The late Joseph Sargent‘s The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (’74) “embraces unhandsome. Beneath those bustling, vibrant streets are dank tunnels, and inside those gorgeous buildings are rodent-hole apartments where men with greasy hair wear soiled long underwear under ratty bathrobes as they plan crime. Pelham ignores the famous verticality of New York to extoll its horizontal underbelly. Cinematographer Owen Roizman builds the movie around horizontal compositions: tunnels, train cars, gun barrels, rows of desks in low-ceilinged rooms. It’s a horizontal movie to represent a city lying flat on its back. When the city’s famous skyline appears, after 40 minutes of thrilling claustrophobia, it almost feels sarcastic.” — from Eliott Kalan‘s beautifully written Dissolve piece (1.6.15) on this landmark film.
“The 1970s were a bad time for New York. In 1974, NYC was going bankrupt under the inept Mayor Abe Beame, after sinking under the well-meaning but similarly inept John Lindsay. (Though Lindsay’s creation of the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater, and Broadcasting made Pelham and all the other classics of the ‘grimy New York’ genre possible. If anything, his greatest achievement as mayor was letting Hollywood create a record of how badly he was doing as mayor.) It was one year from President Ford telling it to drop dead (though not actually in those words, despite the famous headline), two years from Son Of Sam, three years from the ’77 blackout looting. It was when my mother, fed up with flashers and gropers, stopped riding the subway altogether. But though New York was wasting away, it wasn’t a wasteland. Real people lived their lives in the wake of that death spiral. This is the other story Pelham tells.”