With Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Jerry Stiller, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, Earl Hindman
Directed by Joseph Sargent

Reviewed by JB

That's.... one.... MILLION... dollars!    There was a time in New York City when you could ride the subway for 35 cents, hear country music on the radio, and see a movie that got to its major plot point in under ten minutes.  Welcome to THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE, a classic thriller from the 1970's.  

     Directed by Joseph Sargent, best known for television work, PELHAM is a crisply-paced and tightly edited actioner with no time for niceties like exposition or character background. Nine minutes into the film, Robert Shaw and his three cronies have already hijacked a New York subway locomotive and Walter Matthau and the entire police department of New York City begin a feverish race against time to get the ransom delivered within the required hour.  Matthau, Shaw and Martin Balsam (one of the bad guys) deliver the exact kind of excellent performances you expect of them, and the film contains much good humor along with the requisite thrills.

     Complete with slightly exaggerated New York accents, authentic location shooting, outdated "seventies" sensibilities and more character actors than you can shake an egg cream at, THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE is a superb, if somewhat unsung, "New York" movie, with a final few seconds that make up one of the best endings of that outstanding cinematic decade.  As gritty, fast-paced and nostalgic as an actual ride in a New York City subway car, which, take it from me, haven't changed all that much in thirty years.  4 - JB

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Without spoiling it, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three has the kind of ending all movies should have - the moment the actual plot comes to a conclusion, the film fades out.  One look on a character's face tells it all - that's all folks, good night, goodbye and good luck, no Johnny LaRue crane shots, no going back to clear up minor plot developments - fade out, credits roll, movie's over, see ya folks!


"Screw the Goddamned passengers!  What the hell they expect for their lousy 35 cents, to live forever?"

IS THAT WHO I THINK IT IS?: Look for Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond) as the Mayor's wife.

HOW'M I DOING?: Although the mayor, played by actor Lee Wallace, may resemble former New York Mayor Ed Koch, it seems to be a coincidence.  The movie was released in 1974 and Koch was not elected mayor until 1977.


The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1998 -TV)
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (2009 with Denzel Washington, John Travolta and James Gandolfini)

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