The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: MGM - 1974
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 104 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish/French Dolby Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, French
Starring: Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, Jerry Stiller, Earl Hindman, Kenneth McMillian, Dick O'Neill
Directed by: Joseph Sargent
Music by: David Shire
Written by: Peter Stone based on the novel by John Godey
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: November 1, 2011
"No other hijack was ever like this"
A gang of thugs who have hijacked a subway train near New York's Pelham Station threaten to kill one hostage per minute. Forced to stall the assailants until a ransom is delivered or rescue made, transit chief Lt. Garber (Matthau) must somehow ad-lib, con and outmaneuver one of the craftiest, cruelest villains (Shaw) ever. It's a race against time, and no one knows whether things will end heroically or tragically in this pulse-pounding thrill ride!
Based on the novel by John Godey The taking of Pelham one two three is a crime story that revolves around four heavily armed men that hijack a subway train and hold 18 passengers for ransom. The looming question of course being, how do they expect to get away with it? I am a big fan of this film and have been since seeing it on network television back in the late 70's. It became one of those movies that I couldn't resist watching if I stumbled upon it while channel surfing. What makes Pelham so good is the escalating narrative fed by the goings on in the hijacked subway car and above ground as the police attempt to deal with the situation. The interesting thing is that neither side realizes that they have little control over either situation. I love watching Walter Matthau's Lt. Garber trade blows and wits with Robert Shaw's steely Mr. Blue. Garber has to contend not only with Mr. Blue but the Transit Authority's outraged civilian employees/bureaucracy, a bit of bungling by NYPD and a mayor who is worried about his approval rating. Below ground Mr. Blue has his own issues that include an assortment of discontented captives, and three cohorts, each with questionable underpinnings. The problem for the hijackers was never the plan. Their problem was the smug overestimation of their chances and the underestimation of a lowly Transit Authority Police administrator.
I have seen the recent remake starring John Travolta/Denzel Washington and prefer this one. I didn't care for the action oriented narrative changes made in the new version. I enjoy the original's pacing, superb character interaction, and slow but effective buildup of suspense which lasts right through to the final moment. This is clearly not an action film but is a wonderfully involving crime thriller built upon clearly defined characters and a conceptually challenging plot. Filmed in the mid 1970's with New York City as the backdrop there is an inherently gritty, nostalgic and visceral edge associated with it that undeniably adds to it charm. The mid seventies was a financially tough time in New York City. I think that naturally comes across when watching the film. There are also a host of colorful characters that aptly depict the essence of the New Yorker mindset. The film is decidedly dated but if you grew up in that era and spent any time in New York City the level of nostalgia is high, not to mention fun. The cast as an ensemble is simply pitch perfect. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting The taking of Pelham one two three. I haven't seen it in years and watching it now proved every bit as entertaining as it did the first time I saw it.
The rating is for language, violence, and thematic material.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
The taking of Pelham one two three comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 34 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD Mono Master Audio sound.
I was pleasantly surprised at how good this high definition presentation looks. Images are fairly resolute with consistent sharpness and two dimensional depth during brightly lit scenes. Fine detail is apparent in close ups and many of the long range daytime camera shots of the city locales show off the texture/physical makeup of the streets and structures. Apparent resolution isn't absolute and there are instances where the video takes on a flatter perspective that appears to be innate. Colors are rendered cleanly and appear satisfying with no signs of bleeding or excess saturation. Flesh tones are varied and lifelike. Blacks are a bit muddy and shadow detail is just average. Grain is present with noticeably consistent texture that appears unaltered. The monaural soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio lossless and while it won't knock your socks off I found it delivered the components in the original recording beautifully. The auditory is clean and free of unwanted clicks, pops or background hiss. Dialogue intelligibility is excellent as it is never lost amidst the other sounds coming through the central channel.
- (HD) Theatrical Trailer
Based on the novel by John Godey The taking of Pelham one two three is an engrossing and entertaining crime thriller. It is a personal favorite that outshines the 2009 remake thanks to a strong script, well placed cast, and superbly matched production elements. Its high definition release on Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment offers faithful audio/video quality but, other than a theatrical trailer, includes no bonus content. I am thrilled to add it to my video collection and highly recommend it to genre fans.
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