Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

Yesterday, I found myself on an underground train which made me think of one of my all-time favorite movies, 1974’s THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3. Cited as being influential and Tarantino and others who’ve followed in his wake, PELHAM is a first class New York City thriller that starts out with a typical day at the Transit Authority and ends up a police investigation. Along the way, there’s a taut, almost real-time section in which four men have hijacked a subway train and threaten to kill one person a minute unless they are given one million dollars in exactly one hour. Based on an almost forgotten best-selling book by John Godey, the pacing of the film starts slow and with a lot of humor but builds to a genuine tension. Direction by Joseph Sargent is as good as it gets but the casting of so many great NYC character actors of the seventies is what makes it all work. Walter Matthau, he of the hangdog face, grumpy attitude and laconic delivery, truly inhabits the lead role of the man who gets thrust into the middle of a totally unexpected situation. The great Robert Shaw (THE STING, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE) is absolutely chilling as the head bad guy. Along the way, you get Jerry Stiller, Tony Roberts, Martin Balsam, Richard Castellano, Julius Harris, Dick O’Neill, James Broderick, Hector Elizondo and HOME IMPROVEMENT’s Wilson, Earl Hindman. There are funny lines, good performances, realistically scary moments, a memorable score, clever cat and mouse games and one of the absolute best endings any movie ever had. If you get a chance to see PELHAM 123…Take it!


Anonymous said...

I read this book when it first came out in the early 70s. I've never seen the original film all the way from start to finish.

there was a made for TV remake a few years back when I put to VHS (remember that) but ended up never watching it. The tape is lost or discarded i think.

All that being said I own hard cover and paperback editions of this book and it remains a favorite.

Alan B.

Neil said...

I love this movie. I think the slowness is part of the appeal. I think too many movies today have forgotten to measure the pace in places, to help build suspense, develop character and even just to build a certain reality.

bruce grossman said...

Almost forgotten book hell I reviewed it a few weeks ago.