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The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

Four heavily armed crooks (Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, Earl Hindman) take control of a New York subway train under the noses of the rail operators and the transit police, and then coolly radio in a demand for $1 million or they'll start shooting hostages within the hour. The inept mayor is willing to hand over the cash, but transit cop Lt. Zachary Garber (Walter Matthau) isn't an experienced negotiator, and time is running out for everybody. Adapted from John Godey's popular novel by Peter Stone and directed by Joseph Sargent, the 1974 The Taking of Pelham One Two Three stands tall in the pantheon of white-knuckle crime flicks, and such successors as Die Hard, Speed, and even Reservoir Dogs owe it a debt of gratitude. The pitting of detached British mercenary Shaw against hot-headed New Yorker Matthau is a paradigm that has been played out again and again in subsequent films (it seems that every bad guy in heist flicks nowadays is English by default), and the use of color-coded names (Mr. Blue, Mr. Green, etc.) clearly wasn't overlooked by one Quentin Tarantino during his video-store education. In addition to the solid performances, David Shire's urgent score is pure '70s-cinema funk, with thumping riffs and shrieking horns. Also starring Jerry Stiller and Tony Roberts. This MGM DVD offers an excellent source print (around 2.20:1) that is showing very little in the way of damage or color desaturation, but the video transfer could have been handled with greater care. While not the worst disc we've seen, there is some shimmer on the finer details, which would be more of a distraction if the race-against-time plot wasn't so well crafted. Dolby 2.0 (mono), trailer. Keep-case.

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