Silver Streak (1976) Poster

(1976)

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7/10
Masculinity in 1976
manuel-pestalozzi24 May 2006
I saw this film in the cinema as a teenager when it came out. It was sold, I think, as a Hitchcock parody and I thought parodies were great. Gene Wilder was the star, that was one more reason for me to see it, as I had greatly enjoyed his performance in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. Stuff like that attracted me much more than movies with Robert Redford or Charles Bronson who then were the big male heroes of the screen.

Now, a good 30 years later, I watched Silver Streak a second time. It is an unusual mixture of comedy, action thriller and disaster movie. Characters like the ones played by Wilder, Clayburgh or Pryor seem to have become extinct – in the movies, I mean. They just seem to be so ... ordinary and normal and also kind hearted. Everything about Silver Streak is so unpretentious, seeing it today that really was a kind of a revelation to me.

A lot of the movie deals with masculinity and the assertion of it. It all happens in a very relaxed manner. Nothing and nobody is taken too seriously, conquests are made without effort, failure is accepted with grace. In a strange way, this movie really represents a better, unattainable world. I doubt if someone like Gene Wilder wold make it as a movie star today – the public, it seems, needs the grimaces of Jim Carrey to be amused. Pity.

Come to think of it, in France they had a movie comedian who looked very similar to Wilder. His name was Pierre Richard and his fame reached its zenith at about the same time as Wilder's before fizzling out somewhere in the eighties, when the Stallones and Schwarzeneggers took over.

Silver Streak is an entertaining and – in a positive way - forgettable movie. It has a pleasant musical score by Henry Mancini, this great eclecticist of the 20th century. The older I'm getting the more I enjoy his music and respect his enormous body of work.
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8/10
A Hitchcockian Thriller Played For Laughs
britishdominion30 September 2003
"Silver Streak" was released the very same year the Master of Suspense, Sir Alfred Hitchcock, released his black-comedy swan song, "Family Plot". Though Hitch was in the very twilight of his long, illustrious career, his playful style was alive and well, and well appropriated, in Hollywood. The Master didn't make this movie - Canadian Arthur ("Love Story") Hiller did - but the unmistakable fingerprints and shop-hewn template of Hitchcock's "North By Northwest" (amongst other classics) are in great display thanks to writer Colin ("Foul Play") Higgins in the cheery, breezy action comedy, "Silver Streak".

"Silver Streak" is the first of four Gene Wilder & Richard Pryor match-ups and certainly in retrospect, one of the best. Wilder is an ordinary Joe taking the titular Amtrak train across country. In the midst of his journey, he befriends and beds fellow passenger Jill ("An Unmarried Woman") Clayburgh, ends up witnessing a murder then is wrongly accused of the crime, and is thrown off the train many, many times in his pursuit to clear his name, save the girl from a mysterious villain and get to the other side of the country.

This is a very gentle but funny comedy that plays with the conventions of one of Hitch's favorite themes, the mistaken identity of everyday man in extraordinary circumstances. Wilder is wonderful, fitfully funny as usual and shines as both a romantic lead (!) and does his patented "crazy" guy when things start falling apart. Just watching Wilder's eyes as he exasperatedly tries to explain out the fantastic plot he's wrapped up in to unbelieving characters along the way is one of the film's funniest, simplest rewards.

The film's masterstroke, however, is the addition of Richard Pryor as a part-time thief. Pryor was in the midst of a very hot career in 1976, and although this film seems to restrain some of the imagination and language of his stage presence and TV specials, (this is a PG-rated movie, after all), he still creates an indelible extended 'cameo' that fuses film with a hip, perfectly cool counterbalance to Wilder's mania and confusion. When Pryor is on screen he not only steals the film, but also elevates this old-fashioned adventure-comedy concept to something otherwise original... and you can't take your eyes off the guy.

Filmed all across his native Canada (thanks IMDb for confirming this!), director Hiller pulls this fun little audience-pleasing gem along the rails to a bright and exciting climax. The supporting cast is loaded with wonderful character actors including Patrick MacGoohan, Ray (My Favorite Martian) Walston, Ned Beatty and Scatman Crothers amongst others. A very luxurious and memorable score by Henry Mancini is the capper to this sparkling comedy, perfect as a primer for, and a loving compendium of, many of the Hitchcock classics that wait for you to discover them on DVD, VHS or on the tube.
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9/10
This one has it all
apauLLo16 February 2003
I first saw this movie in 1976 when I was all but about 13 years of age, with some friends in my home town (Dryden, Ontario) at the local "Royal" theatre, as it was known then. I just finished watching my VHS copy of it, which brings my total number of viewings up to 30-something...

Why do I like this film so much? It was the first movie I've seen that had it all: action, suspense, romance, a lot of laughs, but most of all - adventure. All of this helped manufacture a great storyline. In short, one of the most memorable movies I've ever seen, and I enjoy myself greatly with each repeated viewing. It made me a big fan of the Wilder/Pryor combination. It made me a huge fan of train travel. It made me a "road movie" fanatic.

