life in and around NYC is insane

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

songbird salutes the 70's

this weekend I went to the movies and saw Denzel Washington and John Travolta in Pelham 123.

then on Sunday night I saw the original 1974 version, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three with Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw.

Loved both movies, but they are very, very different.

Modern tough-guy filmmakers like Quentin Tarentino acknowledge their debt to this pedal-to-the-metal thriller, directed by Joseph Sargent from John Godey's bestseller. Walter Matthau is a hoot as the savvy NY transit cop who's smarter than he looks, well-matched by Robert Shaw as the icy mercenary whose gang has hijacked a subway car for a one-million-dollar ransom.

This film's been imitated so often because its makers were really at the top of their game. Owen Roizman (THE FRENCH CONNECTION) handled the gritty location photography; scripter Peter Stone contributed terse, funny dialogue; scene-stealers like Martin Balsam, Jerry Stiller, Dick O'Neill and others made their roles indelible; and David Shire's percussive score set a standard for the genre.

The ending is classic. When you have Matthau as your star, this is how to end your movie.
Really loved the scenes of NYC in the 70's. the old subway cars, where the conductor announced the stations, and doors closed silently -- before automated voices and door chimes alerted you to the station stop. Matthau is a transit cop -- in the days before the transit police became part of the NYPD> even then, filmmakers were celebrating the ethnic diversity of the city. real nostalgia trip for me, even as I found myself getting wrapped up in the suspense of the story.

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