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where has this movie been?
jules3221 March 2005
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!
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Simply Fantastic!!!!!!
dls-327 January 1999
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.
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brutal realism
spectre316-14 August 2002
How did this little film slip between the cracks? This amazing film deserves 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
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Outstanding on every level
caa8217 February 2007
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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Subway rider's worst nightmare depicted here. Brief review.
Glenn Andreiev23 November 1998
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)"
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JOEWXMAN4 August 2001
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 early morning hours. The passengers represent a crossection of New York society. It is a film about ones fears in confronting 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 is eventually abandonded.

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
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A harsh, hard-hitting and harrowing knockout of a white-knuckle thriller
Woodyanders12 October 2007
Warning: 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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Very Effective, Moving Movie..
glicklyrich23 February 2004
As I watched this movie this evening, it affected me like a good movie should. In this one, Martin Sheen and Tony Musante are 2 hoodlums who board a subway car and proceed to terrorize/harass the various occupants riding this car. Psychologically, it accomplishes what the director sets out to: Provoke/Stir up Emotions in the viewer. In particular, the atrocities committed against the gay man and Black couple are disturbing, especially given the era in which this film was produced. I was driven to anger watching the responses of the characters. Beau Bridges, Martin Sheen, and Donna Mills are interesting to watch in this film. The ending is something to see, and the very ending provokes some questions to the summation of this film. Recommended to see.
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One of the Best Films Ever Made
Warning: Spoilers
Any detail of any film is a spoiler, to me.

I turned this on late on night about ten years ago, and it sent a fear through me like no other I've seen. That fear was, "Would I be too afraid to stand up and fight?"

I turned on the film for the first time when the guys were just about to get on the train. That was a perfect beginning for me. Later, I saw it again, and saw all the other stuff about how bad they were. Watching it the first time was a better experience; if you start with the train, you live the experience like you would in real life -- no knowledge of anybody's character until that character acts.
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Taut, well made thriller
The Gryphon13 April 2005
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.
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The other passengers WERE believable
insurancelawyer20 August 2008
Poster "Sol1218" wrote that he found it not credible that none of the other passengers on the train tried to interfere with the thugs or help their fellow passengers. But the reality of 1967 was that it was a rare New Yorker who would stick his neck out for a stranger.

Just three years earlier, in 1964, a terrible crime occurred in Forest Hills, Queens that made headlines world-wide. A barmaid named Kitty Genovese was attacked and killed on the street while dozens of neighbors in surrounding apartment buildings listened to her screams. During the attack, apparently one person yelled from a window and the attacker backed off for a few moments. But when no further interference took place, the attacker returned and stabbed Miss Genovese to death.

None of the neighbors even called the police. They all later said, when interviewed, "I didn't want to get involved." That sentiment reflected the majority of New Yorkers in that era of rampant street crime: mind your own business, don't get involved.

The passivity of the passengers in The Incident was perfectly in line with the sensibilities of the time, and the fact that it took a visitor from Oklahoma (Beau Bridges) to step up to the plate, was also very apt.

All that being said, this movie is extremely powerful. The first time I ever saw it, on television, I was shaking for hours.
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Where was Bernie Goetz when we really needed him
sol12183 August 2004
****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.
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Time Capsule Nominee
worldsofdarkblue3 June 2009
Haven't seen it in many years but it's never been forgotten by me. I'm pretty sure it'd be dated now, probably unappreciated by today's generation. But I've noted in reading these comments just how many NYC residents have declared it's realism. And there's the rub. Those that say they can't understand the paralysis of the individuals in the film are in denial. When a family from Utah was waiting in a NYC subway not many years ago the mother was suddenly affronted by a couple of lowlifes demanding money from her in a profane, threatening manner. Attempting to divert the attackers from her, her son verbally objected to her treatment and was killed for it. I remember the chill I felt when I read a witness comment that he was killed for interfering and that 'people here know you never interfere - you just don't'. I too have lived in the city all my life and have traveled the subways of the sixties and seventies and I can assure any disbelievers that whenever a bad element came on and behaved menacingly, passengers looked at their feet

That's the oft-chronicled syndrome of 'no safety in a crowd' . Going to the defense of a stranger and thereby inviting the violence unto oneself requires more than a little courage. This was possibly even more true in the sixties (the setting of this film) when our society was actually more civilized than it is now (regarding the violence to which people were unaccustomed) and the phenomenon of 'apathy' was noted by sociologists with alarming regularity

