The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 14, April 6, 2008, Article 23


On Wednesday evening I told my son that "me and Pap-Pap are
going to a Prayer Meeting."   Translation: my father-in-law
and I were going out to a movie.  We saw "The Bank Job", a
new heist movie based on a true story.  Set in London in
early 1970s, it chronicles the unlikely tale of a group of
amateur thieves who break into a safe deposit vault and
unwittingly stumble into a rabbit's nest of spies, mobsters
and cops on the take.

As a collector who's had a safe deposit box since I was twelve,
I've always enjoyed the mystique of the safe deposit vault.
Having already seen countless heist films in my childhood,
entering the vault for the first time felt like going to church
- a sacred place.  Tucked down in the basement of a big bank
building, the vault was attended by the prim purveyors of an
ancient ritual - the signing of forms, the checking of signatures,
and the turning of multiple keys (kind of like launching an ICBM
from a missile silo beneath a Kansas wheat field).

One can't help but wonder just what treasures are held in
those antiseptic little metal boxes, or to fantasize about
what it would be like to ransack them and haul off the loot.
Does that box hold a coin collection like mine?  Gold bars?
A dusty diary?  What's in that BIG one?  Antiques?  Paintings?
Maybe, maybe not.  Some boxes may hold little other than birth
certificates or other documents.   There's an old story about
a man who visited his safe deposit box every weekday for years
on end.  The staff was dying to know why.  Finally they did
learn what he kept in his box - salt and pepper shakers.  He
ate his lunch there because it was cheaper and more convenient
than restaurants.

I was also interested in the film because of my recent stay
in London.  I wasn't disappointed - locations included the
Tottenham Court tube station and the Paddington train station,
both places I passed through frequently.  In the film, spooks,
crooks, mobsters and Lords met there to make deals and trade
hostages and compromising documents and photographs.

Paddington looked just like I remembered it although I could
tell right away that the tube station scenes were filmed
elsewhere.  Tottenham Station had been modernized.  According
to a note on the Internet Movie Database ( Aldwych
station was chosen to film the underground scenes.

The web site also notes a numismatic anachronism: "although
the film is set in 1971, signs on various shop doors seen in
the film advertise that credit cards 'Visa' and 'Mastercard'
are accepted. The name 'Visa' was not used for the charge
card before 1977 (replacing Barclaycard in the UK); 'Mastercard'
was 'Master Charge' until 1979."

Goofs like that are a reminder that movies being what they
are, it may have only the slimmest connection to reality.
It is true that on the night of September 11, 1971 a gang
tunneled into a branch of Lloyds Bank at the intersection of
Baker Street and Marylebone Road in London and robbed the safe
deposit boxes there.  Beyond that, it's anyone's guess as to
how accurately the film depicts the actual events.  Truth
really is stranger than fiction, though.

The producers claim that they have an inside source who
served as an advisor on the film.  Was the real goal of
the robbery to obtain compromising photos of a member of
the royal family?  We may never know.  Four people served
time for the robbery, but little of the loot was ever

None of that should matter to the average filmgoer, though.
It's a very well done and entertaining film, but not one to
take young children to.

To read a review of The Bank Job in The New Yorker, see:
Full Story

To read a review of The Bank Job in The Telegraph, see:
Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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