The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Under the busy streets of New York, millions use the subway system for transportation. While this is a somewhat dangerous proposition anyway, the subways are going to be very risky on this day, at least one train anyway. Knowing the train will be filled with potential hostages, a team of four crooks hijack a train just outside the Pelham station. As with most hostage situations, the crooks have their demands, and these guys want a cool million clams, or they’ll begin killing the hostages, one per minute. With this type of pressure and tension, you know it’s gonna be hard for anyone to keep their composure, especially the police, transit chief, and even the criminals themselves. The authorities need time, whether to gather the ransom or stage some type of rescue mission, and it’s up to the transit chief, Lt. Garber (Walter Matthau) to keep these slimeballs at bay for the time being. The terrorists, led by Mr. Blue (Robert Shaw) are no dummies, and they play hardball with Garber, which leads to a back and forth between the two forces, with the lives of the hostages hanging in the balance. With tensions running high and time running out, which of the two men will come up out on top?

Man, what a fantastic movie! If you enjoy movies that combine action and suspense, you have got to check this one out, it’s one of the originals of the bloodline. When you discuss influential movies, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three has to be included, as you can see its legacy in movies such as Reservoir Dogs, Die Hard, and almost any other modern terrorist driven action movies. While these rely heavily on action however, this movie thrives on well crafted suspense, focused on the battles between Lt. Garber and the terrorists, in particular Mr. Blue. If you want a gritty, realistic crime drama to bask in the glow of, this is your flick, without a doubt. While the disc is lacking in the extras, and the transfer leaves a lot to be desired, I have to recommend this disc based solely on the fact that the movie is a must have, and this is the best way to view it. Whether a rental or a purchase, your money will be well spent on this crime classic, which stands head and shoulders above the rest.

As we all know, without a solid cast, a movie can’t succeed, no matter how good the writing is. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is loaded with talented actors who turn in almost mesmerizing performances. While there many outstanding performances here, two in particular truly stand out. Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw play their roles to perfection, and the movie thrives because of them. Matthau (The Bad News Bears, Grumpy Old Men) is known now mostly for his comedic acting, but don’t be fooled, he can pull more than his share of a dramatic movie as well. Shaw (Force 10 From Navarone, From Russia With Love) gives the best performance of his career here, truly shining as Mr. Blue. A few other noteworthy performers giving solid turns here are Martin Balsam (Two Minute Warning), Jerry Stiller (Little Vegas), and Hector Elizondo (Pretty Woman and every other Garry Marshall movie). The supporting cast features Rudy Bond (12 Angry Men), Earl Hindman (Murder in Coweta County), James Broderick (Dog Day Afternoon), and Tony Roberts (18 Again).

Video: How does it look?

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is presented in a 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. While some flaws are present, the image is easily the best this film has looked, so I won’t be too hard on the transfer. The most obvious flaws lie within the source material, which is plagued by some grain and print damage, but this is the cleanest I’ve seen the movie. The other main issue I have with this visual presentation is the frequent shimmering visible in some scenes, which can be a little distracting. But most people just won’t notice these errors, as they’ll be too busy watching the flick to focus on the minute aspects of the video. The colors are replicated well, and retain the gritty appearance intended for them. Contrast levels are usually accurate, but some scenes have overly dark shadows, which impairs detail somewhat. But on the whole here, the visuals appear better than ever, which is enough for me.

Audio: How does it sound?

As with any mono soundtrack, you’ll find some instant issues, but this is due to format limitations, not this disc. You’ll notice no serious inconsistencies, and the elements blend well, never overshadowing any segment of the mix. The dialogue comes through very well, and the hiss that appears on many mono tracks is at a minimum.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The disc includes the original theatrical trailer, and an insert booklet contains some production notes.

Disc Scores