Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Kino Lorber Studio Classics - THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE on Blu-ray ""

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Kino Lorber Studio Classics - THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE on Blu-ray

This is one of the best crime thrillers of the 1970s, but it only became known to me initially indirectly via Quentin Tarantino. Though I don't think I ever heard of him mentioning it as a direct influence, it's seems clear that QT borrowed the naming convention for RESERVOIR DOGS ("Mr. White", "Mr. Pink" etc) from PELHAM ONE TWO THREE wherein the criminals do the exact same thing. In PELHAM, it's not a jewel heist, but the taking hostage of an entire New York City subway car (and the people on board) for a ransom of one million dollars. So on top of it being a best 70s movies, PELHAM is also one of the great New York movies of all time. It is filled to the brim with amazing New York character actors - many of which will be familiar faces if you've seen a lot of TV and films from the era. This movie also establishes it's "New York-ness" via the locations and the dingy grime of the city as it was back then. Movies like PELHAM and DEATH WISH (which both came out in 1974) depict the dirty and scary New York that doesn't exist at all anymore. There's something inherently cinematic about the urban landscape of the city back then that I always found so compelling. For the longest time, I thought of big metropolitan cities as dangerous places that were fraught with peril - lurking around every corner.
One thing that surely stands out about PELHAM is the cast. I love that when we first see Walter Matthau's character - ostensibly the hero of the film - he has nodded off at his station and has to be woken up. It's a humorous and perfect introduction to not only the character, but the tone of the film which is tense, but not without its swaths of sarcastic humor. So Matthau makes a great foil for the arch villain of the movie - the evil "Mr. Blue" - who is played perfectly by the great Robert Shaw.
One of the other memorable things about the movie is the score from David Shire. The theme from the movie is one of those badass riffs that has been co-opted outside of the film and even used in other films (like Edgar Wright's HOT FUZZ for example). It's just this brash, tough bit of business that personifies both New York City and the conflict transpiring in the story. The whole score itself is a nice jazzy thing and it works wonderfully with the movie and keeps the energy up and also maintains the tension throughout. Check out the main theme to the film below - it's a real toe-tapper:

This is the first adaptation of John Godey's novel of the same name, but it's not the last. It was adapted at least two more times - once as a TV movie and again as a major theatrical release directed by Tony Scott and starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta. It's clearly good movie material. The script adaptation for the 70s film was done by screenwriter Peter Stone, who wrote other great thrillers like CHARADE, MIRAGE, and JIGSAW among others. It's well written and contains one of my favorite devices in thrillers. The members of Mr. Blue's gang include Hector Elizondo, Martin Balsam and Earl Hindman. Early on, you start to notice that at least one of them takes a good amount of pleasure in dispensing of human lives. This perpetuate the tautness of the scenario in that you can never tell when that one fella might kill somebody. That wild card factor combined with the almost clinical nature with which Robert Shaw's character approaches the hostages makes for a nice "ride" as it were.

Special Features:
Kino Lorber Studio Classic really went all out for this "42nd Anniversary Edition" and fans of the movie will delighted with the results. This disc will end up being one of my favorite releases of the year and it is due in no small part to all the supplements.
-An audio commentary with Film Programmer Jim Healy & actor/filmmaker Pat Healy. Though Jim labels this as a "fan commentary", I found it to be very enjoyable and informative. I've had the honor and privilege of meeting and speaking to both of these cinephile brothers and they are not dedicated movie fans, but also extremely knowledgable and as such are perfect candidates for a commentary like this.after hearing this track, I do hope that we hear more from these two on future Blu-ray releases.
-"Hector Elizondo: 12 Minutes with Mr. Grey" (12 mins) - an Interview with actor Hector Elizondo.
-"David Shire: The Sound of the City" (9 mins) - an Interview with composer David Shire.
-"Gerald Greenberg: Cutting on Action" (9 mins) - an Interview with Editor Gerald Greenberg.
-"Trailers From Hell" with Josh Olson.
-Animated montage of stills and posters.

This Blu-ray can and should be purchased here:


Will Errickson said...

I remember hearing about PELHAM growing up, it was on TV a lot, but the only part I ever actually saw was the ending--admittedly great, and I could tell it was a great ending even w/o having seen the whole film. Watched it all the way through probably seven or eight years ago and found it to be one of the most thoroughly enjoyable '70s movies ever. That score--! I totally agree about how compelling that urban landscape was. I also dig how all the characters are well-aged and look it: New York City really wears people down, don't it?!

Rupert Pupkin said...

Indeed! NYC of the 70s beat the crap out of people and they totally wore that weathered look on their faces!