The Crime Club convenes to discuss the 1974 classic The Taking of Pelham One Two Three…


This movie was, in two words, “truly awesome”.  And, to be perfectly honest, I was surprised.  Pleasantly so, because a lot of these classics to not stand the test of time.  In this case, however, outside of a few outdated beats, this movie holds together really well.  Hell, better than well.

The script is tight and full of humor, surprises and, at times, unbearable tension.  The direction is top-notch.  This ride never slows down or spins its wheels.  It is a thoroughly engaging film from start to finish and, on second viewing (I must have watched it when I was a kid because I don’t really remember much outside of the hair-raising “third rail” sequence), it has vaulted into one of my very favorites of the genre.

Of course, the crackerjack performances seal the deal: Walter Matthau as the cool-under-pressure Lt. Garber, Martin Balsam as the hapless Mr. Green, but Robert Shaw’s turn as the nefarious Mr. Blue is the show stopper.  The supporting cast is also terrific: Lee Wallace as the anxious, bed-ridden mayor, Jerry Stiller as the cranky Lt. Rico Patrone, Earl Hindman (who would later find t.v. fame as Tim Allen’s neighbor, Wilson, on Home Improvement) as Mr. Brown, and Hector Elizondo as the deranged Mr. Grey.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three has apparently between remade twice, once as an MOW, another as a big screen release starring Denzel Washington.  I haven’t seen either but I am willing to bet neither are even half as good as the original.

Anyone else watch?  If so, what did you think?

Friday, the Crime Club reconvenes to discuss the 1991 Patrick Swayze/Keanu Reeves thriller Point Break.

How about a little Yes/No?

13 thoughts on “September 7, 2020: The Crime Club convenes to discuss The Taking of Pelham One Two Three!

  1. The original 1-2-3 is one of my favorite films. I only saw the big screen remake, and there’s just no comparison. The original lives on as the only version that I’ll watch again.

  2. I was surprised by the comedic aspects of this movie. I was not expecting it! Some of it seemed out of place for what I was thinking would be a suspenseful drama but on the whole I think it worked to lighten the mood and juxtapose the tension, thus making the tension even more tense!

    What I wasn’t surprised by was the racial and gender stereotypes that you would expect from a movie of this era. The secondary characters were so stereotypical that they didn’t even have names! They’re credited as “The Maid”, “The Mother”, “The Homosexual”, “The Pimp”, “The Hooker”, “The Old Man”, etc.

    It was pretty good. I’m glad I watched it!

    I also watched the 2009 remake a while ago when it popped up on my Netflix feed. It was OK but I don’t remember much about it.

    Ooohhh! “Point Break”! Now you’re talking. I’m always up for a “Point Break” rewatch!

    I’ve never had durian but I feel that it should be something that shouldn’t be put on pizza, along with pineapple.

    1. Yes, one of the things that struck me most about this movie was the humor and how effective it was for the most part.

  3. I adore Hector Elizondo, he and Alan Arkin can do warm and lovable and then do truly evil bad guys. My weekend was set in the bleak future of Raised by Wolves, the show is making the ice melt in my heart from the GoT disappointment. I adore Mother but I’m tempering my expectations, it is HBO after all so my favorite Space Valkyrie may have some trials yet to come. I am Team Robot all the way but the show is so out there I have no clue what will happen next.

  4. The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 is one of the great movies. I saw it at the drive-in when it first came out (all of 11 at the time). Yes, the others are not as good, but are quite recognisable re following the story.

    1. This would have been a great movie to experience on the big screen.

      1. It was and that was part of its magic. I remember thinking at the time I would be bored, but just couldn’t believe how good it was. Even now I can remember key scenes, some of the tension and the humour and also talking to my parents about it.

