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|They Never Got Better Than This
Gene Wilder & Richard Pryor
|This, the first teaming of Wilder and Pryor, was
their best. Hollywood kept on trying, though, hoping that lightning would
strike again. This proves that Hollywood knows as little about lightning
as it does about guns and explosives.
I'm a train fan (i mentioned that in another review). That means i see a
lot of films i might otherwise not have, if they feature a train prominently
enough. (Though not even that sort of addiction could get me to "Thomas and
the Magic Railroad"...)
And it meant i saw this one.
As many reviewers have noted, it's a variant on Hitchcock's "Tha Lady Vanishes",
with strange things going on aboard a transcontinental train in which an
innocent bystander (Wilder) becomes involved.
Patrick McGoohan makes an excellent villain for this sort of thing, and it's
interesting to see Ray Walston as a thug, given that he mostly played Nice
Guys in his later career. Also, Scatman Crothers is fun as the slightly befuddled
The best part starts about halfway through the filom when Wilder, having
been tossed off the train and determined to get back on to rescue the girl,
hooks up with Richard Pryor, a thief and conman. The sight of Gene Wilder,
Mr White Bread, in blackface with a radio on his shoulder, bopping and jiving
his way past cops and/or bad guys to get back on the train, is one of the
great moments in movie comedy. (And Pryor's muttered "I jus' hope we don't meet
no Muslims." is icing on the cake.)
The "action" part of "action comedy" is not slighted, as there are some decent
stunt sequences (one turned up in the opening credits for The Fall Guy
TV series), and the last ten or fifteen minutes, as Our Heroes try to figure
out how to survive the coming smash as the train, an out-of-control runaway,
roars into the "Chicago" station, are tense enough for almost anyone.
And as for the climactic sequence... it was done with full-scale replicas
of the actual engines and is *very* spectacular; it's almost worth seeing
the film just for that.
My rating? Three stars for a decent action/thriller/comedy, plus half-a-star
each extra for the team of Wilder & Prior and the train action, for a
Grand Total of four stars.
Well worth a look.
|A DigressionThomas and the Magic Railroad
was primarily made for American audiences?
Had it been intended for British audiences, it would have been named ...
& the Magic Railway.
Also, the Bad Guy locomotive shown in at least some of the pre-release publicity
and lobby cards clearly follows American motive power design styles, rather
than the British designs of about fifty to a hundred years ago that the real
"Thomas" stories feature.
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