Now, I can't really see the scenario of this movie occurring in real-life anymore. But in the mid-sixties it was all too authentic. Even punks were more creative in their activities back then. Today's video-drenched, learning-disabled, fast-shooting creepoids are too lazy, dumb and unmotivated to embark on such imaginative torments as the antagonists here. I actually knew a few guys like these two back in the sixties. The type that entertained and empowered themselves through the humiliation of others. Without the multi-channel cable universe in place back then they were too often found in inner-city streets

As to the movie itself I just have to say that when one stays with you for the rest of your life it's pretty easy to categorize it as great. Much has been written already about the characters in this film so I'll not bother to add much except to say that the part played by Beau Bridges is the part to which I most identify. Not because of his heroism, because of the way he becomes sick to his stomach at his own cowardice. Had Tony Musante not turned his attention to the frightened Ed McMahon and his sleeping daughter the drama may well have had a non-ending. I felt the self-loathing that Bridges felt also and I think it's at that point that I too would have finally reacted. I hope so

They should bury a copy of this movie in a time capsule. It captures a moment in time of American inner-city culture that may be gone now, but you never know. History has a tendency to re-cycle
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Well-made but harrowing
preppy-32 July 2001
Two psychos (Martin Sheen and Tony Musante) terrorize the passengers of a NYC subway car. The first half introduces the characters...the second half is the attack. The "victims" are an unhappily married couple (Ed McMahon and Diana van de Vlis); a young couple (Edward Arnold and Donna Mills); an elderly couple (Jack Gilford and Thelma Ritter); two Army guys (Beau Bridges and Robert Bannard); ANOTHER unhappy couple (Mike Kellin and Jan Sterling); a gay man full of self-loathing (Robert Fields); a recovering alcoholic (Gary Merrill) and a black couple (Brock Peters and Ruby Dee).

This is a great movie and STILL unknown to this day. It is very unpleasant to watch and the realism may be too much for some people. Also the film is, sadly, still topical (although NY subways are nowhere near this bad nowadays). Each character is attacked (verbally and physically) during the course of the film--the attacks on the black couple and the gay man are so extreme and violent they're virtually unwatchable. All the acting is excellent which makes this film very hard to shake off. Also it's very interesting to see Ed McMahon doing drama and this is the film debut of Sheen and Mills. Shot in b&w which actually helps. A must see...just brace yourself.
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Good psychological elements
aquarianbrass29 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Just saw this on the TMC and must say it was great. It did a nice job of exploring human psychology. The two thugs each served to lay bare the insecurities of each one of the passengers. The two dynamic and wild young men came to disrupt their static lives, the result of pathologies and obsessions that slowly congealed into a state of permanent neurosis. The black guys hate of whites, the one wife's ambitions for her husband, the homosexuals self-hate, the old folks hanging on to passing tradition etc. It made sense that Beau's character stood up because he was unanchored like the two thugs. Fresh out the army with not much direction he didn't have much to lose(his friend had dreams of being a lawyer and all, so he thought twice about causing trouble.)This is also why he may have excused their harassment in the beginning and even looked like he wanted to join in. Many people are saying that this movie is unrealistic because no one stood up to them. Well sorry, but thats human nature. First of all, the men who were with their women were in a delicate situation because to stand up to their harassment would be putting them in danger as well. We see this when Brock Peters character(the black guy with the righteous anger) did confront Joe he backed down when the little guy(Artie-Martin Sheen) gets his hands on his wife. He rethinks his position because he does not want to see her get hurt. You see, what each person feared was embarrassment not actually physical damage because these guys weren't going around beating people up. The thugs were pointing out each characteristic that distinguished one person from the other and highlighting it for all to see. This kind of treatment makes people feel very vulnerable and insecure, thus the retreat in their own corners hoping their stop would come soon. These differences also prevented them from joining up to throw the punks off because your not sure if the other folks will really have your back. I reserve most of my disgust for the other army boy who failed to have his fellow service mens back when things finally went down. He was actually in the best position to something. THe gay guy was to far gone into bitchood. The other single guy was middle aged and probably couldn't have handled them and as I pointed out, the men with the women were in awkward positions. And even once his one-armed buddy stood up to fight, he still did nothing. I understand Beau's disgust at the end.

