A 1974 Heist Film, starring Walter Matthau as Lieutenant Garber and Robert Shaw as (leader of the hijackers) Mr. Blue.Remade in 1998 (starring EdwardJamesOlmos), and 2009 with Denzel Washington and John Travolta.The 2009 version of The Taking of Pelham 123 splits the Walther Matthau character of Zachary Garber into two persons (Denzel Washington as MTA Dispatcher Walter Garber, and John Turturro as NYPD Hostage Negotiator Detective Camonetti). Both have an ordinary day thrown into chaos by an audacious crime: the hijacking of a New York Subway train that is in Garber's charge.John Travolta co-stars as Ryder, the criminal mastermind who, as leader of a highly-armed gang of four, including a subway-knowledgeable henchman, (played by Luis Guzman), threatens to execute the train's passengers unless a large ransom is paid within one hour. Adding to the trouble, Ryder refuses to speak to Detective Camonetti, forcing Garber to negotiate with him on his own. As the tension mounts beneath his feet, Garber employs his vast knowledge of the subway system in a battle to outwit Ryder and save the hostages.
Blue: I once had a man shot for talking to me like that.
Grey: Well that's the difference between us. I've always done my own killing.
Bait and Switch: The criminals order all lights set to green and the police cleared off every station to South Ferry, to make it look like they're planning to escape via the river. Actually the train has been rigged to move by itself while the criminals slip out an emergency exit.
Baby Carriage: In the original film the police car racing to bring the money to the station by Mr. Blue's deadline crashes after swerving to avoid a bicycle vendor.
Big Applesauce: Where else is someone gonna hijack a NYC subway train? Also the original novel was written by a born and bred New Yorker.
The Big Rotten Apple: NYC's dysfunctional '70s glory is showcased in the original, albeit to mostly-comedic effect.
Bilingual Backfire: Garber in the original is told to look after a group of Tokyo subway executives who follow him around obediently without speaking. He quickly gets sick of playing tour guide and, assuming they don't speak any English, begins insulting them at random points in his descriptions of things. When the hostage situation occurs, they say goodbye in flawless English and leave.
Brick Joke: In the original the unpopular Mayor doesn't want to visit the scene of the hijacking because he'll be booed. Later in the film he does show up (offscreen)—and:
NYPD Official: [over the sound of loud booing] Jesus, it's the goddamn Mayor.
Chekhov's Gun: The sneeze. The repeated warnings to avoid the third rail.
Cluster F-Bomb: (Remake) Ryder, so very, very much, to the point where one could mistake him for having motherfuckin' Tourette's.
The original had quite a high quotient of expletives for a mainstream 1974 release. One character even says "How the hell can you run a goddamn railroad without swearing?!"
Corrupt Corporate Executive: In the 2009 remake Ryder is actually a former Wall Street tycoon convicted for fraud. The hostage taking was not for the ransom itself but due to the resulting suspicions of terrorism causing the stock market to plummet, which Ryder makes a massive profit from via put options.
Deadpan Snarker: Almost everyone in the original. Even the hostages get in on it.
Old Man: Excuse me, sir. Would you mind telling us how much you're getting?
Mr. Blue: Why is that of interest to you, sir?
Old Man: Well, a person likes to know his worth.
Mr. Blue: One million dollars.
Old Man: That's not so terrific.
Blue offers Lt. Garber a quarter million dollar bribe to let him go.
"No thanks, my accountant says that I've accepted enough for this fiscal quarter."
Even Evil Has Standards: Mr. Gray - one of the hijackers - was fired from the Mafia for being too violent. The novel explains that Mr. Gray's taste for violence got in the way of running protection rackets effectively; the victims felt no obligation to cooperate since he tended to beat them whether they paid the protection money or not.
Heavy Sleeper: One of the hostages in the original is a drunken woman who remains sound asleep and oblivious to what's going on until the end.
(after the train screeches to a halt) "*hic*... 42nd Street already?"
High Voltage Death: The mastermind chooses to commit suicide rather than be captured by the police, because if convicted he was likely to face life in prison, and he preferred dying to that. He fries himself by stepping on the live third rail in the subway.
Hired Guns: Mr. Blue in the original is an out of work British mercenary.
Hostage Situation: Played with, hostages are used as "commodities" and traded over to the police for one million dollars.
Made of Iron: Averted; the hippy cop lies stunned for a few minutes after jumping off the train while it's moving.
More Dakka: More overt in the 1974 film, made before every movie hoodlum started toting an automatic weapon.
Blue: Now, ladies and gentlemen, do you see this gun? It fires 750 rounds of 9mm ammunition per minute. In other words, if all of you simultaneously were to rush me, not a single one of you would get any closer than you are now.
No Name Given: None of the hostages are given names. In the original film, they're listed in the credits as "The Secretary", "The Mother", "The Old Man", "The Homosexual", "The Pimp", etc.
Noble Bigot with a Badge: Walter Matthau's character is somewhat dumbfounded when the high-ranking officer he's been talking to on the radio turns out to be black. He also mistakes the hippie cop for a woman because of his long hair.
Noble Demon: Mr. Green, to an extent. He is the most sympathetic out of all the criminals, and genuinely doesn't want to kill anybody. However, he also gleefully indulges in one million dollars he gets at the end with the deaths of his three cohorts, seemingly leaving behind any remorse for his actions.
Not So Stoic: Lt. Garber finally gets tired of the transit supervisor's crap.
"YOU DON'T LISTEN TO ME YOU'LL BE HAVING DINNER WITH CAZ DOLOWITZ!"
Oh Crap: Mr. Green, twice in the final scene — when the police knock on his door and he has to hide the money, and again when he sneezes.
The cops carrying the ransom realise the SWAT police are hiding in the tunnel with them.
"We've got four submachine guns in front of us, and all these jokers behind us. I feel like I'm walking into the OK Corral."
The passengers realise that every hijacker left the train, so there's no-one driving it. The Old Man tries to assure them that the safety system will trip when there's a red light. Someone shouts that all the lights are green, and then everyone really starts to panic.
Perfect Health: Averted in the original with Mr. Green, who has a bad cold (and whose sneezing leads to his capture at the end).
The Mayor is also shown to be suffering from a cold.
Technology Marches On: The remake had quite a job in adapting the hijackers' plan to fit improvements in transit security since the '70s.
Tempting Fate: For years after the movie came out, New York Transit Authority dispatchers sought to avoid dispatching any train from Pelham at 1.23.
Averted in the movie when Green exclaims (on seeing the ransom) "All that money. I'm going to die today." He's the only member of the criminals to survive.
Theme Naming: The hijackers all have codenames that correspond to eye colors: Mr. Green, Mr. Blue, Mr. Gray, and Mr. Brown. The remake changes Mr. Brown to Mr. Black, spoiling the eye color theme. Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs features color-themed codenames as an homage.
Too Dumb to Live: Caz Dolowicz in the original tells the hijackers to fuck off and tries to board the train. No prizes what the hijackers do to him.
Who Is Driving?: Played for Drama when the passengers suddenly realise all the hijackers have left the train, which is racing down the line at an ever increasing rate.
You're Insane!: Lt Garber to Blue after he repeatedly threatens to shoot a hostage if anything goes wrong.
"I hope you take this in the right spirit but when all this is over you should seek psychiatric help."