© 1974 Palomar Pictures

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

Like so many other film fans, I have little time for remakes. I love The Shop Around the Corner (1940), but shutter at the thought of watching its remake You’ve Got Mail (1998). When I read the news that Nicole Kidman has bought the rights to How to Marry A Millionaire (1953), with plans to star herself in a remake, all I can do is roll my eyes. But one thing that remakes are good for is generating new interest in the original films.

I had never heard of this film until I heard about the remake, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009). I had no interest whatsoever in the new film, but decided to seek out the original and watch it and I was glad I did. Although John Travolta won accolades from critics for his role as the leader of a group of men who hijack a New York subway train, it is impossible to imagine him playing the calm, calculated killer mastered by British actor Robert Shaw in this film. Likewise, Walter Matthau is perfect as a gruff transit official who uses his knowledge of the subway system to thwart the hijackers, and the role most have been changed significantly in order to fit Denzel Washington. Aside from the lead actors, the original film offers a wonderful, if somewhat exaggerated, snapshot of ’70s New York. One of the best things about the film is the amazing soundtrack by David Shire.  While handling the basic task of enhancing suspense, Shire’s score also evokes the melting pot nature of the city, with a mixture of funky bass, Latin percussion and jazzy horns.

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