Christian Toto looks back at the original and despite two remakes (one for cable, one for the big screen) definitive Taking of Pelham One Two Three from 1974:
Last summer’s pedestrian “Pelham” remake illustrates just where today’s films too often go astray. While John Travolta burned hundreds of calories as the hyperventilating villain, Shaw rarely raises his voice.
Guess which screen baddie leaves more of an impression?
The plot in both films remains a model of efficiency, but the remake’s final 20 minutes becomes a silly, belabored affair.
The original never suffers such a letdown.
“Pelham” knows how New Yorkers talk — and talk — and how they can’t help expressing themselves even in dire circumstances. The accents are all dead on, from Matthau talking about the “terlet” to his colleagues not willing to give those SOBs who stole their train an inch.
“The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” is all New York, its coal black humor, blunt honesty and ability to rally in times of crisis.
They don’t make ‘em like “Pelham” anymore, even when they break the bank trying.
And the opening and closing music by David Shire are probably the only pieces of 12-tone serial composing with a monster groove: