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The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)


The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements


A group of codenamed criminals highjack a New York City subway train and take hostages demanding $1 million in ransom as the city officials scramble to figure out highjackers' endgame.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three 4K Ultra HD Combo (KL Studio Classics)This is the original 1974 version of the film based on the John Godey novel. Filmed in New York on location in the New York City subway system, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is brimming with the eccentricities of the city, from the rhythms of the speech to the dialect.

The film takes place during the early seventies when the city was in a deep recession, and the country on the whole was entering that seventies malaise; you’ll see that the mayor has trouble putting together the million-dollar ransom that serves as one of the central motivations for the film.

Taking place almost entirely in the subway, the story follows a ruthless gang of criminals with a sly leader going by the codename Mr. Blue (Robert Shaw) who highjack the number 6 train from the Bronx’s Pelham Bay Park station holding passengers hostage and demanding a million dollars in ransom. (Astute film buffs will note where Quentin Tarantino got the idea for the code names the gangsters in his debut Reservoir Dogs were to use.)

It comes down to transit chief Lt. Garber (Walter Matthau) to try to talk his way out of the situation with the ingenious criminal mastermind Mr. Blue, figure how or if the criminals can escape from the subway tunnel, and most of all, save the lives of the hostages.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is typical of its era in that, rather than emphasizing action and special effects, the story is a slow-burning buildup of intense drama. It has emphasis on the plot and dialogue. You can compare this to The French Connection or other films of similar ilk. It holds your attention and Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw in particular, are electric in this classic 1970s thriller.

The Video

Kino Lorber lists The Taking of Pelham One Two Three as a “Brand New HDR/Dolby Vision Master – From a 4K Scan of the Original Camera Negative.” The film comes to 4K Ultra HD in a 2.35:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) Dolby Vision encodement with HDR10 metadata showing a MaxLL of 829 nits and a MaxFALL of 60 nits.

From the opening scenes after the opening credits the film’s 35mm original source, shot with Panavision Panaflex and R-200 cameras, looks very organic. The granularity is tighter, more reserved than it has ever looked on home video. It does not look overly scrubbed and there is still a fair amount of grain layered over the image, with good detail as well. Some very slight source damage is there, but this is unavoidable and not detrimental to the presentation. Shadow details hold up well, with the darker scenes in the tunnel never collapsing into an amorphous mess or noisiness. The Dolby Vision HDR grading is reserved yet suitable for the film. Headlights on the train in the dark subway tunnel have good specular highlight ‘pop’ and the New York City winter daylight above ground looks natural as well as appropriate to the era win which the film was shot.

The Audio

Taking of Pelham One Two Three gets a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 remix as well as a 2.0 lossless audio track. The surround mix is not going to stun anyone with its awesomeness, but it does add good spaciousness through ambience I the surrounds. The 2.0 mix is more authentic and still exciting to listen to.

The Supplements

Of the bonus features that are included with this release, the two audio commentaries are the best, especially the new one by Mitchell and Nathaniel, who offer a lot of interesting factoids on the production and the history of New York City at the time.

  • Blu-ray with Feature Film and Bonus Features
  • Audio Commentary by Film Historians Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson
  • Audio Commentary by Actor/Filmmaker Pat Healy and Film Programmer/Historian Jim Healy
  • Blu-ray Only:
    • The Making of Pelham One Two Three: Vintage Featurette (1080p; 00:06:08)
    • 12 Minutes with Mr. Grey: An Interview with Actor Hector Elizondo (1080p; 00:12:02)
    • Cutting on Action: Interview with Editor Gerald B. Greenberg (1080p; 00:09:09)
    • The Sound of the City: Interview with Composer David Shire (1080p; 00:09:07)
    • Trailers from Hell with Josh Olson (1080p; 00:02:40)
    • The Taking of Pelham One Two Three – Image and Poster Gallery (1080p; 00:02:20)
    • The Taking of Pelham One Two Three – Radio Spots (1080p; 00:01:01)
    • The Taking of Pelham One Two Three – TV Spot (1080p; 00:00:32)
    • The Taking of Pelham One Two Three – Trailer (1080p; 00:02:33)

The Final Assessment

Because I am a native New Yorker this movie has always been one of my favorites. The old school accents, the on-location filming, the 1970s era shots of the city that no longer exists: this helps make for a great film alongside the comedy, thrills, and powerful performances. KL Studio Classics have done a bang-up job bringing this disaster-heist classic to 4K looking and sounding better than ever and packing it full of strong bonus features. Highly recommended!

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is out on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack December 20, 2022, from KL Studio Classics.

  • Rating Certificate: R
  • Studios & Distributors: Palomar Pictures International | Palladium Productions | MGM | Kino Lorber
  • Director: Joseph Sargent
  • Written By: John Godey (novel) | Peter Stone (screenplay)
  • Run Time: 104 Mins.
  • Street Date: 20 December 2022
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (HDR10 Compatible)
  • HDR10 Metadata:
    • MaxLL: 829 nits
    • MaxFALL: 60 nits
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Secondary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0
  • Subtitles: English SDH

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A group of codenamed criminals highjack a New York City subway train and take hostages demanding $1 million in ransom as the city officials scramble to figure out highjackers' endgame. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)