Ah the 1970’s When the Ladies Still Drank Hard Liquor—Silver Streak (1976)

14 Sep

Starring: Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Ned Beatty, Jill Clayburg, Ray Walston and others.

If you like movies that are set on trains then this one will be up your alley. In a day when train films are few and far between, Silver Streak is one of the better ones around. If you are a Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor fan then it’s a real treat. Wilder and his particular brand of humor are in spades in this film. In my opinion Wilder was at his best in the 70’s and early 80’s. Let’s not forget that Richard Prior joins in about a third of the way through the film and Patrick McGoohan (TV series Danger Man) is in his idiom when playing mysterious or devious characters and in Silver Streak plays the smooth but cold and ruthless Roger Devereau who’ll go to any length to get what he wants. “Jaws” (Clifton James) for all of you James Bond fans plays a small role like his characters played in the Bond movies. Also as supporting characters are Scatman Crowthers, Ray Walston and Ned Beatty with Jill Clayburgh playing the heroine.

Wilder plays George Caldwell, a boring average everyday man who decides to take Amtrak’s “Silver Streak” from LA to Chicago to do some reading. As is often portrayed in 1970s movies, within his first 15 minutes into a bar scene Wilder finds himself a woman that he gets “romantically involved” with — fellow passenger Hilly Burns (Jill Clayburg). While in Hilly’s cabin (next to his naturally) he sees a corpse thrown from the train, that turns out to be Hilly’s boss. Wilder starts to investigate this but soon finds himself way in over his head and is unceremoniously thrown off the train several times because of his meddling.

Enter Richard Pryor, who appears as a thief in a police car stolen by Wilder to get back on the Silver Streak. Prior steals the show from here on out. At the time (1976) Pryor was in the midst of a very hot career, and although this film seems to restrain some of the imagination and language of his stage presence and TV specials, (this is a PG-rated movie, after all), he still creates an indelible extended ‘cameo’ that fuses film with a hip, perfectly cool counterbalance to Wilder’s mania and confusion. When Pryor is on screen he not only steals the film, but also elevates this old-fashioned adventure-comedy concept to something otherwise original.

As you can probably guess, everything turns out just fine in the end. But that is not the true value of Silver Streak. “Silver Streak” is the first of four Gene Wilder & Richard Pryor match-ups and certainly in retrospect, one of the best. The other three being Stir Crazy (also a classic), See No Evil and Another You. The Wilder-Pryor pairing was able to take relatively formulaic movies and make them interesting.

In short Silver Streak is a very gentle but funny comedy that plays with the conventions of one of Hitch’s favorite themes, the mistaken identity of everyday man in extraordinary circumstances.


Posted by on September 14, 2010 in Movie Reviews


12 responses to “Ah the 1970’s When the Ladies Still Drank Hard Liquor—Silver Streak (1976)

  1. dangerousmeredith

    September 15, 2010 at 5:22 am

    Sounds like fun.


    • jpfmovies

      September 15, 2010 at 4:21 pm

      It is a nice, gentle movie good if, for instance, you have children watching.


  2. Will Silver

    September 15, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    I love Silver Streak. I’m a big Richard Pryor fan and it’s weird to see him not using his usual colorful language but overall the movie works and is still enjoyable today.


    • jpfmovies

      September 16, 2010 at 1:44 am

      Finally–someone else who knows the movie. I usually get a bunch of blank stares when I mention Silver Streak–which is your favorite Pryor Movie. There are so many I don’t know if I could choose.


  3. dr h

    September 16, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Great Movie! They simply dont make them like they used to. The script and the onscreen chemistry is simply awesome.


  4. dr h

    September 17, 2010 at 11:09 am

    I am intrigued by the use of the N word by white folks in the movie. Clearly it was’nt considered a taboo, then.


    • Truthmster

      December 9, 2011 at 9:13 am

      Thats true. Somehow, by having Richard Pryor tell him he’d ”slap the white off his ass”, diffussed the power of the word, and put the Deveraux character in his place. I am surprised you didnt mention that the ” white folks” as you call them, who made the movie, had only two blacks in the movie. One played a servant, the other played a thief. Today, the detective would have been black, and the only people getting clubbed on the top of the head would have been white.


    • Truthmster

      December 9, 2011 at 10:44 am

      Correction sir. Only one character, the villian, uses the derogation. It is used only once, and the villian is aptly put in his place by a beloved Richard Pryor.


      • jpfmovies

        December 9, 2011 at 9:07 pm

        Good call Truthmster–I stand corrected and agree with the beloved Richard Pryor RIP he ushered in a new era and style of comedy.


  5. Truthmster

    December 9, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Excellent review. I have remembered and loved Silver Streak, since I was eight years old and watched it in a theater. ( which has been torn down) for a walmart. Dont forget the enjoyable title track. Of course it wouldn’t be possble for a film today to have a black man portray a thief. It would be Gene Wilder, as the thief, Richard Pryor, as George, and as a politically correct double score, they would get an inter-racial love affair to help the Jews continue to push thier race-mixing agenda! Thank god for the seventies!!


    • jpfmovies

      December 9, 2011 at 9:11 pm

      I could not have said it better myself. I remember watching it on our families Beta-max. Yes that is right a Beta-max and Beta-max tape we rented from an independent movie rental store before Block Buster! Gosh I feel old.



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