LookoutThe Bank Job, starring Jason  Statham, is based on the true story of a 1971 heist in London. The tag “based on a true story” should lead fans to be weary. Details can be changed to fit a filmmakers conceptions and fill in the blanks. I guess I will do the gracious thing and say if you plan on seeing the movie, I have included a bunch of spoilers.

The story of the “walkie talkie” robbers is actually pretty much on the money, at least according to one of an interview with on ex-gang member. The tunneling took three weeks. Digging was only done Friday through Monday morning to avoid complaints from the bank and restaurant next door. Reports distinguished about four or five males and one woman over the radio.

The robbery bared some connections to the Sherlock Holmes tale, “The Red Headed League“. The robbery took place near the legendary office of Holmes, on the corner of Baker Street and Marylebone Road. The robbers realized the connection and left the Jason Smessage, “Let Sherlock Holmes try to solve this” spray-painted on the inside of the vault.

A lot of the conversations between the robbers and the lookout were verbatim. Ham radio owner Robert Rowlands caught the messages while trying to contact a friend in Australia. The cops ignored it as a hoax but Rowlands managed to enlist the help of Scotland Yard. Authorities taped and kept transcripts of some of the conversations. They were unable to trace the robbers before they went off the air.

The plot of the movie centers around the idea that this entire robbery was setup by the British government. That detail according to my research this claim has no proof. The interview from The Mirror with the unidentified gang member seems go against this. It was a bunch of guys in this for jewels and cash.

The robber admitted they found some incriminating photos, though he could not discuss who was in them, or confirm if any were of Princess Margaret. The robbers also Princess Margaretstumbled upon some child pornography, disgusted, they left the pictures for the authorities to trace back to the owners.

I looked into the back story of Princess Margaret because although I could guess part of it, I didn’t know any details. She was Queen Elizabeth’s sister and third in line for the throne. She lived extravagantly and there were rumors about her partying nature. Margaret wanted to originally marry Captain Peter Townsend, a previously divorced man. This was a huge scandal at the time, though it may seem insignificant by today’s standards.

She married and divorced Antony Armstong-Jones. She was later connected with Roddy Llewellyn, she was 17 years his senior. The pair met at her villa in the Caribbean where the scandalous pictures mentioned in the movie were supposedly taken.

Michael XThe pictures were believed to be held in the safe deposit box of radical Michael X. Michael X, or Abdul Malik, was hung for the murder of Gale Ann Benson. The film portrayed Gale as a spy which was not true. Malik’s follower, Edward Chadee reported, “[Gale was] causing Hakim some mental strain, so we have to get rid of her.” They dug Gale a grave and accomplice Marvin Dean, stabbed her.

While the story is close enough to reality it is interesting to take note of the actual history. In the end the robbers did not get away. Four men were arrested though their sentences and names were never released to the media.

I think it is important for audiences to take films as entertainment and learn history through research. I have been doing fact checking on movies since I was a kid watching Pocahontas.

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