There are so many things that are great about The Taking of Pelham One Two Three that I don’t know where to start. How about with that theme music: David Shire’s funky, brassy opening score for this film is maybe the coolest movie score ever (it’s my phone ringtone, in fact). Try playing that the next time you’re getting it on and see if you don’t become a sexual dynamo.
If you’re going to see the Tony Scott remake this year (and I bet you are), you have no excuse to not see the classic original first, since it’s now on Hulu. You’ll have to sign up (for free), as it’s an R-rated movie, but it’s totally worth it. This movie came from an era when Walter Matthau was a leading man (and a sex object – check out the amazing Charlie Varrick to see Matthau nail two hot broads), and it also comes from the greatest (and yet worst) period of New York City history, the 1970s.
Four men – who use color coded psuedonyms, later stolen by Quentin Tarantino for Reservoir Dogs – hijack a subway train and demand a million dollars. The great Robert Shaw (Quint from Jaws) leads the hijackers, whose number includes a very young Hector Elizondo. Matthau plays a slovenly transit cop who finds himself caught up in all this mishigoss; other terrific performances come from Jerry Stiller, Lee Wallace as the Mayor and Alvy Singer’s best friend, Tony Roberts.
Director Joseph Sargent (who directed the original Star Trek episode The Corbomite Manuever – and whose latest directorial credit is 2008, continuing a career that began in 1959!) balances comedy and drama perfectly. The tone of Pelham is exquisite, and likely what will be lost in the remake. New York City looks gritty and is filled with sarcastic wisecrackers, and the tension remains real and keeps building throughout.
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is one of my favorite movies, and it’s amazing that you can watch the whole thing in the window below.