A classic in my book. 9/10
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10/10
Wilder, Pryor and a runaway train
dennisayers21 January 2001
AFI listed this as one of the top 100 comedies, and I think they got it right. This was the first and best pairing of Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. Unlike their later movies together, this one isn't simply a buddy flick. Its also a romantic comedy thriller and nails every genre it aims for. It was written by Colin Higgins, the guy who wrote Harold & Maude. He is a genius at witty dialog which is most apparent in the first act, where Wilder meets Jill Clayburgh on a train, the two get drunk and seduce one another. Despite the fact that no nudity is involved, the sophisticated verbal exchanges between Wilder and Clayburgh and Henry Mancini's lovely theme combine to make for a really gorgeous love scene. Who would have thought Gene Wilder could be sexy?

A very similar film (and almost as good) is "Foul Play," written and also directed by Colin Higgins in 1978. If you liked this one, you should see that as well.
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7/10
Best teaming of Wilder and Pryor.
SmileysWorld8 January 2008
I see Silver Streak as a mild Hitchcock parody that is a nice little blend of comedy and mystery.Gene Wilder,while not at his absolute best,impresses nonetheless here.Jill Clayburgh is credible as the love interest.Yes it is the first film in which Wilder teamed with Richard Pryor,yet Wilder and Pryor are only together for a small percentage of the overall film.The film,though,has a strong enough foundation in terms of story and performances to where Pryor and Wilder do not really need to be together throughout.In fact,this is their best teaming ever despite that fact.To top it all off,the ending is a rather exciting one.A definite worthwhile watch.
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fast track to fun
mcfly-3111 January 2001
If you can get through the meandering first 15 minutes, you should enjoy the rest of this adventure comedy. Wilder is heading from LA to Chicago by train when he falls into a fling with Clayburgh. During foreplay he sees her boss outside the window, falling off the train. She doesn't believe him, and when he tries to look into it further, he's chucked off the train as well...but alive. He finds his way back to the train with the help of crack-up wacko farm lady Benson. More problems ensue when he catches up with Clayburgh as the killers reveal themselves. Pryor is later thrown into the mix as a good-hearted thief who helps Wilder in his quest. For 1976, this was pretty well advanced in terms of racey dialogue and stunts, and still holds up nicely today. The most memorable thing is Wilder's classic line when falling off the train. Sadly, you're reminded of the age of the film because of so many of the cast members that have died, and how it makes you think that others probably aren't far off. But it also makes you think of how great they all were as an ensemble that provided a good amount of laughs and suspense.
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9/10
Great ride from LA ta' Shee-kaw-goh
Pasty Morant15 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is a delectable trip back to the 70's. A witty plot, Pryor and Wilder bouncin' off each other - the first time, I do b'lieve. Love the train framework of the movie. And the soundtrack by the Master, Henry Mancini, is so sumptuous, 'specially the slow tune that recurs again and agin'. And Jill Clayburgh sure ain't hard on the eyes. Ned Beatty is a great bumblin' fed. agent - watch the early scene on the train, he tries (very clumsily) to come on to Clayburgh's character - and she breathes "Are you hot?" to him in feigned arousal... and then...! *G* And Wilder's such a master of understated comedic gesture. Plays the cultivated garden specialist/publisher convincingly (he prol'ly is a cultivated fella). I can watch this movie repeatedly (ask my girlfriend... *G*). And then there's the wondrous, 70's-era, long, drawn out strings of the train theme by Mr Mancini. Appears the first time as the train is pulling out at dusk, out of Los Angeles (check out Wilder's pronunciation thereof - old 'anglo-style': Lahss-ANG-gull'uss - I had a Great Aunt that said it like that). Enjoy the movie, folks. All Aboard!
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10/10
A very solid effort for the comedic duo of Wilder and Pryor
MadBomber22 April 2008
This is THE film to see, if you're a fan of either Gene Wilder or Richard Pryor. Although Pryor's stay in the film is rather short, it is perhaps his greatest comedic work outside of his monumental stand up routines. A combination, the Lady Vanishes, and slap stick, this film succeeds because it blends these elements together in a way that makes the flow easy and entertaining. These are situations and reactions to them, that we the audience can envision ourselves partaking in. They don't get crazy mad cap like in an Abbot and Costello film, and yet they don't take themselves too seriously either. A great end to the film, with a truly amazing crash through Chicago Union Station by a runaway Locomotive.
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8/10
The best movie starring Pryor and Wilder
Oyster-616 June 2004
Though Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder have made about 5 films together this one really shows the chemistry between them.

Gene Wilder is a somewhat average guy that gets involved in a mysterious murder by accident. In the attempts to get rid of him by the criminals he's forced to seek the support of various different individuals, of which Richard Pryor and the cow-farming lady flying the WOI airplane are the most remarkable characters.

