Armed men hijack a New York City subway train, holding the passengers hostage in return for a ransom, and turning an ordinary day's work for dispatcher Walter Garber into a face-off with the mastermind behind the crime.
Los Angeles private investigator Harry Moseby is hired by a client to find her runaway teenage daughter. Moseby tracks the daughter down, only to stumble upon something much more intriguing and sinister.
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
The film contains a reference to the "motorman", which is what in many other countries would be referred to as the "train driver"/"tram driver". Additionally, and perhaps confusingly, some organisations, and films and tv series, may also refer to the "driver", as the "engineer". See more »
A number of times late in the movie when Mr. Blue talks to Lt. Garver on the radio, he does not push the transmit button on the microphone. See more »
[Repeated line to Mr. Green, each time, after he sneezes]
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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 »
One of my favorite films from the seventies is The Taking of Pelham One, Two Three because it's so New York. Of course the film was shot entirely on location in The Big Apple including the interiors which helped greatly. But more than that, the characters have all the New York flavor about them with one exception.
The cat of course is led by Walter Matthau who plays a Transit Police Lieutenant. His character is a kind of combination of Archie Bunker and Detective Lennie Briscoe from Law and Order, in many ways not terribly admirable. He's also a transit cop and at that time the Transit Police were a separate entity. They were merged into the regular NYPD during the Giuliani administration.
There's no real glory in the Transit Police, these guys were mostly charged with dealing with drunks and kids with loud boom boxes. If a homicide ever occurred the NYPD quickly took it over as they would in most situations. But this ongoing crisis on a train on the Lexington Avenue Local occurs on his watch and it's career make or break case that Matthau is very aware of. And he proves fully capable during the crisis.
The crisis is four men, Robert Shaw, Earl Hindman, Hector Elizondo, and Martin Balsam mount a carefully planned assault on a subway train out of Pelham Bay station in the Bronx in mid-Manhattan and hold it and the passengers for ransom for a million dollars. The outsider to New York is Robert Shaw in one of his best roles, a former British army officer and mercenary. During the course of the robbery they kill a station supervisor played by roly poly Tom Pedi, one very quintessential New Yorker and their coldblooded villainy is established.
In fact the whole cast is a microcosm of the ethnic strains of New York City which makes the film so enjoyable, especially to one who lived there, the first 49 years of his life. Even the mayor is portrayed as a weak, fumbling nonentity and back then our mayor was one Abraham D. Beame who was just that, probably one of the worst mayors the city ever had. Tony Roberts has a very good role as the tough as nails Deputy Mayor concerned about both his boss's political career and resolving the crisis.
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three once the hijack is done is suspense filled and doesn't let up for a moment. I can't give the ending away, but the final shot of Walter Matthau's face as the end title music starts and the credits begin to roll is priceless.
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