Friday, March 7, 2008
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
Joseph Sargent didn't know it at the time, but the flop he was making would be looked on years down the road as a classic. Mr. Blue (Robert Shaw) leads a group of four armed gunman onto the subway car Pelham 123 to hold the people hostage until they get one million in cash delivered. Lt. Garber (Walter Matthau) of the Transit Authority is the cop in charge of the situation.
The rest of the plot I will leave alone. It is more fun to watch it happen anyway. The other gunman are very good actors including Earl Hindman (Wilson from Home Improvement), Hector Elizondo, and Martin Balsam. You also get Jerry Stiller as another cop with the TA. Director Sargent keeps the pace moving ahead not allowing the film to drag. The film isn't complex, but it does feel real. There isn't anything too elaborate here just a skeleton plot to show off the terrific actors. Matthau in particular is very strong. He does an excellent job of keeping court of the chaos at the headquarters while talking the audience through the situation.
In the end, you will look back on the plot as rather simplistic, but remember in '74 this was quite different. The pacing allows you to keep going along with a killer score by David Shire (also did the score to Zodiac and won an Oscar for Norma Rae) that keeps you juiced up for whatever is gonna happen next. You can clearly see the influence that Pelham One Two Three had on filmmakers down the road.