With the last of the holiday weekends upon us, many traffic reporters are predicting harrowing traffic jams. Sometimes, we all need to be reminded that there are other modes of transportation besides automobiles. Trains, for instance, can have a great deal of appeal. Movie-makers sometimes use trains as alternative kinds of “locked room” settings in which the good and bad guys are contained in place, albeit one which moves and has stops. Such films can be serious or funny and none is funnier than “Silver Streak,” from 1976, featuring master comedic actors Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder.
In “Silver Streak,” Wilder plays George, a book editor who goes on a long distance train trip during which he finds himself ensconced in a bizarre set of episodes on and off the train. His adventure commences when he sees a man get murdered as he is looking out the window. This crime clearly involves some the passengers he has already met, such as Bob (played by Ned Beatty) and Hilly (played by Jill Clayburgh). Of course, the bad guys want to get rid of this unexpected witness so they have George thrown off the train. He eventually gets back onboard. Bob finds him and reveals he is an FBI agent. He asks George to tell him everything he knows since he has been on the trail of a criminal, Roger Devereau (played by Patrick McGoohan), who is onboard. Bob ends up getting killed, and George again finds himself off the train. The police think he is a murderer and to get back on the train, he is assisted by small time crook Grover (played by Pryor).
“Silver Streak” is a very amusing film. In one now famous scene, Grover helps George to avoid being spotted by disguising him as a black man.
There are several good action scenes in the film, especially at the end when the train is going very fast with its emergency brakes disabled.
“Silver Streak” is a great choice for fans of action movies or comedies. Wilder and Pryor are both at the top of their game.