The Taking of Pelham One Two Three – Trains = Money week

I love trains and it turns out there are quite a few train movies I haven’t covered yet so this is Trains=Money week. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (the original) is currently available on instant Netflix.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) – Rated R

Deep in the bowels of New York City, a gang of men led by “Mr. Blue” (Robert Shaw) hijacks a subway car and radios the transit authority with a demand: Deliver $1 million in cash in the next hour, or they’ll shoot one passenger each minute. Now, it’s up to Lt. Zachary Garber (Walter Matthau) to keep a cool head, secure the money and deliver the ransom before time runs out. Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo and Earl Hindman round out Mr. Blue’s crew.

“Now, then, ladies and gentlemen, do you see this gun? It fires 750 rounds of 9-millimeter ammunition per minute. In other words, if all of you simultaneously were to rush me, not a single one of you would get any closer than you are right now. I do hope I’ve made myself understood. “

I like Denzel Washington but the remake of this movie was a steaming pile of garbage, full of completely nonsensical action and actions. Please give the excellent 1974 original a try – just don’t mind the quaint million dollar ransom.

Walter Matthau is fantastic as the beleagured Lt. Garber. He is a great example of how 70s stars could be effective without being a “pretty boy”. Thankfully he keeps his comedic persona to a minimum. Jerry Stiller (Ben’s father) aids Garber as Lt. Patrone.

Robert Shaw plays an excellent, very nuanced villain in Mr. Blue who not only has to deal with the police and passengers but also keep Mr. Green from cracking under pressure while keeping Mr. Grey’s psychopathic tendencies in check. He does all this with military precision and is quite cool.

Martin Balsam does a good job as the jittery Mr. Green as does Hector Elizondo as the maniac Mr. Grey. Earl Hindman rounds out the villains as Mr. Brown.

The action is intelligent and, unlike modern movies, does not always revolve around the two central characters. David Shire provides a nice driving beat for the tense situations. The movie was filmed in New York’s subway with many of the scenes filmed at or near the current location of the New York City Transit Museum.

People Watch: Instead of featuring a brief role by an up-and-comer, note that this film is where Quentin Tarantino got the character names for the Reservoir Dogs criminals.

Psycho

Having discussed 1960’s Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom yesterday, it seems only fitting that I discuss Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho today.

Psycho

WATCH: Psycho (1960) – “When larcenous real estate clerk Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) goes on the lam with a wad of cash and hopes of starting a new life, she ends up at the notorious Bates Motel, where twitchy manager Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) cares for his housebound mother. The place seems quirky but fine … until Marion decides to take a shower. Director Alfred Hitchcock’s Oscar-nominated shocker has been terrifying viewers for decades — and for good reason.”

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is still a masterpiece. While it is definitely a progenitor of the slasher genre, there are actually very few deaths in the film. It starts off as if it is going to be a caper film and then abruptly changes direction a third of the way into the film. Janet Leigh and Vera Miles are wonderful and Martin Balsam is good but of course the film belongs to Anthony Perkins. His performance is pitch perfect – charming in a slightly socially inept way, with just a little hint that something is off. The only bad performance is from John Gavin and its not a terrible performance, he just seems to suck the energy out of his scenes.  Hitchcock really piques our interest as usual with a MacGuffin (the $40,000) in the first act and he has several impressive scenes with horrific imagery in the second and third acts (including the infamous shower scene). The black and white cinematography and framing are excellent and the sets are iconic enough to be part of a tourist attraction now.

People watchers: look for a young Simon Oakland (Kolchak) as Dr. Fred Richmond.

AVOID: Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus: Great trailer (catch it on youtube) – terrible movie. Bad acting, worse directing, and really bad CGI add up to a truly dreadful film. The scene where the shark attacks a plane in flight is hilarious though.