The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

This is the intriguing story of a hijacked subway train that began its run at New York’s Pelham Bay Park at 1:23 P.M. Therefore, it was known as Pelham One Two Three.

Walter Matthau plays a Transit Authority Lieutenant in this 1974 crime thriller but the best performance is turned in by Robert Shaw who plays the leader of the four man gang of hijackers. Martin Balsam is also excellent as the disgruntled ex-motorman who has a score to settle with the Transit Authority. Other members of the gang are Earl Hindman as Mr. Brown and Hector Elizondo as Mr. Grey. Jerry Stiller portrays Lieutenant Rico Patrone of the Transit Authority Police.

Some critics claim that this movie improves upon John Godey’s best selling novel but I don’t think so. There is so much more information you can glean from a novel than you can get from a movie that lasts an hour and forty minutes. Still, the movie does follow the book fairly closely, even though you have a better understanding of the characters when reading the novel.

The movie begins with the four hijackers boarding Pelham One Two Three at various stops along the route. At the same time, you are given a glimpse of the inner workings of New York’s subway system as Walter Matthau’s character, Lieutenant Garber, leads a group of Japanese businessmen on a tour of the command facilities.

When the gunmen take over the train, the immediate reaction of people from the mayor on down is one of utter disbelief that anyone would be crazy enough to capture a train. All through the movie, people a wondering how the hijackers are going to make their getaway. Garber knows that they aren’t dealing with lunatics because the gunmen have everything planned down to the smallest detail. In one scene, Lieutenant Patrone says, “Wait a minute. I think I just figured out how they’re going to get away.” Garber answers, “I’m listening.” Lieutenant Patrone says, “They’re going to fly the train to Cuba.”

The demands of the gunmen are simple. They want one million dollars within an hour or they’ll start killing hostages. There is a gripping scene of a police car with a motorcycle escort racing through New York City from the Federal Reserve Bank in Manhattan, trying desperately to deliver the money before time expires.

Even though there are a few slow parts in this move, overall it’s an excellent action thriller.


  • Walter Matthau-Lt. Garber
  • Robert Shaw-Mr. Blue
  • Martin Balsam-Mr. Green
  • Hector Elizondo-Mr. Grey
  • Earl Hindman-Mr. Brown
  • James Broderick-Denny Doyle
  • Dick O’Neill-Correll
  • Lee Wallace-The Mayor
  • Tom Pedi-Caz Dolowicz
  • Beatrice Winde-Mrs. Jenkins
  • Jerry Stiller-Lt. Rico Patrone
  • Nathan George-Patrolman James
  • Rudy Bond-Police Commissioner
  • Kenneth McMillan-Borough Commander
  • Doris Roberts-Mayor’s Wife

Sound Files

  • Mr. Blue: “I’m taking your train.” (20K)
  • Dispatcher: “Command Center calling Pelham One Two Three. Come in, please.” (36K)
  • Mr. Blue: “In other words, if all of you simultaneously were to rush me, not a single one of you would get any closer than you are right now.” (108K)
  • Dispatcher: “Pelham One Two Three, what do you mean the train has been taken? Are you the motorman?” (38K)
  • Mr. Blue: “Listen, Trainmaster. Your locomotive has been hijacked by a group of heavily armed men.” (64K)
  • Lieutenant Patrone: “You know me. I’ll believe anything.”
  • Lieutenant Garber: “A train has been hijacked.”
  • Lieutenant Patrone: “I don’t believe it.” (81K)
  • Mrs. Jenkins: “Grand Central Tower to Command Center. Pelham One Two Three’s in motion.” (127K)
  • Mrs. Jenkins: “Pelham One Two Three’s between Astor Place and Bleaker. Speed’s increasing.” (56K)
  • Mrs. Jenkins: “Jesus. It’s heading to the South Ferry loop. It must be going about seventy miles an hour.”