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Silver Streak

Silver Streak (1976) starring Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Jill Clayburgh

Synopsis of Silver Streak

George is a mild-mannered man on a cross-country train trip aboard the Silver Streak. He becomes embroiled in a deadly adventure when he falls in love with Hilly. She’s a beautiful woman on the verge of exposing art forgers. George must eventually team with a fast-talking criminal in order to outwit villains intending to kill them both

Review of Silver Streak

There are several things that I want to say about Silver Streak right off the bat:

  • It’s not a comedy. It’s a drama, with many comedy moments, especially when Richard Pryor joins the cast. But it’s a drama.
  • It’s not what I would consider a family-friendly movie. There’s a lot of language issues, and Gene Wilder and Jill Clayburgh’s characters jump into bed together within hours of meeting. I’m not sure how it got it’s PG rating.
  • It is an entertaining film. Many people have referred to it as being in the style of a Hitchcock film, and I’d agree with that. It’s well acted, kudos to the entire cast. The mystery itself is enjoyable, even though “who did what” is plain by the midpoint of the movie.
  • Richard Pryor doesn’t show up until the halfway point of the movie. His character is funny, enjoyable, and surprisingly loyal to Gene Wilder’s character. It’s an enjoyable performance.

Having said all of that, do I recommend Silver Streak? Frankly, it depends. If you’re bothered by a lot of swearing, premarital sex, and violence, then definitely not. If you’re a fan of Gene Wilder (or Richard Pryor) and you’re willing to overlook those things, then yes.

Cast of characters in Silver Streak

  • George (Gene Wilder, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory). The everyman character who gets thrown into a mystery. And he thinks he’s seen the murdered body of Hilly’s boss …
  • Hilly (Jill Clayburgh, Semi-Tough 1977). The nice young lady who falls for George, hard and quick. And she’s in the middle of the mystery, against her will. And she’s clearly concerned about George as he’s thrown off the train – repeatedly.
  • Grover (Richard Pryor, The Toy). A thief, who George accidentally picks up when escaping from the Sheriff. A creative, intelligent criminal, who adds much of the comedy to the movie. He almost turns Silver Streak into a buddy comedy, but not quite.
  • Sheriff Chauncey (Clifton James, Superman II). The stereotypical small-town sheriff, who provides some of the best comedy in the movie. Especially as he’s trying to understand George’s story – and trying to figure out who shot Rembrandt! 🙂
  • Bob Sweet (Ned Beatty, The Toy). The annoying salesman who tries to “help” George. He considers himself a ladies man – but nobody else does. Later on, he appears to be more than he initially seems …
  • Porter Ralston (Scatman Crothers, The Shining). One of the porters, who in the second half of the film becomes very important. Its only with his help that they’re able to stop the runaway train.
  • Mr. Whiney (Ray Walston, My Favorite Martian). The unsavory individual who has George thrown off the train by …
  • Reace (Richard Kiel, Tangled). The muscleman who doesn’t take any guff, and throws off the train. And later, after George is back on the train, tries to kill him.
  • Rita Babtree (Lucille Benson). The nice farmer who give George a ride back to the train. By airplane. And, she apparently delights in dive bombing sheep. A funny (but not laugh-out-loud) character in the film.
  • Devereau (Patrick McGoohan). The art dealer, who seems to be behind the shenanigans. Whiney & Reace work for him. One of the movie villains who has a veneer of sophistication, but underneath …

Editorial review of Silver Streak courtesy of Amazon.com

Despite the presence of hack director Arthur Hiller, this hybrid comedy-thriller works most of the time as pleasant faux Hitchcock. Gene Wilder is a book editor who is relaxing by taking a cross-country train ride. Then he gets caught up in a murder–and becomes a suspect. It’s up to him to prove his own innocence. As noted, the script, by Colin Higgins, owes a big debt to Alfred Hitchcock; but the mystery isn’t all that mysterious and the comedy isn’t all that hilarious–at least not until Richard Pryor shows up, which is at least halfway through the film. Things definitely pick up from there. Jill Clayburgh, as the love interest, is merely along for the train ride. Wilder and Pryor eventually teamed up for several other films, but they were never as funny together as they are in this one. –Marshall Fine