THE INCIDENT, a film by LARRY PEERCE (Madman DVD)

 |   |  1 min read

THE INCIDENT, a film by LARRY PEERCE (Madman DVD)

This exceptionally taut black'n'white drama from 1967 is one the great cult films, not just for its undeniable filmic qualities but the fact it was for so long unavailable on DVD or, to the best of this writer's information, never screened on television. Certainly not in New Zealand.

The screen debut of Martin Sheen and Tony Musante (as two hoodlums who take over a New York subway carriage at 2am and terrorise a diverse group of passengers), The Incident is a model of character studies drawn in the sparest of dialogue (the various passengers whose backstories before they get on the train we see only briefly) and illustrates how evil can reign when decent people let it.

Although released in '67, the film was based on an earlier screenplay so retains the feel and look of the early Sixties when swishback Dion was a star and the Beatles had yet to arrive.  

As the two drunk and violent thugs, Sheen (as Artie) and Musante (the more disturbed and disturbing Joe) wield a screen power full of menace and sudden acts of violence. And as they progressively exploit the weaknesses of the various passengers (mostly couples, but of various ages and backgrounds) you can feel the force of their obvious numbers slowly eroded.

A dozen people up against two thugs? The odds are surely stacked in the passengers' favor.

But that is the art of the writer Nicholas E Baehr and director Peerce who never let the tension drop, nor give any opportunity of collective empowerment to the passengers.

Among them are Beau Bridges (in one of his first adult roles) as a young soldier, Brock Peters as an angry black man who is only too happy to see whitey under threat (then the thugs' attention turns to him) and Donna Mills as the virginal young woman whose greaser date lets her down when she too is threatened by the thugs.

Matters of homosexuality and race are addressed along the way, heroes are hard to find and right at the end a subtle message is dropped in as the passengers finally get off their nightmare ride.

How the terror ends is well worth the white-knuckle journey in a tough film which is deservedly a cult classic of its era. 

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Film at Elsewhere articles index

OF TIME AND THE CITY, a film by TERENCE DAVIES (Madman DVD)

OF TIME AND THE CITY, a film by TERENCE DAVIES (Madman DVD)

This poetic meditation on his home city of Liverpool by the great British film-maker neatly blurs fact and faction into a seamless dreamscape of reflection on what once was and what has been lost .... > Read more

COMANCHE MOON, written by LARRY McMURTRY (Madman DVD)

COMANCHE MOON, written by LARRY McMURTRY (Madman DVD)

Although his star as one of the great historical novelists of lives played out on the American frontiers (the West, that world between the lawless old and increasingly modernity) has been eclipsed... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

BURN YOUR BRIDGES. BURN YOUR BRIDGES, CONSIDERED (2003): The phlegm and the fury

BURN YOUR BRIDGES. BURN YOUR BRIDGES, CONSIDERED (2003): The phlegm and the fury

As regular readers will know this column happens when I pull an album off the shelf at random and sit down to give it some consideration. It's in the random nature that sometimes it might be an... > Read more

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band; Original Album Series

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band; Original Album Series

Although much ink and passion has been spilled over English white boys playing the blues in the Sixties (from senior statesman John Mayall through Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jeff Beck, Mick Taylor... > Read more