Though both Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, as well as Ned Beatty, give the movie the label "comedy", Patrick Mc Goohan and Richard "Jaws" Kiel give it a real thriller character at the same moment: they keep up their performance of tough killers without a sense of humor effortlessly.

The movie itself starts somewhat slowly, but just when you start to feel disappointed because you think you're watching a soft romantic road(train)-movie, a hilarious rat-race is about to start!

Always agreeable to watch whenever it's broad-casted again...
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10/10
" A gold star for the silver streak!"
Graham Watson1 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
If you like movies that are set on trains then this one will be up your street. It's one of the best train movies around and if you are a Gene Wilder fan then it's a real treat. Wilder and his brand of humor were no better than in this film. He was at his best in the 70's and early 80's to so all in all you can't go wrong with this great 70's classic. But that is not just it, Richard Prior joins in about a third of the way through the film and Patrick McGoohan who revels in playing mysterious or devious characters is in his element as the the smooth but the cold and ruthless Roger Devereau who'll go to any length to get what he wants. Also, for James Bond fans there is a small role for Clifton James playing a very similar character than he played in the Bond movies and also Richard Kiel who played one of Deveraux's heavies. The 7 foot actor would go onto play "Jaws" in two up-coming bond movies. Also in support are character actors Scatman Crowthers, Ray Walston and Ned Beatty with Jill Clayburgh playing the heroin.

Wilder plays George Caldwell an average Joe who has a dull job in publishing who decides to take Amtrax's "Silver Streak" from LA to Chicago so he can catch up with some paper work and reading. However, he somehow finds himself involved in a romantic relationship after clicking with fellow passenger Hilly Burns, but that's just for starters. While in Hilly's coach he sees a body being thrown from the train, strangely enough it turns out to be Hilly's boss professor Schreiner who is traveling with her. Caldwell starts to investigate this but soon finds himself way in over his head and is unceremoniously thrown off the train because of his meddling. Fortunately he manages to re-board the train further down the line much to the surprise of Deveraux and co. He soon discovers that Deveraux also knows Hilly Burns but the most shocking discovery is that the professor is alive and well and none the worse for wear. Maybe he did have too much champaign that night, perhaps it was the light playing tricks and he just imagined it? Then again why was he thrown from the train?

There are more questions than answers here and Caldwell not going to be put off decides to continue his investigating now knowing that he has to be less brazen and more cautious than before. So this publisher who was looking for the quiet life now finds himself getting more than he bargained for as he gets involved in espionage and intrigue. Nobody appears to be who they say they are and in the end he puts himself in more hot water as things unravel. Another body turns up but this time Caldwell himself is implicated in the death, so not only are Deveroux's men after him, it turns out the police are too!

Some would say that this is a spoof from a Hitchcock movie, there are similarities from a couple of Hitchocks movies, I would say that this is an adventure and not a spoof like AIRPLANE. It's more an adventure with the awkward and hapless George Caldwell. This type of performance was right up Wilder's street, being at the same time up against the serious Patrick McGoohan, this is why the film works! In the end everybody gets their just deserts and although the finale is somewhat predictable the last scenes are quite spectacular. Good entertainment all round, great outdoor shots of the train and the surrounding country, with an easy-going yet distinctive music score to boot. Not a bad watch at all!
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7/10
Funny film with references to some classics
blanche-228 November 2008
Gene Wilder is the ordinary man caught up in murder and mayhem on the train "Silver Streak" in this 1976 comedy starring Richard Pryor, Jill Clayburgh, Ned Beatty, Ray Walston, and Patrick McGoohan. In a quasi-homage to Hitchcock, Wilder plays George Caldwell, who falls for the lovely Hilly (Jill Clayburgh) and finds himself mixed up in art fraud, missing letters of Rembrandt, and murder. Not only that, he keeps getting thrown off of the train. One of those times, he meets up with a criminal, Grover Muldoon (Pryor) who happens to be in the police car he steals. In the funniest scene in the film, Grover has George buy the cap, shoe polish, sunglasses and radio from a shoe polisher at the train station and makes George a black jiver so he can get by the feds.

There are lots of funny scenes in this film, but the best part of it is the chemistry between Wilder and Pryor, who became a successful screen team. This, however, is their best teaming. The bad guys are great. McGoohan and Walston act as if they're in a heavy duty suspense film, which makes them real and threatening. It works perfectly against the comic aspects of the film.

Hitchcock fans will see this as a mild takeoff on "North by Northwest." It is, but it stands on its own as well.
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7/10
By plane, by train, by the edge of your seat...
Spikeopath22 June 2011
Silver Streak is directed by Arthur Hiller and written by Colin Higgins. It stars Gene Wilder, Jill Clayburgh, Patrick McGoohan, Ned Beatty and Richard Pryor. Music is by Henry Mancini and cinematography by David M. Walsh. It is the first of four films that Wilder and Pryor would make together. Story finds Wilder as book editor George Caldwell, who upon boarding the Los Angeles to Chicago train finds himself mixed up with art forgers who are only too happy to commit murder to keep their dealings quiet. Fun, frolics and high speed danger will follow.

