The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

Synopsis: An all-star cast, including Oscar-winners Walter Matthau and Martin Balsam teams up with Robert Shaw (Jaws) to deliver “sure-fire entertainment [that’s] gripping and exciting from beginning to end” (The Hollywood Reporter). Based on the sizzling best-seller by John Godey, this pulse-pounding picture is guaranteed to give you the ride of your life!

Somewhere underground, in New York’s subway system, just outside the Pelham Station, a gang of armed men hijack a train, threatening to kill one hostage per minute unless their demands are met. Forced to stall these unknown assailants until a ransom is delivered or a rescue is made, transit chief Lt. Garber (Matthau) must ad-lib, bully, con and shrewdly outmaneuver one of the craftiest and cruelest villains (Shaw) in a battle of wits that will either end heroically or tragically. From the minute you board this train until its exhilarating climax, you will be taken by “plenty of surprises and lots of nail-biting action” (Blockbuster Movie Guide)!
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The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) 7.5

The original, featuring Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw and Martin Balsam – not to be confused with the remake featuring Denzel Washington and John Travolta.

This crime thriller about a group of men who take a subway car (and, obviously, its passengers) hostage is clever enough to keep the viewer intrigued most of the way through. It’s nothing I hadn’t seen before (it was all the trappings of the genre), but it was a well-made one.

Things deflate a little bit in the last 15-20 mins, due to an obvious twist and because it suddenly becomes abundantly clear that they defied logic simply to give Matthau a “big ending”. It’s too bad, ’cause they got off to a wondrous start. But that’s Hollywood for you.

The script is solid, the cast is solid, the direction is solid. If you want a good thriller, you could do worse than ‘The Taking of Pelham One Two Three’

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