The Flying Scot

It’s the perfect crime; the overnight express from Edinburgh to London, the first class carriage booked for the newlyweds backing onto the secure room where half a million of used banknotes removed from circulation are stowed for destruction. Removing the seating to access the stash, they will throw the cash from the window to their accomplice waiting at a prearranged point, change their appearance and disembark at King’s Cross before the theft is discovered, anonymous passengers among the throng.

No plan survives first contact with enemy; Ronnie, Jackie and Phil may have rehearsed the details like steps in a dance so they could perform them without thought but they had not reckoned with a nosey child, an overly-solicitous guard whose anniversary coincides with the sham honeymoon, a drunkard crashing the wrong compartment or Phil’s ulcer flaring up on the night, exacerbated by the stress of the job, or the additional difficulty of the irregular motion of the rapidly moving train.

Directed by Gift Horse’s Compton Bennett, The Flying Scot was released in late 1957, written by Norman Hudis who would later become a prolific contributor to American television of the sixties and seventies and with an eye on that market where the film was retitled Mailbag Robbery, with transatlantic stars Lee Patterson, Kay Callard and Alan Gifford taking the leads.

Released as part of StudioCanal’s Vintage Classics collection, The Flying Scot is an unusual inclusion in that it was shot as a B-movie for only £18,000 in three weeks with intention that it would fill a supporting slot, yet running at a taught seventy minutes it is superior to many headliners of the era, the performances strong and the script filled with humour both obvious and subtle, Phil finding himself sharing a carriage with an unaccompanied woman of a certain age (Margaret Withers) reading a magazine titled CRIME.

The opening thirteen minutes performed in silence as the “ideal” heist is established, setting the template for what the trio hope will transpire, but Ronnie is unable to maintain the necessary cool, his hot temper immediately attracting the attention they wished to avoid; when he slaps Jackie she doesn’t even react, presumably accustomed to it, and when Phil struggles with his tasks he criticises rather than offering assistance.

The new edition of The Flying Scot accompanied by interviews with Professor of British Cinema Steve Chibnall and journalist Barry Forshaw, they expand on the film and the “train movie” genre, considering the lower budget of B-movies as “a safe space for exploration,” and discuss the careers of the performers and creatives, linked with everything from Carry On… to Danger Man, The Avengers and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Released on Monday 8th August, The Flying Scot is one of the titles in StudioCanal’s Vintage Classics range which recently celebrated its one hundredth title



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