I also predicted that once Joe started messing with the child that is when someone would decide to do something about him. Seeing children in danger tend to trigger unexpected feelings in people, feelings they may not have known they had. The only other person free from hangups and shame was the bum. I like how the director highlighted this at the end by showing that even after all that has transpired he still hasn't woken up, almost like he ignored the whole affair because it had nothing to do with him. And of course at the end everyone walks off without a word because their all ashamed. When you have been exposed bare like that you go run and hide not stand up and make friends with folks. I really didn't get the sense that the director wanted to me think a certain way after seeing the movie. He was simply pointing out some disturbing aspects of human psychology. There really was no "moral to the story". At least not an obvious one. Even Felix, the "hero" pays a price for his actions. If this was a morality tale, I think the director would have tried to make it seem that a particular action would have been the best action to take. I didn't see that.
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JasparLamarCrabb4 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
An exceptional, frightening film that will make you think twice about taking the subway too late at night.

Hoods Tony Musante and Martin Sheen terrorize a group of late night passengers on a NYC train. Everyone's true feelings and frustrations tear to the forefront as the hoodlums humiliate one person after another. There's sexy Donna Mills, angry Brock Peters and his silent wife Ruby Dee, henpecked Ed McMahon, middle-aged shrike Jan Sterling and her milquetoast husband Mike Kellin. Beau Bridges plays a young soldier who breaks from the pack and defends himself. Gary Merrill is startling...and startlingly cast as a repressed homosexual.

Musante and Sheen are dynamite...scary, tough and cowardly all at once. Musante may not have had a sustained film career, but he's great here. Sterling and Kellin make a wild couple, with Kellin giving the film's best performance. Jack Gilford and Thelma Ritter are in it too. Extremely well directed by Larry Peerce.
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Great drama
konitzlee20 September 2005
This movie is an amazing experiment, nearly a stage act. It is not just about how fear is handled by normal passenger, this is absolutely not just a thriller movie about two thugs terrorizing innocent people. This is a quite deep view and analysis of American society, all the passenger of the car are, matter of fact, there representing key figures of American society. Each figures tumbles down poorly when put in a dangerous situation, when the two thugs, violent but honest spit out their opinion about hostage's faults and vices. Sheen gives a very good performance and set the beginning to a very good carrier.I guess that the only problem with the movie is its dialog, affected by the passing of the time. This is a must see drama.
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Undiscovered Gem
dhmason615528 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I was amazed last night when it showed up on AMC. What a cast! What a subject! Martin Sheen played a scarily convincing street punk. A precursor to "Badlands", and for that matter to Charlie's "Boys Next Door" and Emilio's "Repo Man" twenty years later. Attitude definitely runs in that family! There's no doubt this film gave birth to the "Death Wish" films, and many other action movies (imagine the same scenario with Steven Segal, only the movie wouldn't last longer that the time it would take for Steven to waste the two punks with his bare hands).

