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I caught this movie on AMC at 3 o'clock this morning (or so), and was blown away! What a tense, gritty drama - and what a cast! I was trying to figure out who was who, as they were all so young (Ed McMahon? Donna Mills? Ruby Dee without Ossie Davis? Wow!) Martin Sheen's baby face made his psycho character all the more frightening. To me, the movie is a great time capsule of the sixties, and of New York. I do have a complaint to register regarding the AMC channel - instead of squeezing the end credits to make room for commercials for the next movie, how about staying true to your movie fans who have a compulsive need to read the credits, and show them full-screen to the end? Who's with me on this one? Thank goodness for IMDb to get us through!
What's great about The Incident is how its strips bare so many
pretenses, tears away the social order, and lets the chips fall where
they may. The subway car where the meat of the action takes place might
as well be the jungle--a merciless, survival of the fittest kind of
place. The two thugs are the embodiment of the civilized man's worst
nightmare. Strong, aggressive, amoral males with a thirst for blood and
domination. The frail bonds of society--that keep the strong from
throttling the weak--are gone. No police, no laws, no manners, and,
most of all, no honor. Stripped to its essence, true nature reveals
itself: the sex-starved woman who wants a domineering macho man; the
slick, handsome guy who had no true feelings for his pretty date, just
for himself; the soldier whose uniform hides his cowardice; the list
goes on and on.
This is a great film. Inspired, gripping, and razor-like in its insight. Sure, it isn't perfect. But it's says something important in an incredibly powerful way. If you don't see yourself in it, or some part of you, you're probably deluding yourself--especially these folks who say, "I would have taken care of these thugs!" Maybe these, but at some point that bravado falls away.
It's the subway ride we all dread, closed in for many minutes with street hoods. In the early a.m hours, petty criminals (Martin Sheen, Tony Musante) board a crowded subway train after mugging a helpless old man. Inbetween subway stops, the hoods terrorize the passengers in the subway car. They hit upon the women, taunt the male passengers into fights. Finally, a young man in uniform (Beau Bridges) becomes the first to defend themselves, and gets into a harrowing fight with Musante. One of the first attempts at a low budget independent film. Director Larry Pearce gets excellent performances out of the all-star cast. Some of the dialog is a rather forced, cliched, and the time period between subway stops go on way too long. But there are fine moments (Musante verbally tearing apart passenger Brock Peters, Sheen scaring the daylights out of boarding passengers when the subway DOES stop) The film makes one think of the more exciting, and more thought out "Taking Of Pelham One Two Three (1974)"
I remember seeing this film in the movie theaters when it came out in 1967.
I had gone with a couple of friends to see it. This movie so infuriated all
three of us (there was my friend's wife too) at first of all the passivity
of all the passengers and how nobody cared to help anyone else and then
there were the two hooligans (Musante and Sheen) and their arrogance and
their not respecting other people's space or privacy. With this film, you
get to see how each and every person works in a terrifying situation.
I was so happy this film was finally released on video. I have been waiting for over 30 years to see it again to see if my opinions had changed--and they hadn't.
How did this little film slip between the cracks? This amazing film
mountains of more credit than it gets. It's a very real, brutal film that
really tests our emotions.
It did to me, at least. The acting job (especially of the two leads) was phenomenal! Especially, by far, Martin Sheen.
The cinematography, the vicious personalities of the two street punks, the music, well... basically everything flat out works. Haven't we all felt like one of the passengers? Or maybe even like one of the hoodlums?
Great film. 10/10
a truly excellent film with remarkable performances from all of the cast.
The film explores a theme of the uncaring New Yorkers which was very much a
dominating force here in the mid and late 1960s. Two boys terrorize and
essentially hold hostage about a dozen people on a subway car in the
morning hours. The passengers represent a crossection of New York society.
It is a film about ones fears in confronting terror...in allowing evil to
happen to all around you and doing nothing to stop it. It ends when finally
an outsider in that subway car has reached his breaking point. Yet he too
as a New Yorker and a subway buff i really enjoyed the exteriors of the number 4 train although the cars early on are pre 1960 and later on the exteriors are the post 1964 cars...but this is a continuity error that someone like myself would look for.
Along with a very young Martin Sheen...look for Donna Mills as a late teenage virgin..the veteran Great THELMA RITTER and a surprise appearance in a dramatic role by Johnny Carson's sidekick ED MCMAHON
The plot is simple: Late night subway riders are terrorized by 2 thugs out for kicks. The thugs jam the subway doors so no one can get on or off and the conductor never visits the car. It really makes the viewer feel trapped with the rest of the victims, who are, by the way, pretty standard stereotypes of everyday America. There's the teenagers in love who are always kissing, the black man with a chip on his shoulder about white America and his social worker wife who pleads for him to not be so angry, two servicemen on their way to or back from an assignment and one has his arm in a cast, the harried married couple with a sleeping child, the elderly Jewish couple, the alcoholic, the squabbling couple, a man who may or may not be homosexual, a sleeping bum, and that may or may not be all. Tony Musante as the creepier of the two tough guys is well played. He has venom dripping off of him like a coiled serpent about to strike. His villainy is so real you I sometimes wondered if he was acting or just really mean in person. Martin Sheen, of all people, plays the other tough guy, who seems like he is drawn along by the lead of his pal into the mental and physical games they play on the other subway riders. The two laugh a lot at the misfortunes of their sport and as you watch you wonder if there is a happy ending in sight or is this one of those movies where nobody goes home happy, not even the viewer. The movie is in stark black and white and made better by that fact. In the shadows behind each characters eyes you see a universe of fear and loathing but you keep looking for a positive sign. A very well made movie with my only quibble being that the set up is kinda long. We see each person making it to the fateful subway car and learn their back history. If this film were remade today I can see this entire section being dropped. We could start right in on the subway and use flashbacks to illuminate the histories. But that's just me.
