THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE (Joseph Sargent, 1974)
209 West Houston St.
Saturday, July 8, 4:45, Sunday, July 16, 6:20, Friday, July 21, 5:00 & 10:00
Series runs through July 27
On October 29, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford refused to grant a federal bailout of New York, resulting in one of the all-time-great headlines in the Daily News: “Ford to City: Drop Dead.” Film Forum is looking back at that rather unique decade in Big Apple history in the fab series “Ford to City: Drop Dead — New York in the 70s.” Running through July 27, the festival features more than three dozen Gotham classics, beginning with Midnight Cowboy and Taking Off and continuing with such favorites as Mean Streets (shown with Film Forum master programmer Bruce Goldstein’s Les Rues de Mean Streets), Serpico, Saturday Night Fever, Network, Klute, and Marathon Man. With all the recent problems with the subway system, it’s definitely time to revisit Joseph Sargent’s underground thriller, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. Loosely adapted from the book by John Godey, the film wonderfully captures the cynicism of New York City in the 1970s. Four heavily armed and mustached men — Mr. Blue (Robert Shaw), Mr. Green (Martin Balsam), Mr. Gray (Hector Elizondo), and Mr. Brown (Earl Hindman), colorful pseudonyms that influenced Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs — hijack an uptown 4 train, demanding one million dollars in one hour from a nearly bankrupt city or else they will kill all eighteen passengers, one at a time, minute by minute. The hapless mayor (Lee Wallace) is in bed with the flu, so Deputy Mayor Warren LaSalle (Tony Roberts) takes charge on the political end while transit detective Lt. Zachary Garber (a great Walter Matthau) and Inspector Daniels (Julius Harris) of the NYPD team up to try to figure out just how in the world the criminals expect to get away with the seemingly impossible heist. Sargent (Sybil) offers a nostalgic look back at a bygone era, before technology radically changed the way trains are run and police work is handled.
The film also features a very funny, laconic Jerry Stiller as Lt. Rico Patrone and the beloved Kenneth McMillan as the borough commander. It was remade as a television movie in 1998, starring Edward James Olmos, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Lorraine Bracco, and as an embarrassingly bad big-budget bomb in 2009 by Tony Scott. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is screening on July 8 (introduced by Goldstein), 16, and 21; the Film Forum series also includes such inspired double features as Shaft and Super Fly, Across 110th Street and Cops and Robbers, Dressed to Kill and Death Wish, Three Days of the Condor and The Eyes of Laura Mars, and The Warriors and Escape from New York. In addition, director Jerry Schatzberg will introduce The Panic in Needle Park on July 7, William Friedkin will introduce The French Connection via Skype on July 8, and New York Times media editor Bill Brink — whose father, William, wrote the infamous Daily News headline — will introduce Dog Day Afternoon on July 9.