The Taking of Pelham One Two Three DVD art courtesy MGM Home Video
So, Denzel Washington is starring in a remake of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) for director Tony Scott, with a new screenplay by David Koepp. Now, Washington and Koepp are very talented and Scott can get a movie made, but among movies in no need of remaking, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three ranks high on the list. So this week's DVD Tuesday is dedicated to the original, in all its grimy glory.

How do you steal a New York City subway train? Former movie publicist Morton Freedgood figured out a way, and his 1973 novel, written under the pseudonym "John Godey," was snapped up before publication and immediately put into production under director Joseph Sargent and screenwriter Peter Stone. Needless to say, city officials and representatives of the Metropolitan Transit Authority weren't wild about the story of four identically dressed hijackers, hiding behind color-coded nicknames (what's betting this is where Quentin Tarantino, connoisseur of all things down and dirty, got the idea for Reservoir Dogs?), separating the first car of a Manhattan-bound number 6 train (yes, the line Jennifer Lopez immortalized with her album On the 6) from the rest and holding the conductor and 17 passengers hostage for $1 million. If the City of New York - which, bear in mind, was in such severe fiscal distress in the early 1970s that it was bankrupt by 1975 - doesn't deliver the money in exactly one hour, they'll begin executing hostages. One hostage every minute until the money arrives.

Transit Authority Police Lieutenant Zachary Garber ( Walter Matthau), who's busy making an ass of himself in front of a group of executives from the Tokyo Metropolitan Subway System taking an official tour of New York's internationally acclaimed public transportation network, winds up being the official liaison between the hijackers - Mr. Blue ( Robert Shaw), Mr. Green ( Martin Balsam), Mr. Grey ( Hector Elizondo) and Mr. Brown ( Earl Hindman) - and everyone else, including the mayor, the NYPD (the transit police and the aboveground police were two different forces then, under the same ultimate command but functioning independently) and his own bosses, including the controller (character actor Dick O'Neill), who sputters "Screw the passengers! What do they expect for 35 cents - to live forever?" Uh-huh, back then it cost a whole 35 cents to ride NYC's dirty, dangerous, graffiti-smeared trains, and "screw the passengers" pretty much summed up what riders figured the MTA thought of them.

I love movies set in New York during the 1960s and '70s in general, and I love movies set in subways, including The Incident (1967), The Warriors (1979) and even the recent Hungarian feature Kontroll (2004). So it stands to reason that I especially love a deeply cynical, bitterly funny movie set in the New York subway in the '70s. The back-and-forth between Matthau and Shaw is priceless, and Tony Roberts and Jerry Stiller deliver excellent supporting turns - especially Roberts, as the ruthlessly pragmatic deputy mayor.

PS: "Pelham One Two Three" alludes to where and when the train left its home base: Pelham Station in the Bronx, at 1:23.

Things to consider:

Claustrophobic thrillers set in subways, submarines, airplanes and the like - do you have a favorite, or do they set your teeth on edge?

New York movies - do you have a favorite period? The glamorous '50s? The anxious '60s? The jazzy '40s? Specific films?

Send your movie questions to FlickChick.

See Maitland McDonagh and Ken Fox review this week's new flicks on the Movie Talk vodcast.

Hear Maitland on the weekly podcast TV Guide Talk.


Previously in DVD Tuesday:
Zodiac
Manhunter
A Simple Plan
Taxi Driver
Renaissance
Blowup
Hot Fuzz
300
Ace in the Hole
Eyes Without a Face
Apocalypto
Citizen Kane
La Jetée
Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
Bob le Flambeur
Near Dark
Perfect Blue
Pan's Labyrinth
Les Girls
The Girl Who Knew Too Much
The Queen
Expresso Bongo
I'm Not Scared
Shocking Grindhouse Double Bill! - Scanners and The Candy Snatchers
Don't Look Now
Re-Animator
Casino Royale
http:/ / community. tvguide. com/ thread. jspa? threadID= 800073953#comments"> Pi
The Prestige
13 Tzameti
The Departed
Suspiria
Kiss and Make Up
Kiss Me Deadly
The Long Good Friday
What Alice Found
The Devil's Backbone
The Descent
The Devil Wears Prada
Pandora's Box
The Thief and the Cobbler
Nashville
Panic in the Streets/Jack Palance Interview
The Pusher Trilogy
Scarface
Slither
Sunset Blvd.
In Cold Blood
Brick
Also: This week's new DVD releases