The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (also known as The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) is a 1974 American thriller film directed by Joseph Sargent, produced by Gabriel Katzka and Edgar J. Scherick, starring Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam and Héctor Elizondo.
In New York City, a criminal gang (Martin Balsam, Héctor Elizondo) led by the ruthless "Mr. Blue" (Robert Shaw) hijacks a subway car and threatens to start shooting one passenger per minute unless they receive a million dollars in cash from the city within an hour. On the other end of the line, crusty veteran transit policeman Zachary Garber (Walter Matthau) has his hands full dealing with the mayor's office and his hotheaded fellow cops, while also trying to deliver the ransom before the deadline expires.
- Walter Matthau as Lt. Zachary Garber
- Robert Shaw as Bernard Ryder a.k.a. Mr. Blue
- Martin Balsam as Harold Longman a.k.a. Mr. Green
- Héctor Elizondo as Giuseppe Benvenuto a.k.a. Mr. Grey
- Earl Hindman as George Steever a.k.a. Mr. Brown
- James Broderick as Denny Doyle
- Dick O'Neill as Frank Correll
- Lee Wallace as the Mayor
- Tony Roberts as Deputy Mayor Warren LaSalle
- Doris Roberts as Jessie, the Mayor's Wife
- Jerry Stiller as Lt. Rico Patrone
- Nathan George as Ptl. James
- Beatrice Winde as Mrs. Jenkins
- Rudy Bond as the Police Commissioner Phil
- Kenneth McMillan as Borough Commander Harry
- Julius Harris as Inspector Daniels
The film was generally well received by critics. Variety called it “a good action caper” but “the major liability is Peter Stone’s screenplay, which develops little interest in either Matthau or Shaw’s gang, nor the innocent hostages” which are “simply stereotyped baggage.” While the trade paper complained that the Mayor was “played for silly laughs,” it called Shaw “superb in another versatile characterization.
Roger Ebert's contemporary review gave the film 3 out of a possible 4 stars. He praised the film's "unforced realism", and the supporting characters who elevated what could have been a predictable crime thriller: "we care about the people not the plot mechanics. And what could have been formula trash turns out to be fairly classy trash, after all."
Gene Siskel also gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, describing it as a "solid new thriller laced with equal amounts of tension and comedy."
The film holds a 100% "Fresh" score on Rotten Tomatoes based on 38 critics.
The film was remade in 1998 as a television film with the same title. Although not particularly well received by critics or viewers, this version was reportedly more faithful to the book, though it revised the setting with new technologies.