Amiable film that just about manages to blend Hitchcockian thriller values with silly comedy shenanigans; even throwing in a good old rousing disaster movie staple for the last quarter. Even though Pryor doesn't feature until the halfway point in the piece, this is very much a film that succeeds due to the chemistry between himself and Wilder. Sure the action is well handled, and the other major players are performing well (McGoohan sinister/ Clayburgh sweet/Beatty ebullient), but it's noticeable that the film considerably picks up on comedy value once Pryor enters the fray. With that in mind, picture feels too long at just under 2 hours, but it's never less than entertaining and was popular enough with cinema audiences to ensure Wilder and Pryor would go on to make the wonderful Stir Crazy 4 years later. 7/10
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5/10
Wilder-Pryor Films Like This More Enjoyable When I Was Younger
ccthemovieman-120 May 2007
Wow, what a hit movie and what a huge star was Gene Wilder back in the mid 1970s. The same goes for his partner, Richar Pryor. As funny as Wilder-Pryor were and as entertaining as their films were in that decade, this one was one that I didn't care for 20 years later. I loved it in the theater when I was a lot younger and all the language, the loudness and sexual innuendos didn't phase me in the slightest. I still can tolerate some of that, if I know it's coming but NOT in a "PG" movie. I was shocked seeing this in the '90s and once again fooled by the "PG" label which included a lot of material that would bump it to a PG-13 or R rating today.

The duo of Wilder and Richard Pryor, however, always was a good one, even if, in retrospect, they are a pretty sleazy team in a decade of films that was very irreverent. Wilder yelling, "S.O.B!" all the time gets tiring, too. He tended to play very loud, abrasive characters. Did he think all of us were deaf in the theater. (Check out "Young Frankenstein" with Wilder screaming throughout the film.) Speaking also '70s irreverence, Jill Clayburgh isn't exactly the girl-next-door, either. These '70s Wilder-Pryor films were popular but not exactly high- class stuff.

The ending of this film is still spectacular with the big train crashing through the railroad station in Chicago. Also, I still laugh each time Wilder gets thrown off the train. Still - for a PG-rated film, this a disgrace, morals-wise.
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8/10
Delightful Who-dunnit.
Elswet13 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Silver Streak; an homage to the 1934 original, Hitchcock and the "Road" team of Hope and Martin. Wonderful parody/satire action/comedy starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. This is the first in a wonderful lovely run of Wilder/Pryor movies.

In true Hitchcock style (North by Northwest), Colin Higgins's (Harold and Maude, Foul Play, Nine to Five and the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas) brilliantly written screenplay lends largely to this very successful finished product.

This, the first vehicle co-starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, is the best of their joint endeavors. Also featuring Richard Kiel, "Jaws" of James Bond movies "Moonraker" and "The Spy Who Loved Me;" Jill Clayburgh, Patrick McGoohan, Scatman Crothers, Ray Walston, Clifton James, Ned Beatty and a plethora of other cameos.

After (almost) witnessing the murder of Hilly's (Clayburgh, his love interest) boss, Prof. Schreiner, George (Wilder) finds himself in a very precarious situation. He visits Prof. Schreiner's cabin aboard the silver streak, to see what he can uncover and is man-handled off the train by the beloved "Jaws." (Reace in this production.) George manages to get himself back on the Silver Streak and tries to convince Hilly of the reality of her boss's death. But there seems to be a misunderstanding, as Prof. Schreiner is there in his cabin, seemingly fine and dandy.

This is a really nice "who-dunnit" with a delightful romance, intrigue, and lively comedic action with scenery and lovely cinematography.

For me, this movie is a bit reminiscent of "Murder on the Orient Express." While Wilder's character is no Hercule Poirot, there are some similar factors. It also contains the same serious but comedic effect found in "Foul Play," Chevy Chase/Goldie Hawn vehicle also written by Colin Higgins in which a man is murdered, his body subsequently disappears and it is up to Goldie Hawn's character to puzzle out who the man was, what happened, and why. It also reminds one a bit of "Seems Like Old Times," another Hawn/Chase collaboration.

Gene Wilder is absolutely wonderful in this role. I honestly love each and every one of the productions in which he has starred from "Death of a Salesman," 1966 to "The Lady in Question," 1999. It is my opinion; however, that this is one of his best, although "Haunted Honeymoon" is its superior.

Wilder is a serious comic, with no pratt-falls, and no stupid one-liners, just intelligent, witty and lovable dialog, much of which is ad-libbed and classic Wilder. His portrayals are genuine, honest and forthright. You get the sense of knowing his characters, which is a key element for any successful film. His honest portrayals make all of his characters believable, familiar, and lovable, even when his character is a hapless schmuck.

