First things first: the big-band theme tune by David Shire. Wow! The best ever, in his best ever year. He also did The Conversation for his brother-in-law Francis Coppola. He drifted from the top rank in the 80s, until David Fincher brought him back for his kind of thing in Zodiac (2007).
The wise-cracking script was by Peter Stone – who did Charade (1963) and other lighthearted thrillers – from a 1973 novel by John Godey, to which he added lots.
The director is Joseph Sargent, who did only one film I’ve seen – the ball-breakingly dull MacArthur (1977) – and another 90 for tv and film including – notoriously – Jaws: The Revenge (1987) with Michael Caine, which gets 2.9 out of 10 on IMDb… But he does a pretty good job here. It certainly looks authentic.
The cast are good comedians: Walter Matthau, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo (Pretty Woman), Tony Roberts (a Woody Allen regular) and Jerry Stiller (Zoolander). (It’s certainly a lot funnier than the terrible Travolta/Washington/Scott remake.) But there’s also Robert Shaw, coolly scary as a British colonel-turned-Africa mercenary-turned ‘Mr Blue’ (in charge of Mr Green, Mr Brown and Mr Gray, beating Tarantino by 18 years).
The train leaves Pelham at 1.23pm, and the last visit by the cops is still within the working day, so the whole film last about 4 hours, I reckon.
The plot and tone have echoes of Inside Man and Speed.