The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

taking of pelham one two three poster 1974 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting : 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Gritty 70s movie


Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

Studio:  Palomar Pictures

Genre(s):  Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  October 2, 1974

MPAA Rating:  R

taking of pelham one two three subway car robert shaw

This car is mine…

Men have just taken over a subway car in the New York Transit system and are demanding one million dollars with the threat of killing hostages if they don’t get it.  Transit officer Lt. Zachary Garber (Walter Matthau) must keep the hostage takers talking as the city decides what to do with their demands.  Mr. Blue (Robert Shaw) is running the game and has a plan with Mr. Green (Martin Balsam), Mr. Grey (Hector Elizondo), and Mr. Brown (Earl Hindman)…and if he loses all the hostages could die!

Directed by Joseph Sargent, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is a crime thriller.  The film adapts the 1974 novel by John Godey (aka Morton Freedgood).  The film was released to critical acclaim.

Sometimes films have a distinct feel from the period they are made, and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is one of those films.  It has the gritty, dirty New York City feel that gives it real texture and style…and the story meets it.

I’m just a lovable shmuck

The story is rather no nonsense.  For the most part we never learn the real motives of the characters or who they really are.  We get some snippets throughout the movie, but the movie feels like a cut out of a bigger event.  Most movies nowadays would have a prolonged intro with developed characters, flashbacks, etc. to give them motive.  Sometimes it is better to have less motive and it increases the terror aspect.

The cast is great.  Walter Matthau brings his unique style to it that oddly worked in both comedy and drama.  This is opposite of Robert Shaw who was amazingly versatile as an actor and you never knew what you’d get when he’d show up (and I love his last scene here).  Hector Elizondo plays a real creep and Martin Balsam is a good sad-sack.  You also get small roles from Jerry Stiller and Doris Roberts.

taking of pelham one two three robert shaw electrocution death

Why the shocked look?

The movie gets the feel of NYC.  It isn’t the relatively clean New York of today and feels both more real and as a result more dangerous.  It is a real melting pot and everyone could afford to live there somewhere.  The grittiness adds to the plot and helps develop the story.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is a fun action thriller that doesn’t necessarily go the way you think it will go.  The movie is basic and direct and as a result, a good ride.  The story’s staying power has lasted, and as a result, a made-for-TV movie aired in 1998 and a big screen remake starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta was made in 2009.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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