The introduction of Grover (Pryor) happens in a creatively unorthodox manner, and once again, George manages to get back on the Silver Streak, this time, with Grover in tow. Now, with all remnants of the evil facade aside, George begins to extract the answers he needs, in order to fit the pieces together.

This is an absolutely enjoyable production with a great cast turning in professional performances; good, strong dialog; a coherent plot; cohesive story line; imaginative direction; excellent scenery; and brilliant casting.

This movie receives a strong 8.4/10 from...

the Fiend :.
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My comments are based on many viewings of this film
TS1234520 February 2004
Silver Streak would appear on a favorites list for me, top 50 maybe, certainly top 100. It's a movie that I've encouraged my children and grandchildren to watch. I might add that they liked it too. The plot is good with action and suspense. Certainly it's not the kind of action one sees in today's films but that's fine with me. There's no gore and no fantastic acrobatics or fights, but this film is never boring.

While the story is light and has plenty of funny moments, it shouldn't be labled "comedy" despite what your video store may say. It's an action adventure movie with good doses of comedy and romance. Gene Wilder, Jill Clayburgh, Richard Pryor, and Ned Beatty each do a nice job outside of preconceived notions. The musical score isn't bad either.
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4/10
Stylishly derived from moldy old-movie artifices
moonspinner5511 June 2005
Book-editor Gene Wilder witnesses a murder on a train but can't prove it; after another murder, he's fingered as the killer. Director Colin Higgins was a whiz at churning out recycled formulas with a modern twist (here, it's Richard Pryor in a supporting role as a convict who believes Wilder's story), but his lack of imagination wears the movie down. Setting up scenarios wherein everybody has to be stupid to keep the plot from wrapping up is an old gimmick that never works--and movies that fall back on this are never fondly remembered because of it. The production is stylish, and Gene Wilder is much more in control than usual, but Jill Clayburgh is wasted in silly role as a perky woman who gets involved early on (and then is cloistered off-camera). As for Pryor, he is ultimately so underused that some viewers may feel cheated. ** from ****
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7/10
A VERY '70s Hollywood Film,
Tim Kidner11 August 2012
Arthur Hiller's 1976 film is the epitome - and one of the best and at times, the worst - example of what Hollywood came synonymous for in the 1970s.

Ending with one of those truly great action set-pieces, when such were actually filmed and not with a computer mouse and starting out with the oh-so-smooth Gene Wilder getting his wicked way with the delectable Jill Clayburgh, an awful lot happens in-between.

Taking - and featuring huge chunks of influence from James Bond (inc 'Jaws', the iron-toothed giant), Hitchcock (crime capers on moving trains, espionage, intrigue) and loads of over-the-top big Americanism, this is a rail-road coaster of a ride. You can see bits that have helped influence later films, too and the start of the delicious pairing between Wilder and black comedian Richard Pryor, which spilled out over into the future Stir Crazy and Blazing Saddles.

Yes, a lot of it is nonsense - this is essentially Sunday afternoon TV fun, now. There's clever innuendo, dumb stunts, big scenery and baddies. It does pop up on Film 4 and Sky Movies every once in a while, showing that it is still has a place and though obviously looking pretty dated now, you can't go far wrong with this one.
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Their best combined efforts...
MovieAddict201618 February 2004
I don't know if I'd necessarily call this one of the finest comedies of all time like AFI did, but it is certainly a worthwhile comedy about a man on a train who meets his "true love" and also finds himself in danger of being pushed over the side. Sounds silly, right? To tell anything more would undoubtedly ruin the film.

This is Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor's best pairing of all time, and certainly a funny film to watch. I highly recommend it, but I wouldn't say it's one of the best comedies of all time. Not even one of the best buddy comedies.

4/5 stars.

  • John Ulmer
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8/10
A wild ride with Wilder and Pryor
MartianOctocretr529 August 2006
Silver Streak is the first and my personal favorite of the Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor comedy collaborations. Its style suggests a satire of Hitchcock adventure/mysteries, while blending Wilder & Pryor's unique brand of insane slapstick with the darker elements of those films.

Wilder is spot on with his neurotic hero, Pryor contrasts with him perfectly with his edgy, upbeat, social satire brand of comedy. Their mutually similar agitated style of delivery plays them off each other hilariously. The action is non-stop, as the Silver Streak rides the rails across the country, often being chased by Wilder as he (in a running gag) frequently gets thrown off the train. FBI agents, cops, and others pursue the train as well, menacing the falsely accused murderer Wilder. Guns go off, violence occurs, and absurd comic routines continue as the train speeds onward.

Patrick McGoohan and Ray Walston are great villains hatching an evil conspiracy; they make great foils for the comic characters. Ned Beatty, Scatman Carruthers, Jill Clayburgh, and Fred Willard are all terrific in supporting roles.

