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The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

In New York, armed men hijack a subway car and demand a ransom for the passengers. Even if it's paid, how could they get away?



(novel), (screenplay)

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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lee Wallace ...
Al - the Mayor of New York City
Tom Pedi ...
Beatrice Winde ...
Nathan George ...
Police Ptl. James
Rudy Bond ...
Phil - Police Commissioner
Harry - Borough Commander (as Kenneth Mc Millan)
Jessie - the Mayor's Wife


Four seemingly-unrelated men board subway train Pelham 1:23 at successive stations. Mr. Blue, Mr. Green, Mr. Grey and Mr. Brown are heavily armed and overpower the motorman and novice conductor to take control of the train. Between stations they separate the front car from the remainder of the train, setting passengers in the back cars and the motorman free. The four demand $1 million ransom within exactly one hour for the remaining eighteen hostages, including the conductor. If their demands are not met in time or their directions are not followed precisely, they will begin to shoot hostages dead, one every minute the money is late. Wisecracking Lt. Zach Garber of the transit police ends up being the primary communicator between the hijackers and the authorities, which includes transit operations, his own police force, the NYPD, and the unpopular and currently flu ridden mayor who will make the ultimate decision of whether to pay the ransom. Unknown to Garber, what may be working on ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Before this train reaches the next station it will become the scene of the most spectacular hijack ever attempted See more »


Action | Crime | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

14 November 1974 (West Germany)  »

Also Known As:

El tomar de Pelham uno dos tres  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


In the novel, some of the cops think about pocketing some of the money for themselves. See more »


The action takes place on the local downtown Lexington Avenue Line, which terminates at the abandoned City Hall loop station, just past Brooklyn Bridge station. While the fact that the train in the film runs to the inner loop at South Ferry (where some express trains terminate) may appear to be a goof, the hijackers request that the switches be set in order to put them in the South Ferry loop - and there is indeed a switch onto the downtown express tracks, right before the Brooklyn Bridge station. At the time the film was made, the Lexington 5 and 6 lines went to South Ferry station. That section of track is still there but no longer in use. See more »


[first lines]
Mr. Mattson: Okay, kid, out loud now so's I can hear what you're sayin'.
Bud Carmody: I'm checkin' the passengers gettin' on and off...
Mr. Mattson: Uh-huh.
Bud Carmody: Front and back. Shuttin' the doors. Rear section first and the first section. And the doors are closed. Now I'm checking my indicator lights to make sure all the doors are locked. I remove my switch key and back out the window for a distance of three car lengths to make sure no one's being dragged. 51st Street next stop; next stop, 51st Street. How'd I do?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Although many of the scenes in this film were taken on transit property, the New York City Transit Authority is not responsible for plot, story and characters portrayed. The Authority did not render technical advice and assistance. See more »


Referenced in Midnight Run (1988) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Another example of why the 70's was the finest decade for films.
28 September 2006 | by (Staten Island, NY) – See all my reviews

It is my belief that the finest era for films was the 1970's. Consider all the classics that were produced in that era (Godfather I and II, Patton, The Sting, Jaws, Mean Streets, The Exorcist, The French Connection, Star Wars etc). My belief was recently validated by Jodie Foster, who essentially said the same thing. One of the reasons why the films were great was that the directors were ostensibly in control of the films, rather than by a committee of the usual Hollywood "insiders" who think they know what people want to see, but rarely make the correct decisions.

I know that this film was re-made( for TV)--God knows why--but I'm sure if they attempted another film version Matt Damon would be playing the grizzled transit police cop (Matthau's role) and Jude Law would be playing the Robert Shaw role. That's another reason why the original and other films of the 70's were so great: the casting was more believable. Today Hollywood is so incredibly youth-obsessed that actors are completely miscast.

I am not stating that this is another 70's classic, but even this film is far superior to many of today's films. And yet, I'll bet you couldn't find "Pelham" in your local video store.

I love several things about this film. The first thing to hit you is that wonderful, funky score that in some parts sounds like controlled chaos. I love the script, which is not completely dark despite the underlying theme, as there are some very funny moments throughout the film: for instance, the chagrined look on Matthau's face when he discovers the Japanese visitors can speak English.

There are many examples of mistaken identity in this film: the supervisor who is gunned down is called "goombah", but he isn't Italian; Matthau thinks the black police captain is white over the radio; Matthau mistakes the long-haired undercover cop (who was shot on the train tracks) for a female. I also love the character who plays the mayor, who unbelievably bears a striking resemblance to Mayor Koch, who was elected 3 years later!!!! All in all a great action film, and one that will hold up for years.

Addendum: Well, they're doing it--they're re-making this film because Hollywood is almost completely bereft of new ideas (see "Josie and the Pussycats" "Bewitched" the upcoming "I Dream of Jeannie"). I half-expect they will remake "The Paper Chase" next with P.Diddy as Professor Kingsfield.

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