Silver Streak Arthur Hiller

Nobody ever went to a Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor comedy for genius filmmaking, but by those low standards Silver Streak comes out looking pretty good. Wilder stars as a book editor who takes the train from L.A. to Chicago and meets comely secretary Jill Clayburgh; unfortunately, he spies the corpse of her boss falling outside his window and finds himself embroiled in a plot that sees him attacked, vilified, discredited and thrown from the train at three separate locations. Colin Higgins’s script is delightfully Hichcock-ian (though one joke is swiped from The Narrow Margin), with a variety of outrageous twists and obstacles for our man to overcome. Noted hack director Arthur Hiller doesn’t shoot it to good advantage, but it still manages to stand on its own. This was the first film to team Wilder with Pryor, and unfortunately, Pryor doesn’t show up until half way through in a patronising hip black dude role that requires him to cozy up to whitey. But it’s a testament to the late comic master that he manages to make you forget the part’s limitations by being his classic live wire self. It’s a tragedy that he couldn’t have been the focus of the movie, because he would have provided the energy that Hiller sucks out of it, but by the time he shows up, he’s enough to make you forget the director’s deficiencies. Classic cinema this is not, but it’s a surprisingly absorbing time-waster nonetheless, with a nice threatening turn by Patrick McGoohan and a weird Mutt-and-Jeff relationship between thugs Ray Walston and Richard "Jaws” Kiel. Expect nothing and be pleasantly surprised, right up to the big shoot-out finish. (Fox)