  5. I didn’t watch it because I was afraid my memory of the film (I saw it twice when it came out) was clouded by time and rosy specs. Everyone raved about the Denzel W remake, which I didn’t see as anywhere as good, and I never spoke or thought of it again until last week when you lined it up for Crime Club.
    I remember the tension and how I was impressed with Walter Matthau and your review reflects my memories. A week late but it’s on my list of weekend films to watch..

  6. I enjoyed the movie. We had never seen the 1974 version. It was surprising to see so many familiar faces and a couple of comedians. It made me wonder if some of the quips were ad libs…?

    I can’t help but compare this movie to the Denzel version. I liked them both but Robert Shaw’s quiet stillness seemed more menacing than Travolta’s crazy. In the updated version, technology played more of a role and that’s to be expected. Younger people never experienced our lack of instant communication.

    This was one crime movie selection that my hubby liked too. He’s not into sub titles. Hubby didn’t enjoy all the yelling in this version but a couple of the scenes got a laugh from him. (the transit police officer pointing his gun finger and the mayor being booed) I had to laugh at Walter Matthau’s look at the ending. We’ve lost some great talent through the years.

    I’m a Keanu fan, so I’ll give that one a go.

    I hope everyone had a nice weekend.

    1. John Travolta as the bad guy? Ah, I can’t even bring myself to watch it then.

      And, yes, loved the poor mayor. And that final knowing look from Matthau.

      1. Not a Travolta fan, eh? 😉 He played it hyper maniac crazy. Is that an actor’s choice or does the director tell them how to play it?

        1. That’s a Travolta choice. I don’t think he’s a bad actor, just a bad villain.

  7. Yep. It just shows to go ya they dont make em like they used ta, eh.

    Having seen the original on the big screen when it first came out, and my memory no longer being quite as sharp as I once enjoyed, I dont recall many details, save for the priceless comedic ending when Green sneezes and Matthau says gesundheit.
    What has, however, remained undeletably embedded in my brain is how incredibly well it captured the inner New Yorker mind of the time.

    i.e: How many of us, who grew up using the NYC underground transit system, have found ourselves trapped in a crowded subway car, speeding through inescapable dark tunnels, with a beligerent drunkard or otherwise clearly unstable, agitated, indvidual, as we stare down at the floor or close our eyes, trying to be as invisible as possible, while silently praying they dont have a gun on them. And as it was with most New Yorkers, I was oft fed rumors of people who fell onto the tracks and were electrocuted.
    The fear of which stealthily preyed on the recesses of my brain pretty much everytime i waited for a train in an underground station. The experience of The dampness and The black dust. The stories of the abnormally large rats and the deadly plague they carried that lived in the vast metal and cement caverns beneathe our city’s streets. The sound and scene of water dripping from old leaky pipes and the overwhelm of trains speeding by on adoining tracks frequently filling ones ears.
    It was truly a whole nother mysterious alien world down there.
    And the humor … That was not just Peter Stone’s artistic take. It was very much so point on.
    New Yorkers of the 70’s were renowned for their bold in your face true to life sarcastic wit.
    Especially in tense situations.
    And to make it all the more realistic, the cast and crew filmed much of the movie down in an abandoned subway station in Brooklyn. I’d easily wager large sums some had an extremely difficult time shaking off bad dreams, sinus infections and sore throats after spending so many weeks down there.
    I’m fairly certain I’d be completely freaked out had a train ever broken down between stations and I was forced to get out and walk along the tracks in those dark, damp, rodent infested, electrified, tunnels.

    Ah. Such magnificently rich fun cultural memories, indeed.

    And then of course there is the NYC sewer system. Another mysterious nightmarishly foreign world.
    Oh, how i do sorely miss hearing the many tales about people who smuggle baby alligators and snakes out of Florida. Keeping them for a short while as pets, then releasing them to live in Manhattan’s vast sewers once they grow too big to be kept in a fish tank or back yard swimming pool.
    I’ve personally never seen an alligator pop open a man hole cover and come crawling out onto Times Square. Albeit, apparently plenty of other native NewYorkers have.

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