The taking of Newhaven 123…
The Parallax View. The Conversation. Three Days of the Condor. Capricorn One… I could go on. But I won’t. Mostly because so many bloody thrillers were made in the 70s. It is no surprise paranoia wells ran dry during that decade.
The big screen was awash with them. But it pains me not to indulge the theme. Because edgy, conspiratorial, hard-baked thrillers are manna to yours truly. I think it’s the eerie synth meets nothing happens for ages (slowly) vibe that got me at first. A future love of Boards of Canada’s darker output was birthed right there.
Yet despite that, the thriller that really tickled this old goat, and remains to this day my Desert Island Discs film (are you listening Lauren Laverne), ready to take its place with The Third Man, Local Hero, Withnail and I, and The French Connection in the top 5 is not really brooding. In fact, once it gets going, it’s nothing less than a massive sock around the jaw, if there was a snooker ball in that sock. I give you, ladies and gents The Taking of Pelham 123. If you are a devotee of this gem like me, something is entering your brain right now…
That ‘something’ is the hurtling subway train of brassy jazz dissonance that is the main title of this iconic movie; David Shire, the composer of said brilliance, take a bow. Or take a horn section and batter the shit out of it with layers of angry bass filling and a percussive and electric piano underlay that would chew your face off, given a chance. I could watch the opening titles alone and go home happy, with my Wrestlers hot dog still intact. Fact. That glorious finger of offal lathered in vinegary mustard was a must; popcorn was for wanks.
But aye, the film itself , source material for Tarantino’s naming convention in Reservoir Dogs (what a naughty and brilliant little magpie he is/was), is a work of art of underground murder and mayhem. Punctuated by Walter Matthau being basically Oscar from the Odd Couple, but if anything, a little grumpier. No spoilers. But in essence, a gang hijack a subway train full of passengers (every single stereotype from Central Casting) in NYC. If you haven’t seen it, please do. If you have, you’ll know exactly why it’s inspired the following ramblings.
It goes like this: seeing as the capital is effectively hijacked by tourists every summer, why don’t we recreate the magic of ‘Pelham 123’ on a tram to Newhaven? Not the murdering innocent passengers bit. Or the Robert Shaw being burnt to a crisp bit. Not even the million dollars bit (the film was made pre-Dr Evil gags incidentally) but a kind of hijack lite in keeping with our new progressive mores. A ‘temporary abduction of city property to register our displeasure’ kind of vibe.
Our demands shall be simple. Absurd even. And yes, I am about to list them. But why the displeasure you ask? It’s not really displeasure. It’s more the cliched malaise of a guy who’s hit 50 and finds life increasingly bewildering.
Not down to a fear of change, but rather a hatred of poor change management. Which, no matter which Burghers, from whatever party are at the helm of this beautiful yet infuriating city, is almost a stick-on year after year. When you’re younger, I don’t think you notice. Or maybe you’re just too busy getting on with life.
But from stick-ons to stick-ups. And that soon-to-be temporarily commandeered tram 123 to Newhaven. First, we shall subdue the driver and conductor with pastries from the Twelve Triangles (impossible to resist). Then, using our deadly salt ‘n sauce water pistols, we take hostages – they’re all in for a dousing if the city fails to meet our demands. Not fatal. But likely to attract a nasty nip from unruly dogs and maybe an unwelcome lick from a passing jakey. Such ugly scenes will be avoided if the following is delivered to us citizens on time:
■ Massive Zeppelin tethered to castle, with a big arrow pointing down and the words IT’S HERE painted on the side. A real timesaver, stopping us from punching tourists for asking where it is. In a similar vein, balloons tied to traffic lights with the words ‘red man means don’t cross’ on them.
■ 50 sub-standard Fringe comedians publicly executed at the Heart of Midlothian as sacrifice to the Gods of Comedy. A small price to pay for enduring the onslaught of shite every year.
■ ‘Slow cameras’ on city centre streets – the opposite of speed cameras; the slower you walk, the higher the fine. As for stopping to look at your fecking phone (as opposed to standing aside), a light flogging perhaps. Just pour encourager les autres, so to speak.
■ And finally, the rounding up of all misanthropes like me – META eh? – who just bitch on and on about tourism during Edinburgh summers, while enjoying the benefits of it, and occasionally being a tourist elsewhere myself. Only fair eh? Yin and yang and aw that.
Enjoy the summer folks. And I promise to try to as well. ■