Friday, 8 March 2013

Silver Streak directed by Arthur Hiller

(WIKI) Silver Streak is a 1976 comedy-thriller film about murder on a Los Angeles-to-Chicago train journey. It was directed by Arthur Hiller, and stars Gene Wilder, Jill Clayburgh, and Richard Pryor, with Patrick McGoohan and Ned Beatty in supporting roles. The film score is by Henry Mancini. This film marked the first pairing of Wilder and Pryor, who would be paired in three more films.

Saying he "just wanted to be bored", book editor George Caldwell (Wilder) travels from Los Angeles to Chicago for his sister's wedding aboard a train called the Silver Streak. As the trip begins, George meets a vitamin salesman named Bob Sweet (Beatty) and has dinner and drinks with a woman named Hilly Burns (Clayburgh). Hilly works for Professor Schreiner, a well-known art historian who is on a publicity tour for his new book on Rembrandt. After dinner, George and Hilly go to her room for a night of romance.

Meanwhile, three men kill Schreiner. A few minutes later, George sees Schreiner's body hanging outside Hilly's window as it falls from the roof of the train, but George is drunk and Hilly insists it must be his imagination. In the morning, he sees Schreiner's photograph on the cover of his book, which Hilly has with her, and recognizes him as the dead man. George also finds an envelope inside the book.

The men who killed Schreiner are Johnson (Stefan Gierasch), who bears a resemblance to Schreiner, a crook named Edgar Whiney (Ray Walston), and a thug named Reace (Richard Kiel). When George goes to Schreiner's room, Whiney answers the door and has Reace throw George off the train. George walks to a farmhouse and meets an old lady, Rita Babtree, who flies him to the train's next stopping point in a de Havilland Tiger Moth biplane. Now back on the train, he sees Hilly dining with art dealer Roger Devereau (McGoohan), and he begins to suspect her when Devereau, Whiney, and Johnson enter her room, with Johnson impersonating Schreiner. Devereau apologizes to George for the misunderstanding involving Reace. Johnson (as the professor) mentions "the Rembrandt letters", then expresses his desire to return to his room for a glass of scotch to soothe his nerves. George, embarrassed, goes to the club-car and begins drinking heavily. Devereau then smacks Hilly in the face for all her trouble.

Later, a drunken George confides in Sweet about his misadventure. Sweet confirms George's suspicions about the professor's murder (the imposter had asked for scotch; the professor was a known advocate for healthy living and never drank) Sweet reveals to George that he is actually an undercover federal agent named Stevens and that Devereau is a wanted criminal who passes himself off as a wealthy art dealer and expert. Whiney, Reace, and Johnson are Devereau's henchmen. According to Schreiner's book, two paintings that Devereau authenticated as original Rembrandts are actually forgeries. Devereau plans to have the professor's imposter botch an upcoming lecture, thereby discrediting the book. George recalls the envelope he saw inside Schreiner's book, and the two men go to Hilly's room, where they find the envelope containing letters written by Rembrandt himself, proving Devereau's guilt.

Stevens is killed by Reace immediately after this discovery, and George is knocked off the train by an overhanging signal pole after killing Reace in a rooftop shootout with a speargun. (Incidentally, the overhanging signal pole shot is seen in the opening credits to The Fall Guy). Now on foot again, George tries to notify the local sheriff (Clifton James), but is instead accused of Sweet's murder. Forced to escape, he steals a patrol car in which he meets small-time thief Grover T. Muldoon (Pryor). Working as a team, George and Grover make their way to Kansas City to meet the train. Police are looking for George, so Grover disguises him as a flamboyant black man. The ruse works; they are able to avoid capture and board the train. Back on the train again, George and Grover separate to find and rescue Hilly. George is knocked unconscious by Whiney and taken to Devereau's room along with Hilly. Devereau plans to frame George for the murder of the professor, then have them both killed, but Grover enters the room disguised as a waiter and holds Devereau at gunpoint. After a shootout, George and Grover jump off the train and are arrested and taken to a small abandoned train station, where Federal agent Donaldson (Birman) explains that the police were only trying to protect George and that he planted the Sweet murder story. George tells Donaldson about Devereau's plan, and Donaldson orders his men to prepare for an attack on the train. He then contacts the railroad to have the Silver Streak make an emergency stop at a nearby rail junction for a routine investigation.

Meanwhile, Devereau burns the Rembrandt letters, and he and his henchmen prepare to escape. Once the train has stopped and the passengers have disembarked, a shootout ensues. George and Grover jump onto the train as Devereau orders an engineer to start it moving again. An agent shoots Whiney, George shoots Johnson, and Devereau shoots the engineer and places a toolbox on the dead man's brake pedal. Devereau is then shot by Donaldson and decapitated by an oncoming train.

With Devereau and his men gone, George, Hilly, and Grover think they will exit the train at the last stop, but because of the toolbox on the dead man's brake pedal, the train becomes a runaway. Devereau also had his men disconnect all of the Emergency Brakes cables, making it impossible to stop the train. George uncouples the passenger cars from the engine while the people at the Chicago train station are instructed to evacuate. The engine roars into the station, jumps the tracks and thunders through the terminal, destroying everything in its path as people flee, and the passenger cars gently coast to a stop behind it. Grover steals a sports car that was on display in the station lobby and drives away, and George and Hilly kiss and begin their relationship anew.

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