Bursting with fun, this goodies vs baddies caper is a traditional romp full of adult gags and innuendo. Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor star in the Hitchcock-style comedy thriller about a mild-mannered publisher that encounters a beautiful woman and a gang of art thieves on board a transcontinental train.
An evergreen comic-thriller in the Hitchcock mould, Silver Streak first paired odd-couple Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor for a hugely enjoyable "wrong man" tale of espionage, intrigue, romance and murder aboard the titular locomotive.
Wilder is everyman book editor George Caldwell who settles down for a journey of light romance with 70s star Jill (Semi-Tough) Clayburgh, but witnesses a dead body being thrown mid-"groove-on".
Consequently he is almost killed before leaping off the train (and then framed for the murder), and must hop between different modes of transportation to catch the speeding Silver Streak and discover why some passengers are reaching the end of the line earlier than anticipated.
Along the way Wilder hooks up with Pryor's wonderfully named Groover Muldoon and one of cinema's most winning partnerships is born.
Silver Streak is an action comedy from the 1970s, meaning it has an edge sanded off most mainstream A-pictures made today. Bad guys mean business, Pryor is allowed to let loose with some PG-rated raunchy language and there's barely a kid in sight.
The comedy is hard-edged, presumably at Pryor's request, and a memorable sequence where Wilder is forced to black-up to evade police capture was originally played for broad laughs, until Pryor begged director Arthur Hiller to reshoot the scene so he could react with greater horror at Wilder's exaggerated jiving.
Borrowings from Hitchcock's North by Northwest and The Lady Vanishes are apparent, but Silver Streak also features Clifton James reprising his role as the redneck sheriff from Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun, and Richard Kiel as a heavy with a mouth full of metal teeth a full year before The Spy Who Loved Me.
The cast is a nice gallery of seventies faces, including Scatman Crothers and Ned Beatty, but best of all is Patrick McGoohan, The Prisoner himself, as the hissing villain. McGoohan's charmingly lethal performance, laced with honey and arsenic is often overlooked, but is nice rehearsal for his best film performance three years later as the meglomaniacal warden in Escape From Alcatraz.
Jill Clayburgh also headlines, but the film belongs to Wilder and Pryor, who four years later would go onto the hugely successful Stir Crazy, before nose-diving in See No Evil, Hear No Evil and Another You.
And the finale, featuring a runaway Silver Streak hurtling through a train station maybe be the best "done-live" locomotive smash-up put on screen (and was shot in an airplane hanger trivia fans).