Three reasons to watch the original “Taking of Pelham 1-2-3” (1974)

Hey folks!  As many radio listeners in Houston know (hopefully), I’m a big movie fan.  So, when I heard they were re-making the “Taking of Pelham 1-2-3” it make me think two things.  One, what a great lost movie of the 70’s it is.  And two, they are probably gonna screw it up.  But hold up, I’m not here to judge (because I haven’t seen the new one), I’m here to tell you why you may want to rent or watch on demand (Hatta tells me its available from Comcast) the original.  So, here’s the three reasons to see:The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 (1974) Poster

1. The Cast (especially the leads) – Walter Matthau as the ordinary every day worker/ hero and Robert Shaw as the calm, yet deadly villain.  Okay, so I’m kind of biased as I quote both the original “Bad News Bears” (Matthau as Morris Buttermaker) and “Jaws” (Shaw as Captain Quint) a lot.  As a big Matthau fan,  he bring a kind of realism to the ordinary guy caught in extraordinary circumstances that many actors have a hard time capturing.  His interaction with the transit crew around him including a pre-Seinfeld Jerry Stiller and the always underrated Dick O’Neill (Frosty the carnival barker in “The Jerk”) makes it seem like this is actually how it would go down.  Shaw brings a silent menace to the mercenary leader of the hi-jacking crew.  He’s calculated, deadly and in control.  The rest of the hi-jackers, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, and Earl Hindman (Wilson from “Home Improvement”) all do fine too.  Walter Matthau

2. The Tone – It’s sometimes hard to explain to the younger “explosion-every-second” movie-goer the pacing of  some of the films of the 70’s.  The tone of the some of films take some patience, but in the end you’ll fell like you have been transported.  The slow-pacing at the beginning of the original “Planet of the Apes” (1968) actually works in building up to great payoff.  “Pelham” moves faster, but it is not in anyway “Transformers.”  The last act really cooks as you get it all: crashing cars, speeding trains, and well, I don’t want to give away anything else. There’s also an undertone of humor that points out the politics, racism, sexism and any other ism of the time.  This was a time when movies weren’t tested, changed, tested again, edited…etc.  The movie was made and released.  It is not a family film either, its  an R-rated movie of the 70’s with no nudity, so there is lot of profanity and violence.shawpelham

3. The End – The 70’s was a great decade for classic movie endings.  I think a lot were effective because all the credits would roll at the front of the movie leaving little recovery time after a shocking ending.  The lights would come up and you head out thinking “I didn’t see that coming.”  Well “Pelham” is not earth shattering like “Planet of the Apes,” but its rare to find a movie that ends with a look that stays in your brain forever.  I remember seeing the original on the “CBS Thursday Movie” (or something )when I was maybe 10.  When I watched it recently, seeing the end again really took me back.pelpost1

Well, there you have it.  But, this is just an opinion.  I like Denzel.  I like Travolta.  So, let’s all hope they make a new classic.

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2 Responses to “Three reasons to watch the original “Taking of Pelham 1-2-3” (1974)”

  1. Dalanadee Says:

    Hey Jimbeazey, I stumbled across Pelham 123 this past Saturday night on Encore, actually my 17 yr old daughter stumbled across it, and she loved it!! I couldn’t believe she actually sat there and watched it and was laughing and yelling at the screen like they could actually hear her. I missed the beginning but was hooked as soon as I started watching it so I can’t wait to see the whole thing. Great movie!!

  2. Darren D Doss Says:

    I agree totally with your review of this classic. It is hard to beat this version.
    I saw the second, and third incarnations of this movie and still thought that the first was a better movie. I have yet to see the Denzel/travolta version yet , and still think that the first is still hard to beat.

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