This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

"Gesundheit"
-Lt. Zachary Garber



As unfortunate as this sounds, if anyone knows about this film today, it's only because of the surprisingly dull remake it received in 2009. The original, though, has everything the remake desperately lacks: genuine thrills, interesting characters, a script that remains faithful to the John Godey novel of the same name, & plot twists that don't make the viewer ask "WTF?" The only thing the remake had for it was the star power of Denzel Washington & John Travolta in the leads, which is why it was quite surprising that that film proved as lousy an idea as the remakes to The Omen (2006) or The Fog (2005). Like The Wild Geese (1978), this is a film that really couldn't be made in the same way today because a good amount of the running time is set establishing characters and settings before any shocks come at the viewer. Lt. Zachary Garber (Walter Matthau) is with the NYC Transit Police, which looks after the city's subway system. His day starts out on an unenviable note when he's assigned to give a tour to members of the Japanese transit authority, whom Garber mistakenly assumes don't understand English. That's when the title train is suddenly hijacked by four armed men. These men identify themselves with code names, specifically names of colors. The leader of the quartet is the crafty Mr. Blue (Robert Shaw). His confederates are former train engineer Mr. Green (Martin Balsam), the obiedient Mr. Brown (Earl Hindman), and the trigger-happy former Mafia hit man, Mr. Grey (Hector Elizondo). Once they disconnect the head car from the rest of the train, they announce their demands to the command center: $1 million is to be delivered to them in one hour, or one hostage a minute dies. Garber and Blue then spend much of the film's screen time bantering with each other as the former tries to squeeze as much time out as possible to save the hostages. What makes this film interesting, though, is that both men spend almost as much time contending with the difficulty of their own people. Garber has to deal with the indifference of control room operator Frank Correll (Dick O'Neill), while Blue's patience is tested by Grey's insubordination (which Blue satisfactorily resolves at the film's climax). Eventually, Grey and Brown are killed before Blue and Garber briefly meet face-to-face after Blue is about to kill one of his hostages who was, in fact, an undercover policeman. This single scene with Matthau & Shaw shows two great pros at work, as does the final scene when Garber tracks down Green. Another plus to the film is David Shire's musical score, which sets up the excitement from the title sequence on, much like Keith Emerson's music for Nighthawks (1981). What's even worse than the remake, though, was the this film's director, Joseph Sargent, despite great credits such as this film as his first, Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970), has become known in recent years as the director of the dreadful Jaws: The Revenge (1987).

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