Sunday, September 07, 2003

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Saw a movie last night that was the best film I've seen in many a moon: 1974's The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, starring Walter Matthau (in a startling yellow necktie) and Robert Shaw and shown in wonderful widescreen on TCM last night.

Everything about this film is razor sharp, from the direction to the script to the excellent performances by all the leads. The music score, by David Shire, is all early 70s jazz-funk dissonance and grabbed me at the opening credits. In all fairness, the film looks very dated- everything from fashions to cars to slang is very 1974, and I would imagine this film would be particularly jarring for New York City residents- but that ceases to be a distraction about five minutes in. Shaw in particular is very good as the British mercenary who masterminds the subway car heist, coolly working crossword puzzles while he waits for the ransom money. I honestly haven't seen many films besides this and Jaws that feature Shaw, maybe I should attempt to remedy that. Matthau is Matthau, grumbling and kvetching around, but his character has a no-nonsense, capable side that manifests itself more and more as the film goes on. In spite of the tense subject matter, there was a lot of humor including a long gag with Matthau conductiong a tour of the subway control center for a group from the Tokyo subway system, who he presumes can't speak English; and Jerry Stiller is on hand to provide several funny one liners. The subway car hijackers are code-named "Mr. Blue", "Mr. Green", and so on, and you guessed it- this is the film Quentin Tarantino borrowed from when he made Reservoir Dogs.

Speaking of the NYC perspective, here's a nice review of Pelham I found at the Village Voice's website. She nicely sums up the film and the City it depicts that no longer exists in a lot of ways.

If you haven't seen this, then go out and rent it. It's one hell of a good film.

Time to go watch some football...