On the early morning streets of New York City, a drunken Artie and Joe delinquently roam the stillness of the Bronx after hours. After joyfully mugging an old man for a measly eight dollars and his wristwatch, their night leads them heading to the subway platform for more so called fun. A riotous Artie and Joe hop inside a railcar full of passengers that consists of two army privates on leave, a young couple on a date, an elderly Jewish couple, a young family with their 4-year-old daughter, an in recovery alcoholic, a passed out homeless man, a bigoted African-American and his wife, and a nervous gay. The passengers’ delineated diversity doesn’t thwart the two thugs’ harassment that holds the riders, in fear and in obstruction, from leaving the railcar and as personal limits are pushed to the edge, moral courage is effectively choked down by the helpless riders until one of them can’t take the bombardment of the perpetual daunting intimidation.
“The Incident’s” in your face, tell it as it is, hostage style dramatic thriller from 1967 barrels down an endless track of relevance and suspense inside the idealistic perception of New York City’s culture in the mid-20th century. Director Larry Peerce (“One Potato, Two Potato”) helms a masterpiece of a film that not only defied cinematic character standards but also defied the NYC transit authority who denied Peerce, along with cinematographer Gerald Hirschfeld (“Young Frankenstein”) to shoot in and on the NYC subway system. Taking a relatively guerrilla filmmaking approach to achieve railcar and platform exteriors, Peerce also managed to construct a true to size, if not larger, railcar to get the drama unfolding between the harmless transit riders and their two terrorizers. “The Incident” was the first feature film penned by teleplay screenwriter Nicholas E. Baehr whom also wrote the television movie version of the story entitled “Ride with Terror” a few years prior, but Larry Peerce clawed, scraped, and held together a cast and a crew that nearly dismantled due to funding and production issues until ultimately being saved by 20th Century Fox.
“The Incident” has such an ensemble cast that it’s difficult to even know where to begin. Two introductory feature film performances from Martin Sheen (“Apocalypse Now”) and Tony Musante (“The Bird with the Crystal Plumage”) as the errant ruffians is unequivocally good at being bad. Musante, especially, leaves a lasting impression as Joe Ferrone who oozes with slimy browbeating tactics by plucking that one sensitive nerve in each of the riders. As equally as good in comparison is in the injured Army private from Oklahoma, played humbly and genuinely by the baby-faced Beau Bridges (“Max Payne”), with a gosh-golly grin and a peacemaker wit about him that makes the private a prime target. Sheen, Musante, and Bridges are only the caboose when considering the train of highly trained styled actors that also include Thelma Ritter (“Rear Window”), Donna Mills (“Play Misty for Me”), Brock Peters (“Soylent Green”), Jack Gilford (“Cocoon”), Ruby Dee (“Jungle Fever”), Diana Van der Vlis (“X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes”), Mike Kellin (“Sleepaway Camp”), Jan Sterling (“Women’s Prison”), Gary Merrill (“The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die”), and Victor Arnold (“Wolfen”). Ed McMahon makes his feature film debut as well! As an ensemble unit, the interactions evoke immense tensions and passion inside that railcar and from our very own couches.
Everything about Larry Peerce’s “The Incident” capitalizes on being nearly flawless. From the construction of the last act railcar set to the flash of urban realism, “The Incident” is high level on the suspense thriller hierarchy, but the characters and their personal baggage egregiously forced to the surface is utterly captivating and refreshingly cathartic to simultaneously showcase adult bullying engage enragement while also bubbling and bursting through thin layered passive aggressive convictions and attitudes. Joe Ferrone is symbolically a catalyst for the majority of riders, exposing internal loathsome, sham friendships, and tough guy personas, that naturally shreds down their ghastly facades and revealing their true, if not unpleasant, selves. Equally as compelling is the one scene with racial profiling and prosecution by the law enforcement that is heavily journaled in the today’s media and Peerce clearly believes in this injustice and adds the brief, yet powerful, moment at the tail end of the film that involves Brock Peters’ character.
Eureka Entertainment proudly presents the 20th Century Fox raw and intense New York based thriller, “The Incident,” onto a dual formatted, Blu-ray and DVD, home video as part as Eureka Classic sub-label, marking the first time on Blu-ray in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, a DVD-R screener was provided for coverage so a review of the video and audio will not be covered, but from the spec information provided, the transfer is a 1080p high definition digital transfer with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. There are optional English subtitles available. What can be said about Gerald Hirschfeld cinematography is this, it’s a complete mastery of the trade with a penchant for black and white and seamless edited camera cuts. Bonus features listed are a brand new and exclusive audio commentary by film critic and writer Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study, a post-screen Q&A session with director Larry Peerce from the 2017 Wisconsin Film Festival, the original trailer, and a collector’s booklet feature new writing by film writer Sam Deighan and critic Barry Forshaw. “The Incident” is searingly powerful and a societal wake up call of we’re all in this together or we’re all a part of the problem.\