****SPOILERS**** Until I saw the movie "Henry: Portrait of a Serial
Killer" in the late 1980's I never saw a major movie out of Hollywood
more vicious and disturbing then "The Incident".
Two brutal and vicious thugs Joe Ferrone & Arti Connors, Tony Musante & Martin Sheen, after brutally murdering a man, Ben Levi,coming home from work at night get on a New York City subway train and terrorize all the passengers on it. Like in most New York City movies the train contains every nationality age and social group and even sexual preference on it and Joe & Arti treat them all just about equally.
What was very phony about the movie is that the subway car had something like a dozen passengers on it and nobody or no group of the passengers tried at attack and subdue the two thugs that until the very end. The thugs didn't even show or pull out any weapons and when they did the only weapon they had was a switchblade knife. Even more so they not only brutalized everyone on the subway car they nauseatingly humiliated all the women who were on the train in full sight of their husbands or boyfriends! with the men doing absolutely nothing to help them! I couldn't help wondering what the wives and girlfriends of these wimps did after this hell was over did they still stay with them? Another thing that was a little bit off was that both Joe & Arti went from person or couple to couple abusing and humiliating each one as it they were working on an assembly line.
The two jumped on a poor gay man Ken, Robert Fields, and brutalized him so badly that he looked like he lost his mind and was left in a catatonic state with nobody on the train lifting as much as a finger to help the poor man. There was also a black couple Arnold and Joan Robinson,Brock Peters and Ruby Dee, who were about to leave the train on their stop at 125th street in Harlem but Arnold insisted that his wife stay with him on the train so he can see the "show", how stupid can one get? Being the only two blacks on the train Arnold was especially singled out by the two white thugs for special treatment. The big strapping black militant was left whimpering and crying like a baby in front of his wife Joan and a train full of whites whom Arnold showed earlier in the movie nothing but hatred contempt and scorn for.
The outrages continued until Felix, Beau Bridges, A GI on leave with a broken arm in the big city just couldn't take it any more when Joe started molesting Mr. & Mrs. Wilks, Ed McMahon & Diana Vander Vilis, young daughter. Felix finally took the law into his own hands by smashing Joe's face in with his plaster cast that he had on his broken arm, that it took a dentist to pull all of Joe's teeth out of it. Felix then cornered and kicked Arti so hard between his legs that if he were a football he would have traveled at least fifty yards for a field goal with Felix getting a knife right in his gut, and as usual in this movie, with nobody coming to his aid until it was too late or better yet until the police finally came to the "rescue".
Seventeen years later after the movie "The Incident" was released on the early afternoon of December 22, 1984 another "Incident" happened on the Subway in New York City that was like the movie but with a much better ending. Bernie Goetz was on a crowded #2 subway train minding his own business when he was confronted by four muggers wanting his wallet. In him knowing what he was in for Bernie then pulled something out of his jacket pocket but it wasn't a Christmas gift and ended up putting the four would-be subway Christmas shoppers out of action for a long long time. I always thought and suspected that Bernie saw the movie "The Incident" and knew what just to expect on the NYC subway and also made sure that he would be ready for it when it came.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Martin Sheen and Tony Musante are both chillingly intense and believable as a couple of nasty no-count hoodlums who terrorize a motley assortment of folks on a New York City subway car late at night. The pernicious pair force the various passengers to face up to their true (often pathetic) natures. Director Lary Peerce, working from a painfully incisive script by Nicholas E. Baehr, trenchantly uses the subway car as a microcosm of American society where all of man's worst fears and foibles come into play. Moreover, Peerce makes a grim, yet provocative statement about how most people become passive victims when thrust into a dangerous crisis situation. The sterling cast all give stand-out performances: Bob Bannard and Beau Bridges as two soldier buddies, Donna Mills as a mousy virginal blonde, Victor Arnold as Mills' amorous boyfriend, Jack Gilford and Thelma Ritter as a bickering elderly couple, a surprisingly solid Ed McMahon as a harried middle-class father of a little girl, Diana Van Der Vlis as MacMahon's wife, Robert Fields as a timid homosexual, Brock Peters as an angry white-hating black man, Ruby Dee as Peters' long-suffering wife, Gary Merrill as a desperate, down on his luck businessman, Mike Kellin as a meek school teacher, and Jan Sterling as Kellin's fed-up wife. Better still, the characters are well drawn and recognizably real human beings. This in turn makes the brutal ordeal they endure that much more potent and disturbing to watch. Gerald Hirschfeld's stark, vivid black and white cinematography, Terry Knight's rattling, rousing score, and the plausibly grungy Big Apple atmosphere further enhance the gritty realism and claustrophobic tension of this rough and unnerving movie. An absolute powerhouse.
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