the risk factor. The characters are constructed to smoothly walk that line of good and bad, letting you know they’re capable of plenty without losing any likability at all. It’s an entertaining story and it easily holds your attention from start to finish, it’s an effortless watch which makes you wish for the days when heist films focused less on making themselves complicated and more on entertainment.
The other element it does extremely well, which is often missed out on, is balancing out a key cast with supporting players who all have something to add to the story. Lee Patterson, Kay Callard and Alan Gifford take the lead perfectly, they each have their own chemistry and get across the history between them naturally. Patterson goes for the classic bad boy of cinema style, Callard plays with flirtation, street smarts and independence, while Gifford brings the weathered criminal, he can do these acts in his sleep but he’s getting too old for it. There’s then the fantastic supporting cast, with the particularly memorable Jeremy Bodkin’s hyper-active and nosy child, with a penchant for tall tales which quickly become truths. It’s written very well to give them all the chance to either help or hinder our band of robbers, and does so in a way that can be satisfyingly coincidental while never going over the top.
The restoration work brings a great visual quality to the film, it’s crisp with a lovely texture to it. It does a great job of using the space, capturing the very tight environment but never feeling trapped until things start to go off the rails. The only issue is when it tries to then add a more comedic angle into the mix, it’s typical for its time but it doesn’t work well consistently. It’s actually a refreshing change of pace to see a classic film with this balance of tone, with the exception of a few comedy mishaps, it’s focused on building that tension and suspense rather than becoming over dramatic or solving things too easily.
The Flying Scot is short and sweet, a highly entertaining and well written heist film which makes you pine for the days when they weren’t stuffed full of action sequences and drone shots. It’s paced perfectly, it’s not predictable and has a number of great characters. It constantly ups the ante but never goes over the top, as many of its time did, and the cast do a great job of feeding into the atmosphere of danger as time runs out. It’s a shame we don’t have more films like this today, a brief runtime, an easy watch and a genuinely good time.