The anticipation of the inevitable final sequence is built well, and the special effects execution does not disappoint. It's exciting and fun to watch, offering a uniquely abrupt closure of the story. A great movie; Hitchcock would approve.
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7/10
North by Northwest
caspian197820 April 2005
Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor show their pure comic genius in this offbeat comedy / drama that reflects Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest in many ways. Hitchcock loved having scenes of his movie take place on trains: Blackmail, Stranger on a Train, Shadow of a Doubt, etc. In Silver Streak, Wilder takes the place of Cary Grant as the hero as well as the comic relief. Pryor is pure laughter. From his first appearance in the movie to his very last, you can't help but laugh. The bathroom scene when Pryor attempts to make Wilder a "black man" in order to have him get by the police is one of the funniest scenes in cinema. It is not reverse racism, but reality. The scene helps us to make fun of ourselves and to remind us that it's only color.
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6/10
Generally successful comedy thriller.
Robert J. Maxwell22 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Gene Wilder is a passenger aboard the Silver Streak from Los Angeles to Chicago and meets an enchanting woman, Jill Clayburgh, and her art-expert supervisor and author, Stefan Gierasch. Gierasch is on his way to a convention of art historians where he is about to deliver a speech that will discredit and disenfranchise another passenger, Patrick McGoohan. So McGoohan and his goons simply shoot the professor in the head, throw his body off the train, and capture Jill Clayburgh with the intention of killing her later, after she's been forced to put some effort into the service of their cause.

Wilder takes passing notice of the professor's dead body as it drops past his window and seeks to solve the mystery. Richard Pryor is drawn into the story, or rather hauled in by his ears. McGoohan and Goons finally wind up with the McGuffin but it's too late. The Feds have twigged. The story ends with the bad guys dead and a locomotive smashing through Chicago's Union Station but happily missing the waiting room on whose benches I've spent so many happy hours asleep and waiting for my next connection. (I recommend the wonderful Greek restaurants a few blocks to the north. Avoid the taramasalata. If you find this recommendation useful, note that I accept donations. )

None of this story is to be taken seriously for a moment. It could have been lifted straight out of an inexpensive 1938 black-and-white comic mystery with Bob Hope, Chester Morris, and Mantan Moreland somewhere in the cast. Only this is in gorgeous color, more expensive, and the humor is updated. (Richard Pryor could be outrageous in his own, relatively quiet, self-deprecating way, and he was a fine mimic.) Jill Clayburgh is very appealing -- compellingly beautiful but in a goofy way that undercuts the conventions that sustain the illusion of perfection. She has a slight, endearing lisp, and her cheeks are tucked up just beneath her lower lids.

Gene Wilder has a big head of fuzzy hair and his eyeballs seem ready to pop out on coiled springs, like a Halloween mask. He's always either indignant or awed at the goings-on around him. I enjoyed him most when he swore because the curses stand in such contrast to his meekness. Thrown off the train (for the first time, but not the last), he climbs to his feet, gestures wildly, and shouts, "SON OF A *****!" He's very easy to identify with.

Patrick McGoohan is not. Nobody could ever identify with Patrick McGoohan because nobody has ever been so unflappable -- him and his serene blue eyes and his cracked, incisive baritone. One of his Goons is Richard Kiel, the ambulatory pituitary gland, nine feet tall and sporting a mouth full of golden Chiclets.

It's kind of silly but it's absorbing too because any viewer would want to see how the silliness turns out to be satisfying. Enjoyable and diverting. Kids who are old enough to appreciate, say, Bill Murray, but who have outgrown Jerry Lewis should get a kick out of it.
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8/10
Entertaining Comedy-Action-Mystery with Possibly One of the Funniest Moments in the Annals of American Cinema: sort of "The Lady Vanishes" meets "Uptown Saturday Night"
classicalsteve3 September 2016
The plot of "Silver Streak" is a very common if not somewhat overused plot device. An average Joe, played by Gene Wilder, gets caught in the middle of criminal activities, in this case murder and a million-dollar art fraud scheme. (Similar fair include "North By Northwest" with Carey Grant and "The Lady Vanishes" starring Margaret Lockwood, both directed by Alfred Hitchcock.) George Caldwell (Wilder) in every sense a meek every-man who writes books on gardening is taking the Silver Streak train to Chicago to see his sister's wedding. He meets Hilly (Jill Clayburgh), a secretary to a brilliant art historian, traveling in an adjacent train compartment and they end up having dinner together. They're spending a lovely evening in her train compartment when George sees a dead body fall outside the window. At first he thinks it's a hallucination and Hilly doesn't believe him. The next day, George glances at the book by the art historian and realizes he's the man who was murdered. From there, nothing goes as planned.

