Suspense Films: Not Like They Used to Be



The other day, I was watching The Taking of Pelham One Two Three from 1974 (the original with the awesome Walter Matthau, Jerry Stiller, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, and Hector Elizondo) – not the 2009 remake with the title’s numbers in numeral form, which was probably far crappier despite featuring such great actors as Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, and James Gandolfini. Although I could be wrong, because I haven’t seen it.

It hit me how much about the image of women in the workplace has changed since the original was released. Despite all its pros, the movie dates itself dreadfully with its references to women’s various incompetencies. As if a man could never accidentally drop a valuable item in the toilet, as one subway worker (female) did in this movie.

The loud-mouthed, sexist Caz Dolowicz (Tom Pedi)

The loud-mouthed, sexist Caz Dolowicz (Tom Pedi)

And then there’s the undercover cop who happens to be one of the passenger hostages on the hijacked subway train. So many references to how one cop couldn’t possibly take on these guys all by himself. And if the cop were female – well, what could be worse? The real question is, why would it be worse? Male or female – that cop has no chance in hell of overcoming those four yoyos by his or her lonesome.


Even so, I still love this movie. And one of its best attributes is its use of humor sprinkled in with the suspense. This version of Pelham One Two Three manages to escalate tension to edge-of-your-seat proportions. Yet, the characters are each unique, quirky and – yes – have their funny moments.


This underscores for me two characteristics that modern action-adventure crime thrillers often overdo: they make everyone and everything so serious and pour on the special effects to make up for thin plot and characterization.

I guess they don’t make movies like they used to, which is both a good and bad thing.

"Even great men have to pee."

“Even great men have to pee.”

If you’d like to read a longer, more detailed review of the original film, click here!


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