Under the Radar

The Real Taking of Pelham One Two Three


As more titles get reissued on Blu-ray, you have to ask yourself how many titles in your DVD library need an upgrade and, if you're buying a movie for the first time, whether you should spend the extra cash to get the high-def version instead of the standard DVD.

1974's The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is remembered for two things: inspiring the Quentin Tarantino's color-based alias system in Reservoir Dogs and being the original film that inspired the pretty terrible Denzel Washington/John Travolta 2009 remake.

The subway heist plot makes a hell of a lot more sense when your turn back the clock and everyone's using the limited communications technology of the 1970s. Robert Shaw as the gang leader is every bit as good here as he was in Jaws or Black Sunday and his verbal sparring with Walter Matthau (via two-way radio) is reason enough by itself to watch the movie.

But you also get a lot of amazing location footage of NYC right at the moment when the whole city was falling apart, right at the moment when the city almost fell into bankruptcy. The train scenes were filmed on a stretch on abandoned track rather than recreated on a set, so the whole movie has a grimy edge.

Which brings us to the transfer. The Blu-ray version looks way better than any previous DVD or VHS release but it's definitely a '70s movie and MGM hasn't made an effort to smooth out the grain in a grainy image. The disk has a mono sound mix and the theatrical trailer as its lone extra. If you're looking to show off how sharp a picture you get with your new home theater, you're not going to like this release very much. Still it looks way better than the DVD.

If you don't care so much about picture quality, you can catch this one on Netflix. If you're looking to buy a copy for your house, this one is definitely worth the extra few bucks if you understand what you are (and aren't) getting.


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