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The Taking of Pelham One Two Three(1974)

Ads hailed this thriller’s plot as “the most spectacular hijack ever attempted.” A gang identified only by the colors of their hats capture a subway train leaving Pelham Bay Park station at 1:23 p.m. and demands $1 million ransom or they will start killing passengers. Their main opposition is a grizzled police lieutenant played by Walter Matthau, whose scenes with criminal ringleader Robert Shaw sizzle even though they never actually meet. Screenwriter Peter Stone fleshed out John Godey’s novel with humor and memorable supporting characters, played by a cast of veterans including Hector Elizondo and Martin Balsam as hijackers, James Broderick as the train’s conductor, Tony Roberts as the deputy mayor, Jerry Stiller as a police lieutenant and Dick O’Neill as one of Matthau’s colleagues. The unique plotline had the New York Transit Authority so worried they refused to allow location shooting until the producers put up $75,000 to insure against future hijackings. The film became a hit, particularly in cities with subway systems, but New York City banned any trains from leaving the Pelham station at 1:23 a.m. or p.m. The film inspired a TV movie and a theatrical remake as well as songs from the Beastie Boys, Deadly Avenger and Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine. (d. Joseph Sargent, 104m, 35mm)

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