The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

  • Directors: Joseph Sargent
  • Producers: Edgar J Scherick
  • Writers: John Godey, Peter Stone
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Thriller
  • Actors: Walter Matthau, Jerry Stiller, Martin Balsam, Robert Shaw

Lieutenant Zachary Garber (Walter Matthau) is a cynical and grumpy New York City Transit Authority policeman whose routine is interrupted by the hijacking of the 6 Manhattan-bound local train from Pelham Bay Park which occurred between the 28th Street and 23rd Street Stations. The ruthless hijackers kill two transit workers during the course of the hijacking, while demanding a ransom of one million dollars in unmarked bills within 60 minutes. The police rush to deliver the ransom money in a squad car for a frantic drive uptown from the financial district as Garber attempts to negotiate with the four hijackers by radio from transit police headquarters; the police car is involved in a collision, losing valuable time. Buying some time, Garber bluffs the hijackers in telling them that the money is delivered to the station meet point, but some time is needed to walk down the tunnel to the hijacked subway car. After picking up the money from the police car collision, another squad car arrives at the meet point to drop off the money.

Garber leaves headquarters to confront the hijackers directly. Unknown to the police, the four hijackers (led by British mercenary Bernard Ryder (Robert Shaw) and a disgruntled former motorman Harold Longman (Martin Balsam) have ingeniously defeated the subway car’s “dead-man” feature, which requires a live person at the controls at all times to keep the train running. Once they receive their ransom money, they surreptitiously exit, sending the car off at top speed toward the terminal station, distracting the police long enough to escape from the tunnel. The car is set to reach speeds of over 70 mph, which causes it to automatically trip a red light brake as it enters the South Ferry Loop, after which the passengers are all safe once the train stops.

In the final scene of the movie, the motorman is at home with his share of the ransom cash when Garber and another lieutenant (Jerry Stiller) come calling as they work through a list of suspected former motormen. Though his alibi is shaky, the officers are about to leave when the motorman inadvertently gives himself away by sneezing, the same way Garber had heard one of the hijackers sneeze over the radio during the incident.

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