Silver Streak, a comedy-thriller from 1976, was not only a hilarious vehicle for the pairing of funny guys Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, but featured Irish-American actor Patrick McGoohan in the part of the evil Roger Devereaux.
When George Caldwell (Gene Wilder) meets the beautiful Hilly Burns (Jill Clayburgh), sparks fly. Hilly is secretary to an art historian who has “the Rembrandt letters” that Devereaux wants destroyed. This all takes place on a train bound from Los Angeles to Chicago, giving the film a certain familiarity with a Hitchcock film that also involves suspense and romance on a train. Can you guess which one?
As for the Rembrandt letters, can you say McGuffin? 🙂
In any case, when the art historian disappears and George finds thugs searching his compartment, he gets unceremoniously tossed from the train.
In fact, George falls off the train a few times (and goes through all manner of hell to get back on it) before he finally confronts Devereaux. At this point, he’s assisted by Pryor, who plays a thief named Grover T. Muldoon. This leads up to one of the most memorable scenes in the film.
The steely-eyed McGoohan not only uses racial slurs with impunity, but shows no mercy to his own crew when the chips are down.
Well, after killing a few people, Devereaux gets his just desserts.
McGoohan uses his fantastic, clipped delivery to great effect in this film. He also shows us the depth of Devereaux’s evil in the sharklike stare of his eyes. He even has the gall to slap Jill Clayburgh silly in one scene.
McGoohan mastered the look of a sociopathic killer with those eyes, the set of his jaw, and his distinctive accent. He was an actor of great depth, as I’ll be discussing in my next entry in the Great Villain Blogathon 2017.