Stark melodrama about two thrill seeking tough guys who terrorize late-night passengers on a New York City train. The random victims are more concerned with their own problems than helping each other and pray that they won't be next. But it's going to take a lot more than prayer to end this nightmare of fear and violence. Film debut of both Martin Sheen and Tony Musante as the hoodlums. Written by
The New York Transit Authority denied permission to film even background shots on its property, but the filmmakers shot them anyway. Cinematographer Gerald Hirschfeld and an assistant rode the subway with a hidden camera, and when its sound was noticed, they stopped and came back later to finish the job. Hirschfeld said in an interview that he filmed in black and white in order to get "the most realistic style of photography possible"; test shots were taken in muted color but they were deemed to distract from the desired "somber" effect. See more »
This is a terrific movie to watch today, 40 years after its release. As an essentially one-scene presentation, without any superstar members of the talented cast, and given the number of protest-type plays and films at this time of turmoil in the 1960's --- it is better now, not only for its story and performances, per se, but also as an excellent chronicle of these times.
The story of a group of individuals, threatened and intimidated by a couple of "toughs," has been told many times, in a variety of settings, depicting the victims' fright, indifference, and even occasional amusement. But this one does tells it about as well as possible. The seedy setting, a New York City subway car, at night, provides a time capsule example of the word "seedy." A group like this could be equally-menaced, say, held hostage in the Presidential Suite at the Waldorf, but the dramatic effect would never be the same.
Besides the drama - viewed now, four decades later - the film evokes a nostalgic view and feel of the 60's period. Martin Sheen and Tony Musante (a young 27 and 31, respectively), are outstanding, and Sheen's role, against-type, especially so. Beau Bridges is also 26 here, as is Donna Mills, and we also see Ed McMahon and Jan Sterling in their mid-40's. A very interesting view of these personalities then, along with the number of others in this outstanding ensemble.
A real gem, and one of those frequent reminders that the best films often are found elsewhere from the high-budget, superstar epics.
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