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The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3 (1974) & Other ’70s Era Malaisentertainment March 29, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Movies.
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Pelham holds up beautifully as a tightly constructed caper-thriller with plenty of Noo Yawk fatalist humor throughout. A gang of identically dressed conspirators led by Robert Shaw take over a NY subway train & hold a car full of passengers hostage while head transit cop Walter Matthau tries to keep the hostages alive while simultaneously trying to foil the caper. Throughout the entirety of the plot, we’re constantly reminded of Abe Beame-era New York – a leaky toilet of a city populated by world-weary cynics all yelling at each other, focusing mainly on the functionality/dysfunctionality of public institutions – cops, transit systems, traffic etc. The same dynamic can be found in Dog Day Afternoon (though while a similar hostage story, concerns itself far more with the psychodrama behind the characters), or even in TV’s Barney Miller or Taxi.

Competent and well-meaning city soldiers struggle against bankruptcy, backbiting, and endless shortages in stagflation ’70s world… I wonder if this genre will make a comeback in our current economy (only this time in 3D directed by Michael Bay).

Matthau had a great run of movies from the mid ’60s to the early ’80s, varying from the comedies utilizing his basset hound faced sarcasm to the unlikely (but successful) casting of Matthau as action hero in such often overlooked treasures like Charley Varrick. He’s great here, as is Robert Shaw as the methodical leader of the group of hijackers. Hector Elizondo gets to play the hothead and Martin Balsam is the unlikely engineer behind the scheme since he’s the one who knows how to drive the train. Small supporting roles are solid throughout, the pace is quick and economical, and the ending is great. What more do you want?

I never saw the remake of this. I didn’t think a remake was necessary and I still don’t, especially seeing how well the original holds up. I felt the same way about the remakes of Manchurian Candidate, Psycho, Planet of the Apes, and Glen or Glenda?.

Okay, no one has remade Glen or Glenda? yet. Michael Bay & 3D!!! Here’s your big chance!!!!

In the age of Netflix & Turner Classic Movies & digital streaming & IMDB & Wikipedia… why the HELL do we need remakes anyway? All the original material is instantly accessible and easily enjoyed & hopefully appreciated. The only reason to remake anything, I suppose, would be to improve upon some inherent flaw in the story, some limit on the original presentation… but most often the answer should be no. Maybe at some point I’ll try to write a post defending the idea of specific remakes & talk about why. But I won’t do that with Pelham. See the original.

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Comments»

1. Scott Tucker - July 13, 2012

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theme. Did you build this website yourself? Please reply back as I’m attempting to create my own personal website and would love to find out where you got this from or exactly what the theme is named. Thanks!


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