Devereau (played with sly subtlety by the incomparable Patrick McGoohan) is engaged in an art heist of epic proportions. He's faked Rembrandts he's sold for millions but his jig has been discovered by the art professor who can prove the artworks are fake with authentic letters by Rembrandt. The art historian was on his way to Chicago for an art conference in which he was going to prove the Rembrandts were fakes, which is why Devereau hatched the elaborate scheme to take him out. Devereau then needs the Rembrandt letters in order to destroy them thus ensuring his art fraud will be successful. (In point of fact, original letters by Rembrandt, especially ones discussing his artworks would be worth millions, nearly as much as any of his paintings.) However, now there's been a witness to the murder, foiling Devereau's plans.

After several confrontations with the baddies, George ends up off the train and inadvertently befriends Grover (Richard Pryor). After Grover believes George's story, he's willing to help his white friend re-board the train but it's now being staked out by police and federal agents. Then Grover contrives a way for George to re-board the train without being discovered in one of the greatest comedic scenes ever shot on film. What makes the scene so outrageously funny is it how it taps into the gross stereotypes of race, and yet it works on all levels and is not offensive. Apparently, one aspect of the scene was changed from the original script at the request of Pryor and Wilder, and the result is a perfectly acted and shot comedic scene which is both playful and telling. This alone is well worth the price of admission.

Ultimately a fun action-mystery-comedy which takes it's self seriously enough that the viewer runs with it and the comedic moments never seem out of context. Both Wilder and Pryor developed a unique chemistry, and they would work together in several subsequent films. Jill Clayburgh makes a wonderful woman in distress, and McGoohan is perfect as a British godfather type. Some parts are a little bit dated and the final resolution was rather weak. Still, the one scene with Wilder and Pryor is one of the great moments in cinema and makes an interesting yet inoffensive statement about race relations and perception.
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10/10
A "forgotten" gem of the 70s!
hnt_dnl9 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Although they did 4 films together, it is this film SILVER STREAK (1976) that is probably my favorite pairing of the 2 famous comedy icons Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor! Also, it is one of my personal favorite 70s movies. It is their first outing together and it is sublime from start to finish. A perfect mix of action, comedy, drama, mystery, and thriller (and even a touch or romance), it's one of those rare movies where every element works.

"Silver Streak" stars the aforementioned Gene Wilder in probably my favorite ever role of his. Wilder plays George Caldwell, a nebbishy magazine writer on a cross-country train trip to Chicago trying to get to his sister's wedding. Once on board, the first night George meets Hilly (played with immense sex appeal and radiance by Jill Clayburgh). The duo hit it off immediately and as they are making love in Hilly's cabin, George thinks he witnesses a man being thrown off the train. Hilly tries to convince that it's only in his mind. The morning after, George sees a book on Rembrandt and on the back of it is the author, Prof. Schreiner, who Hilly is assistant to and who George recognizes as the man he thought he saw being murdered. George investigates and the mystery begins!

During his investigation, George meets several memorable characters: a mysterious man named Devereau (played with panache and class by Patrick McGoohan of 'The Prisoner' fame) and his 2 cronies Whiney (played by the great character actor Ray Walston) and Reace (played by the iconic Richard Kiel of Bond movie fame), Rita (played by vet Lucille Benson, reprising her offbeat snake-lady-in-the-middle-of- nowhere role from "Duel"), travelling salesman Bob Sweet (reliably played by vet Ned Beatty), train conductor Ralston (played with comic aplomb by the iconic Scatman Crothers), country Sheriff Chauncey (hilariously played by Clifton James reprising his bumpkin- sheriff role from "Live and Let Die"), and last but not least thief Grover (essayed by the great Richard Pryor in a scene-stealing role). George teams with Grover at about the film's halfway mark to finish solving the mystery and this where the Wilder-Pryor chemistry begins.

Much as I enjoy their zanier comedies, I think it's here where Wilder and Pryor's chemistry shines the most. Not too OTT, neither trying to upstage the other, but rather complementing each other's rather opposing comedy styles to create a memorable pairing. Also, Wilder and Clayburgh have great romantic chemistry, with Clayburgh being at her absolute hottest in this film!

Of course, this is really Wilder's film all the way as he is the film's protagonist and is in virtually every scene of the film and we are following George's journey. "Silver Streak" is most probably reminiscent of the Hitchcock classic "North by Northwest" (man falsely accused of murder, on the run, train action, mistaken identity, international intrigue), but also there's the reminder of several James Bond films of the 70s (with actors like Kiel and Clifton playing similar roles from those), and of course is kind of a microcosm and preview of the buddy-comedy-action film that would become so prevalent in the 80s.

