POSTERS: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

The 1970s had a torrent of awesome cinema as we covered in one of our first features on FC, 50 Furious Films: The 1970s. Crime movies in particular seemed to be especially popular during that time. There was a kind of resurgence in the genre which started in the late 60s with films like Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Bullitt (1968) and were followed by hard boiled police procedurals like Dirty Harry (1971) and The French Connection (1971). They had a dark side to them that we really hadn’t seen since the film noir era. The police in these movies were often outsiders and rebels fighting against the system they worked for while taking it to the criminals in often violent ways that got audiences cheering.

In Joseph Sargent’s 1974 heist film The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, a gruff New York City Transit Authority police lieutenant named Zachary Garber (Walter Matthau) finds himself stuck in the center of a potboiler of a situation when four robbers using unique aliases: Mr. Blue (Robert Shaw), Mr. Grey (Hector Elizondo), Mr. Green (Martin Balsam) and Mr. Brown (Earl Hindman) take over one of the city’s subway trains and hold the passengers hostage. Their demands are: one million dollars delivered in one hour or they’l kill a passenger every minute after the time has run out.

Garber must do his best to try to stall the robbers and foil their plans as well as keep the subways running while dealing with his own gang of colorfully rambunctious transit workers such as Lt. Rico Patrone (Jerry Stiller) as well as some Japanese subway businessmen he’s supposed to be giving a guided tour of the workplace.

The movie has a unique charm about it due to its portrayal of everyday “New Yawkers” like Garber & Co. and their humorous, wise cracking personalities which are set against Robert Shaw’s cold, calculated deadly British criminal Mr. Blue, who shows no feeling throughout the entire story.

Composer David Shire’s score (listen to it above) is also a main highlight with it’s driving, funky horn based rhythm. It’s one of our favorites here at FC. An interesting thing is that Shire’s work in The Conversation (released the same year) is the complete opposite in sound with its use of a singular instrument: the piano. This showed just how much of an range he had as a musician.

The eye catching poster for Pelham 123 by artist Mort Kunstler conveys through its pulp-crime imagery the type of intense subject matter that movie audiences were in for.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

Furious Trivia: The color names used in Pelham 123 would show up again in another classic heist film: Reservoir Dogs



Editor-In-Chief of The Grindhouse Cinema Database and Furious Cinema. Pete is an avid movie geek who enjoys everything from wild n' crazy exploitation and cult films to popular mainstream classics.

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