The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

A Review by Jason L. King

Starring: Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Earl Hindman and Jerry Stiller
Directed by: Joseph Sargent
Rated: R for language
Movie Released: 1974

Final Grade:

Digging back into the vault a bit this week, I stumbled upon an online copy of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. Since the Denzel and Travolta remake made its way out on DVD this week, I thought there wasn’t a more perfect time to pull out the original Pelham and give it a rewatch.

The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three is the story of four men who hijack a New York subway train and use the hostages as a way to earn a quick million dollars. The thought they had planned their heist perfectly, including the perfect getaway, but first they must get the transit police to follow each of their demands before they start killing hostages.

Pelham One Two Three brings out a great performance by Walter Matthau as Lt. Garber, the transit police’s unwilling and untrained negotiator. Matthau, who is probably more known to my generation as Mr. Wilson from Dennis the Menace or as one of the old guys from Grumpy Old Men, does a wonderful job of stammering his way through the hostage situation. His facial expressions alone make you feel like you are right in the room with him and you almost can see the wheels turning in his head as he tries to wrap his brain around the hijacker’s true sinister plot.

Along side of him acting wise, we see a performance by Jerry Stiller as another transit cop who is helping to diffuse the hostage situation. I realized young or old, Jerry Stiller sticks out like a sore thumb and the man really hasn’t changed much. Having seen far too many episodes of the King of Queens in my life, Jerry Stiller was almost too distracting- I kept laughing at the idea of Arthur being a cop. Also worth noting in the film (because we here at Box Office point out some of the weird things no other credible site would) is a performance by Earl Hindman. Earl Hindman’s name may not be that well known to you, but if you grew up in the 90’s you may remember watching a Tim Allen sitcom called Home Improvement (or Tool Time as forgetful, people call it). Earl Hindman was a regular guest on the show, and played the role of Wilson Wilson who was Tim’s strange but lovable advice giving neighbor. In Pelham, Hindman isn’t the guy you want to chat over the fence with though, this time he is playing Mr. Brown one of the train hijackers. (What other website would be mentioning Dennis The Menace and Home Improvement: That’s what makes us better..right?)

Perhaps the biggest turn off for The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is you only get out of it what you put in. If you build up the suspense of the movie in your head and you try to figure out what is going to happen next, the film sucks you in and takes you on a fun one hour and fourty minute trip. Film that are in theaters now depend on impressing the attention deficit disorder crowd, with bright flashes of light, choppy screen shots and hand held cameras with high action. If you are looking for a lot of intense action, this film is going to let you down. The flick is not high action, instead it’s back and forth between the negotiator and hijackers with the viewer looking on in awe, wondering if deadlines will be met, hostages will die and just how in the world the hijackers are getting out of a surrounded tunnel in the ground.

In the end, I highly suggest checking out the original Taking of Pelham One Two Three. It’s a great film that has held up despite its age. If you’re looking for something to add to your next movie night, why not give the 1974 version of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three a try.

At the time of posting- you can watch The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three (1974) for free at We’ve actually posted the video below. If for some reason the video is unavailable, you can also try a website like to help you find other copies of the film for free on the web.

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