Video Vault: ‘The Taking of Pelham One Two Three’

Will Pfeifer

Who says the subway is safe?

Four gunman take a New York subway car hostage. If the ransom isn’t paid, they start killing passengers.

That’s the premise of “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three,” a whip-smart suspense drama from 1974, when New York City was a lot less well-scrubbed. The grittiness of the city is practically the star of the show here, along with Walter Matthau and Jerry Stiller (Frank Costanza from “Seinfeld”!) as the cops and Robert Shaw (Quint from “Jaws”) as the head crook.

One reason “Pelham” works so well is that the good guys and bad guys are consistently clever. You can’t figure out how the gunmen will get away, but you can’t figure out how the police will stop them, either. And that sense of suspense lasts through the movie, right up to the final shot. Be sure to watch it to the end.

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