The Brain (1969 film)

The Brain (French: Le Cerveau) is a 1969 French comedy film directed by Gérard Oury, about a second train robbery by the brain behind the Great Train Robbery of 1963. It stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and Bourvil as a pair of French petty crooks, David Niven as a British Army officer who is secretly a criminal mastermind and Eli Wallach as a Sicilian mafioso.

The Brain
Original film poster
Directed byGérard Oury
Produced byAlain Poiré
Written byGérard Oury
Marcel Jullian
Danièle Thompson
StarringJean-Paul Belmondo
David Niven
Eli Wallach
Silvia Monti
Music byGeorges Delerue
CinematographyWladimir Ivanov
Edited byAlbert Jurgenson
Distributed byParamount
Release date
  • 7 March 1969 (1969-03-07) (France)
Running time
115 minutes
Budget$3.6 million[1]
Box office$41.6 million[2]


Arthur, due for release from prison in four days' time, escapes to join his accomplice Anatole in robbing a night train carrying millions in cash from Paris to Brussels. The money belongs to NATO and in charge of its transit is Colonel Matthews, who in fact was the unknown mastermind behind the Great Train Robbery, nicknamed 'The Brain'.

In his plans for a repeat exploit, he recruits a mafioso called Scannapieco to launder the money for a small percentage. Visiting the Sicilian's villa outside Palermo, he catches the eye of his sister Sofia, who resolves to give him her virginity. This infuriates her brother, who considers his honour impugned and resolves that instead of a contemptible percentage he will take all the money himself.

The train sets off with the money, and with Arthur and Anatole disguised as railwaymen. The two incapacitate the guards in the secure coach with gas, free its couplings and, when it has rolled to a halt, throw the bags of cash down the embankment. However it is the precise spot where Colonel Matthews' team, disguised as firemen, are waiting. They scoop up the bags and make off with sirens blaring, leaving Arthur and Anatole to walk back to Paris penniless.

The firemen do not get far because they run into a roadblock, where the police reclaim the money and arrest Matthews. In fact, they are not police but disguised mafiosi, whose plan is to smuggle the money out of France in a replica of the Statue of Liberty. Hijacking a DS19, Arthur and Anatole give chase. Also in the chase at the wheel of a BMW 2000 coupé is Sofia, who has freed Matthews and locked her brother in a cabin trunk. All three groups of villains are pursued by the police, ending up on the dockside at Le Havre.

As the Statue of Liberty is hoisted aboard the passenger liner SS France, Arthur climbs into it and finds the money, which falls in a shower of banknotes over the crowds on the quay. The film ends on the ship as it enters New York Harbor, where Matthews lets Arthur and Anatole into the secret of his next operation, which is to hijack a consignment of bullion bound for Fort Knox.


The film's original score was composed by Georges Delerue, while its theme song was performed by The American Breed. The score also includes the song Cento giorni, performed by Caterina Caselli.


The film was the most popular movie at the French box office in 1969.[3]


  2. Box office information for film at Box Office Story
  3. "The World's Top Twenty Films." Sunday Times [London, England] 27 Sept. 1970: 27. The Sunday Times Digital Archive. accessed 5 Apr. 2014
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