Many people face the experience of leaving one decade and entering another by celebrating. My 30th birthday has long come and gone, but what I did on my 30th, which was a Friday night, was attend a movie. Surprise, surprise.
Silver Streak premiered in December of 1976. I highly recommend that if you are turning 30 this film can make your birthday a memorable event. It is a comedy, action and suspense thriller about a simple guy played by Gene Wilder who is boarding a train from Los Angeles to Chicago. The trip is anything but simple. He meets up with all kinds of oddball characters including a beautiful and seductive “Hilly” played by the late Jill Clayburgh. GW also encounters an insidious bad guy in actor Patrick McGoohan, and a group of henchmen led by 7’2” Richard Kiel. During this era RK gained fame as “Jaws,” the giant baddie facing off against James Bond (then played by Roger Moore) in a couple of the JB films.
Along the way, there are all kinds of twists, turns and roller-coaster-train-ride fun. Adding to the fun, Richard Pryor joins the cast at just past the one-hour mark. It would be the first of four comedy team ups of Wilder and Pryor. Besides the comedy, there is also Alfred Hitchcock-like suspense as this film bears a great resemblance to the AH masterpiece North by Northwest (1959).
Arthur Hiller directs and Henry Mancini provides a score that has a typical 70s Mancini sound. It’s filled with a great train movement main theme and beautifully romantic music for the GW and JC characters.
Originally they planned to film the movie on a cross-country Amtrak train, but were turned down because Amtrak thought the film would provide negative publicity for the railroad. Most of the cross-country exteriors were shot in Canada. It looked a lot like the U.S. to me, not that I had seen that much of it at 30.
The Blu-ray limited edition restores the theatrical look for the first time ever. This is a fun ride to take, even if you are not turning 30.
Note: At just past the 26-minute mark, Wilder, in one of his many great comedic moments, is physically thrown off the moving train. I hate to be a spoiler, but I have to tell you that there are two more just like it. Both are as funny as the first. All aboard. Or, all un-aboard.
Rated 3.9 out of 4.0 reasons not to miss the train. Oh, and if the time is right Happy 30th Birthday.