How come I never heard of this movie before? Why isn't this a cult classic? You might say it's the "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" of the 60's, with all the as-yet undiscovered talent.
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Upsetting do nothing
Phantasy_star_48 January 2008
The first time i saw this film is the same feeling as i had on the second time i watched it. Garbage that you can't turn away from. As you sit to watch the film, you get a sense of nervousness coming over the passengers in the train. You watch as 2 teens terrorize each passenger one by one. This didn't make sense to me, The 2 terrorizers go to each person causing different issues, and the passengers all watch and do nothing, they all feel the same way about the 2 thugs causing problems and speak out eventually, what gets me is that you'd think by the 3rd person saying for them to stop what they are doing, the other 2 would have spoke up as well and ganged up on the terrorizers. But no? they sit there and pretend nothings happening... I'm sorry but its not human nature to sit there and let things go on like they were. Especially when you know the next person probubly is going to be you. On the flip side of things, i can't stop watching this movie no matter how frustrated i get with the passengers on the train. It really pulls you in and grabs your every attention hoping that someone will put the 2 thugs in their place. And i am so happy to say they eventually do. Even at the end again things seem not to make sense, the police show up and take the 2 terrorists that just got beat up out of the train, but no police officer questions anyone they just leave? Then the passengers all leave one by one saying nothing..? This movie is really a movie that would not happen in real life, there are problems like that that may happen, but the way the passengers and police were acting is definitely not. Maybe on an Elementary school bus but i cannot imagine adults letting such tragedy happen. So it's safe to say its a good movie to make your emotions get the best of you in anger for whats going on, because you feel you would never act that way with 2 psycho youths doing whatever they want. If you like to challenge your emotions , its a good movie to watch.
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A very good look at the 60's
Leland H3 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
(some spoilers)I saw the Incident on Fox Movie Channel. My impression was the movie gives a startling look at the behavior of the 60's. The scenes with Donna Mills and her date before getting on the subway were disturbing to watch in 2003 as behavior toward women I believe has changed since then. I have not heard the term whitey as referred to white folks in many years. All in all a very gritty looking movie. Which as I remeber that was city's looked like in the 60's as a result of many folks moving to the suburbs. I think this movie should be shown in history classes across america for the purpose of showing what the 60's were really like instead of Hippies,Love ins and phyadellic. A great movie!
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As close to an authentic NYC subway ride film from the 1960s as one would get.
kelsci1 April 2007
I never watched this film before. I am originally from Queens,N.Y. so it did bring back memories,subway memories that is. I believe that NYC transit cops were riding the trains at that time. I noted the fare was 20 cents which had risen from 15 cents perhaps not too long before this film was produced. These were the last years that these particular kinds of subway cars were used on the subway lines of NYC. There were so many breakdowns that the city had to buy new cars not long after this film was made. I loved those old cars though. They had such a nice smell to them. On top of that, I loved the sound that they made. The sound people for this film captured that to a tee. I felt like I was riding in one of these cars again for just the moments that the movie was on. I got the feeling of an art film here as well. The black and white photography gave perfect atmosphere to this movie. Here it is 2007, and one cannot deny that Sheen and Bridges look good for their age and continue working in the industry. I never rode on the 3rd Ave. El but I remember it being in existence at that time. A good film of multi-characters;perhaps a good alternative title is "strangers on a New York subway train".
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Excellent Film-Held Interest-Where Has This Film Been?
Harveyher7 February 2007
Never saw or heard of film before-caught it on AMC this morning and could not stop watching it until it ended. I did not even know it was on the channel. Great cast-Martin Sheen and Tony Musante were great.Beau Bridges,Ruby Dee,Brock Peters,-an All Star cast, among others. I loved it-how come I did not hear about it 40 years ago when it was released.I enjoyed it greatly!!! The fact that it was in black and white made it even better. I grew up in N.Y. and it really hit home-how people could be passive and do nothing to help one another in a time of stress.(Kitty Genovese incident in 1964). Martin Sheen of course was so young then and went on to a great TV and movie career. Brock Peters and Ruby Dee had been terrific in many films. Beau Bridges played a part that was unusual for him. Ed McMahon we all know was Johnny Carson's side kick for his entire career on the Tonight Show-this part was not the Ed McMahon we saw on TV and he played it well.Gary Merrill also played a nice part in the film,as did Thelma Ritter, a great character actress,Jan Sterling, Jack Gilford and Donna Mills.An unbelievable cast of characters.
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Gritty & Gripping, but with flaws
pkwsbw13 July 2004
I loved the way this film captured the essence of the 60s. Some people today think the 60s was the decade of long hair and flower power, but for the masses, that was really the 70s. The 60s, and most passengers on the ill-fated train car, were represented by tight clothes, businessmen who still wore hats and nondescript overcoats, and young women with straight, glossy hair. The two thugs who take over the train look like they might have come from a Beatles concert. I liked the realistic gritty look of the interior of the streetcar, with litter on the floor, and a design that seemed to come from about World War I. The outdoor scenes of the train passing by are very grainy, and in their black and white simplicity create an appropriate feel.

The movie is a bit heavy handed, though, in its morality lesson. It's as if the screenwriter had a framed copy of the German missive on the Nazi takeover above his desk: "First they came for the Jews, but I didn't speak out because I was not a Jew, then they came for the communists, but I didn't speak out because....." I simply can't believe that so many people could be so cowardly. The mod guy who freezes up while a bully strokes his girlfriend's hair is too much. And the fact that the bullies essentially insult everyone on the car in turn while everyone looks away doesn't wash either. You know you're next, so why not try to put a stop to it now? The black guy who was so eager to punch a white could have pummeled them both as soon as they let his wife/hostage go. Where did all his anger go? And the gay guy who tried to get off meekly returned when the weaker of the two bullies merely said, "go to your room". He was inches from freedom, and was much larger than Martin Sheen's character.

This movie is worth seeing for its cast alone. It's fun to see such a young Beau Bridges, and to see TV's Ed McMahon in a serious role. Virtually every cast member was known to me, if only as a familiar face from countless other movies from the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

Oh, and I burst out laughing at a scene which probably was originally intended to be very poignant and thought provoking. Blame my recent addiction to Dave Chapelle's comedy. When the police finally come and see the carnage, they immediately try to cuff the black guy, without asking any questions.

