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In this wild comedy adventure, rail passenger George Caldwell (Gene Wilder) finds that a romantic escapade with a sultry secretary (Jill Clayburgh) puts him in the middle of a Hitchcockian murder plot. Leaping on and off the train, in and out of roomettes
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In the movie Wilder plays George Caldwell. A recently divorced book publisher who is traveling from his home in Los Angeles to Chicago on board a train named Silver Streak to attend his sister's wedding. George apparently chose to travel by rail rather than by air because, in his words "I want to be bored.". As soon as he is shown to his room by Porter Ralston (The late Scatman Crothers in a small, but terrific performance.) he accidentally opens a door in a partition separating his room from that of a woman named Hildegarde "Hilly" Burns (The late Jill Clayburgh.) as she is in the middle of changing her clothes. He later meets her in the train's dining car and romance ensues. Hilly works for a renowned art historian named Professor Shriner who is also traveling on Silver Streak. While spending the first evening of the trip in Hilly's room George sees Professor Shriner's dead body hanging outside the window and then falling off the train. He tells Hilly but she says that he has had a lot to drink that night and may be hallucinating. Still George does not think so and investigates. Soon his trip to Chicago becomes anything but boring.
"Silver Streak" has the right blend of comedy, suspense and action to make for a very entertaining movie. You certainly will not be bored as the train goes rolling along. The late Richard Pryor is excellent as small time felon Grover Muldoon who ultimately helps George as he tries to help authorities bring Professor Shriner's killer to justice. Veteran actor Ned Beatty is also quite good as Undercover FBI agent Robert Sweet. I would be remiss to not mention the somewhat campy but good performance by the late Patrick McGoohan as Roger Devereaux. A career criminal posing as an art dealer who is trying to pass off forgeries of Rembrandt paintings as the real deal ripping off perspective buyers. He is in fact so determined to do so that he has resorted to multiple murders. One last note about the cast. The late Richard Kiel, who we all know as James Bond's steel toothed nemesis Jaws in the movies "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Moonraker" has a small but memorable part as one of Devereaux's henchmen. Like the Bond movies he has no dialogue but he still does quite well in his role. Kiel was a very underrated actor. It's unfortunate that we did not see him in leading roles. I'm sure studios saw his height and deep voice as a liability but he was a very talented individual.
The movie's script, written by the late Colin Higgins (His other writing credits include "Harold and Maude". He also wrote as well as directed "Foul Play" and "9 to 5".), does have a few flaws and some logic loopholes, but the well written dialogue and some very funny scenes (The best being when Grover disguises George as a black man to get him back on board Silver Streak. George's attempts to get into the role are the funniest of the whole movie.) more than make up for that.
Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor went on to make three more movies together. The very popular "Stir Crazy" and the entertaining "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" are also quite good, but "Silver Streak" is by far their masterpiece. Make time to see it if you can.
The issue isn't necessarily a problem with the viewer. Hollywood saw there's a few jokes in this movie, and wanted to make it a comedy, because as always "comedies sell". But the fact is, that while Pryor is great in this, and there's some fantastic scenes, you're talking about 30 minutes out of a 2 hour movie that's really a comedy, and the rest is a thriller.
However that thriller does work. It's not perfect, but it works, and the viewer will get caught up in the story.
The story is a typical fare, a guy gets on a train and finds an attractive woman in the next cabin, he ends up falling for her, and that night sees a body fall from the train. The rest of the movie is a bit pain by numbers, with a few twists. However I will say that while there's a few problems and jumps in logic in the movie, the story is good. There's a surprising amount of action in the movie, and while Wilder somehow gets off the train more than you would think is possible in this movie, there's a suspense kept me interesting in what's going to happen next.
Overall I could recommend this movie if someone wanted to see Gene Wilder in a less comedic role, I would recommend it for the thriller, but don't expect a comedy, or a lot of Richard Pryor, he's in it, and does have some great scenes, but is not as over the top as he would become in later roles, and the focus of the script was clearly the thriller, not the comedy.
A shame, because in a lot of ways I feel like there's a missed opportunity to make a great movie, but this was also early in both actor's career.
Most recent customer reviews
Very good ending, spectacular in Blu-ray.