A memorable, fun comedy-mystery from the 70s. Watch it, you won't be disappointed!
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10/10
Gene goes off the rails!
ShadeGrenade5 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This crowd-pleasing suspense comedy was chosen for a Royal Film Premiere in 1977, and marked the first - and best - teaming of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. 'Silver Streak' was written by Colin Higgins, author of the splendid 'Harold & Maude' and directed by Arthur Hiller, responsible for - yuck - 'Love Story' ( also 1971 ). Had it been made fifteen years earlier, it most likely would have starred Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint or Grace Kelly. Wilder plays 'George Caldwell', a mild-mannered book editor who boards the Silver Streak express in Los Angeles, hoping for some peace and quiet. He does not get it. Firstly, sexy secretary 'Hilly Burns' ( the late Jill Clayburgh ) gives him the come on, and after they have made love he spots a dead man falling past his compartment window. Nobody believes him, especially when the 'victim' - 'Professor Schreiner' ( Stefan Gierasch ) - turns out to be still alive. The Professor is in the possession of 'the Rembrandt letters' proving beyond a doubt that a major art swindle has taken place, and that Roger Deveraux ( Patrick McGoohan ) is behind it. Schreiner has been murdered, and replaced by an impostor. After finding evidence, George is attacked by 'Reace' ( Richard Kiel, a year before menacing Roger Moore's 007 in 'The Spy Who Loved Me' ), and thrown bodily from the train...

'Silver Streak' goes through several stylistic changes of gear, but they all work. The allusion to Hitchcock continues as George is suspected of having murdered federal agent 'Sweet' ( Ned Beatty ). Its about an hour into the picture when our hero steals a police car, only to find small-time thief 'Grover' ( Pryor ) is a passenger. Immediately, they establish a comedic rapport, becoming probably the screen's funniest comedy duo since Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Scenes like the one where George impersonates a black man in order to board the train would not probably have worked with anyone else. As international crook 'Devereau', McGoohan is both smooth and menacing ( as one would expect ). Another plus is Henry Mancini's music, that opening theme will stick in your head for days afterwards.

Higgins stayed in pseudo-Hitchcock territory for his next picture ( which he directed ) 'Foul Play', starring Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase, and Dudley Moore. Wilder and Pryor did a further four pictures together, the best of which was 'Stir Crazy' ( 1981 ). They re-teamed with Hiller in 1989 for the dire 'See No Evil, Hear No Evil'.

Comedy, adventure film, love story, disaster movie - 'Silver Streak' is all these things, and more. In some ways, its the ultimate '70's movie.
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9/10
Staying on the right track, never derailing
Steve Pulaski31 March 2011
Silver Streak is the last film I needed to see to conclude my Pryor/Wilder adventure. Now I'm amazed. Silver Streak surpassed all assumptions and stands as my favorite film by the comedic duo. Amazing sound editing, a compelling adventure, and interesting and well developed characters are the key to make a great action film. Silver Streak has it all.

I've never not found a Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder film funny. They were one of the funniest comedic duos of all time. See No Evil, Hear No Evil is my second favorite by them. Yeah it was corny and the plot wasn't too great but the plot of having one deaf guy and one blind guy as friends opened a world of possibilities. It was a funny film. Enough said. Another You would be my second favorite. Even though Pryor was sick and clearly not well it was still a great comedy. Stir Crazy is my least favorite of their work, but even that still had it's funny moments. Pryor/Wilder never got their big film break. But the four things they did were strong and deserving of more recognition.

The plot: George Caldwell (Wilder) is traveling on a train named "Silver Streak" from Los Angeles to Chicago. George meets an undeniably gorgeous woman named Hilly (Clayburgh) who is a secretary for her boss also aboard the train. The first night, George witnesses Hilly's boss' corpse being thrown from the train. He freaks out and goes to his room the next morning to see if he is there to assure he saw what he thought.

When asking to see the boss, two goons throw George from the train. George gets lucky and hitches a ride from an old lady on a biplane back on the train. This starts a series of silly, but funny, encounters with danger and trouble.

After being kicked off the train for a second time, George meets Groover Muldoon (Pryor) a thief he finds in the back of a cop car he steals. The hilarity only picks up when Pryor and Wilder meet. Their lines are great, their acts are welcome, and they are not but a pleasure to see on screen.

When it comes to comedic duos, besides Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson (Dante and Randal of Clerks) Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder were one of the best. It's almost shocking to hear they weren't real life friends. If they were I think we would've seen a lot more films with them together. Another You, released in 1993, was Wilder's last theatrical release. One of my wishes is to have him (or Rick Moranis) come back to do one more film. It'll never happen, but one can always hope.

The action in Silver Streak is the perfect balance. This is the kind of action film I love. Action/comedy. Very few are done right, but they are nothing but clean cut, raw, enjoyable entertainment when they are. The fact this is done right and has a great setting and a fantastic duo is just a match made in heaven.

Silver Streak is a fast paced comedy that does pretty much everything right. Going into this with expectations a tad lower than average I was very surprised with the execution. If Gene Wilder came out of retirement to come back to films like this one right here it would be a dream.

Starring: Gene Wilder, Jill Clayburgh, and Richard Pryor. Directed by: Arthur Hiller.
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