With its flaws noted, I recommend this movie as a great time capsule of the 60s, and a study of how cowardice can lead to worse and worse situations.
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I understand why some people like this film...
henrysmall12 July 2004
I had to post something to balance all the raving done about this film. Even pure melodrama has to have some anchor in believability to be effective, other wise the viewer must force himself, allow himself to be affected consciously. This film might be more palatable as a stage play but it takes nothing from film's ability to impart a sense of disconnected realism the theater lacks. So OK,,, we have a bunch of people on a subway train, none of whom we have any reason to feel sympathetic towards (unless one is seeing himself in these characters) being terrorized by two relatively weak "thugs"; and I realize that this is intended and that the film is supposed to be a statement about apathy... But the premise, acting, dialog, direction, etc. make this movie ineffective.

Simply put, this is a film that people who claim to love the "art of cinema" unfortunately have to profess a liking for. Its heavy-handed manner of addressing moral issues leaves me wondering where the appreciation of subtlety and symbolism is amongst those that profess to love film of this oppressive nature.
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Much Unpleasantness.
Robert J. Maxwell22 March 2004
There are some good actors on display here -- Sheen, Thelma Ritter, Brock Peters, Mike Kellin -- so it can't be too bad. And the situation is fraught with dramatic possibilities. But, man, is it depressing.

When this movie came out, New York City was steadily regressing downward on a Guggenheimish circular stairway towards Dante's 9th circle, and we have to suppose that Sheen and Musante are its most evil spirits. The problem may be that the director thinks he's Virgil.

The usual, and most popular, structure for a small-scale play like this is to introduce the varied characters in such a way that we get to know them and see them as humans, some nasty, some funny, and then have them go through some sort of terrible trial until they cohere as a group. Hitchcock's "Lifeboat" is a good example. That structure isn't used here.

There are two main problems. One is the script, the other is the direction.

The script doesn't start out in a lighthearted way. It starts off nasty. Everybody is already arguing about something with the other person in their pair. (The only guy who is not with someone else is an unconscious drunk.) Ed McMahon and his wife argue about pennies and about being out so late at night. Mickey Kellin and his wife fight too -- she's wants to climb the status ladder and looks down on her impotent history-teaching husband who wears thick glasses and carries an umbrella. A young Donna Mills and her boyfriend argue about whether she should "save it" or not. (Good old 1967.) Two young soldiers are friends but one betrays the other. A pathetic gay guy hits on ex-alcoholic Gary Merrill who's trying to stay off the sauce. (Getting the picture?) Brock Peters is fiercely anti-white despite his wife, Ruby Dee's pleas that he ease up. Jack Gilford complains to his wife, Thelma Ritter, that their son is a miserable ingrate. Now, not only do all of them except the two soldiers fight with each other, but they fight bitterly. They really MEAN it. Nobody cracks a joke. Nobody phrases their insults gracefully or with any wit. This is down-home, below-the-belt fighting, and it robs the movie of much of its impact. When you start off over the top, where do you have left to go except into utter lunacy.

Finally, the end itself is a cop-out, as they used to say in 1967. When the injured soldier pulls a Marshall Kane and beats the bad guys to a pulp nobody helps him, not even his soldier friend. In a way this is too bad because the bad guys were the only ones truly enjoying themselves. They genuinely seem to like one another. Yet, when the soldier is beating the first one up, the second stands at the other end of the car watching passively, although they've always coooperated in their earlier mechanical humiliation of the passengers. And afterward, everyone gets up and leaves the train without a word to one another. I guess it seemed like a good idea to make a movie about urban apathy at the time, but this isn't apathy, it's cowardice. The gigantic, intimidating, ferocious, monumental, pharonic figure of Brock Peters alone could take on these two obnoxious punks at once and rip each of them a new orifice.

The director, Peerce, helps not at all. No one in the movie gives a decent performance -- not that it would have been easy overcoming the dialogue. There's no beauty whatever in the direction. Everybody is lousy. It's intense from the beginning, overwhelming. Characters for whom we should feel at least a little sympathy are made to shove their shouting faces into a wide-angle lens and look hateful. (The director shouldn't have allowed that overplaying.) Even the heroic wounded soldier is turned into a complete dummy from Oklahoma -- "They're just havin' a little fun." If I had to look at another closeup of Tony Musante's ugly leering face I'd want to punch it myself. It's all so ugly. And it needn't have been, because we don't need the director hitting us over the head with all the Big Moral Lessons. We could pick them up ourselves.

I had a little difficulty with the casting too. This is an echt-New York movie, but a lot of supposed New Yorkers didn't look or sound like New Yorkers, but rather like actors.

If you want to see an unusually good example of the kind of movie this MIGHT have been, had it been competently written and directed and acted, rent the original (1959) version of "Twelve Angry Men."
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