Silver Streak (1976)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Silver Streak</strong> (1976)

(On TV, January 2019) There are some classical comedy pairings out there, and the Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor was one of them—while they made four movies together, the last one was reportedly a dud, and only the first two are acknowledged hits. Silver Streak is the first of their four movies, and it’s still a good watch today, even as it reflects another time. This blend of comedy and thrills features Wilder as a meek book editor travelling by train from Los Angeles to Chicago. Of course, stuff happens and before long he’s trying to piece together a murder mystery in between being thrown off the train and collaborating with a petty criminal to get back on it. Despite Pryor and Wilder’s comic chemistry (only they could make the blackface sequence work without being offensive) and the lighthearted nature of the film, Silver Streak arguably works better as a semi-Hitchockian thriller. The structure of the film itself is amusing: as we settle down for a comfortable train-bound mystery, our protagonist spends as much time off the train than on it, and Pryor joins the movie only midway through. Obviously shot in Canada (as per the train livery), it’s a comedy with some impressive physical action staging along the way, all the way to its destructive climax. Wilder’s quirky charm works well in grounding the film, allowing Pryor to get away with more outrageous dialogue. While Silver Streak is not quite polished (in a way so typical of mid-1970s production) and occasionally feels scattered between different genres, it pulls itself together in time for the finale and leaves viewers happy for having seen it.

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