Silver Streak (1976)

Silver Streak (1976)

“If there’s one thing I have learned from this trip it’s that you play the game, and take what you get.”

A book editor (Gene Wilder) meets a beautiful secretary (Jill Clayburgh) while travelling onboard a train called the Silver Streak. After seeing the man Clayburgh works for hanging dead outside a window, he panics but can’t get anyone to believe him — until a fellow passenger (Ned Beatty) reveals his true identity, and Wilder later meets a thief (Richard Pryor) who attempts to help him catch the murderers.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Comedy
  • Gene Wilder Films
  • Jill Clayburgh Films
  • Mistaken or Hidden Identities
  • Ned Beatty Films
  • “No One Believes Me!”
  • Richard Pryor Films
  • Road Trip
  • Trains and Subways

Directed by Arthur Hiller and scored by Henry Mancini, Silver Streak was the first of four on-screen pairings between comedians Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, who next teamed up for Stir Crazy (1980). Of Silver Streak, screenwriter Colin Higgins — best known for scripting Harold and Maude (1971) — stated in an interview, “I had always wanted to get on a train and meet some blonde. It never happened, so I wrote a script” — thus explaining the rather haphazard nature of the storyline, which tosses in every action-murder-mystery-romance convention in the book, plus race relations, a plucky female pilot, and a bit of a buddy theme. It’s competently made and acted, but doesn’t hold one’s attention in the same way as Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938) or Sidney Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express (1974), which it seems to aspire towards.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Good use of a train as a primary locale

Must See?
No, though you may want to check it out if you’re a fan of Wilder or Pryor.


2 thoughts on “Silver Streak (1976)

  1. I concur. No doubt, Wilder and Pryor’s chemistry makes this movie worth watching. Wilder/Pryor have an infectious, deliciously irreverent yet affable charm together onscreen I have always enjoyed. It is fun to watch the duo’s infancy here. There’s little reason to see it beyond that. It’s such a slight and blatantly derivative film. Really there isn’t much else of note beyond the effervescent but underdeveloped Jill Clayburgh, whom we wish to see more of but Wilder keeps getting tossed off the train…

    W/P did hit box office gold in their heyday: Silver Streak cracked the top 5 in ‘76, and Wilder/Pryor nearly doubled the gross from this movie in Stir Crazy in ‘80, which also reached the top 5 in its year. Second time’s a charm: I would say go with Stir Crazy instead…

  2. First (and last) viewing. Skip it.

    A tepid ‘comic’ mystery that is sluggish in its execution (until the rousing conclusion) – and not funny. Amazing – yet still not surprising – that it was popular at the box office; mass audiences often prefer forced humor.

    Pryor doesn’t appear until the second half – and it makes little difference.

    One brief respite: Pryor teaches Wilder how to be black.

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