THE INCIDENT takes a selection of New Yorkers into a dangerous situation on a subway train late at night, and puts a slew of good actors into a truly unpleasant 107 minutes, an unrelievedly grim viewing experience from 1967. This siege of viciousness unfortunately mirrors too many real-life dramas we’re barraged with in the news and may occasionally reach out and grab us personally as something we either witnessed or suffered. As an acting showcase, it’s of interest, and features several debuts. As entertainment, it should come with a “shower afterwards” warning.
After brutally mugging an old man for $8 and kicks, two feral punks (Tony Musante and Martin Sheen) board a subway. Blocking their escape, they methodically terrorize its occupants. Humiliation is the game, everyone gets their number run. The first part of the film introduces the duo and all the passengers (with a few exceptions, a decidedly unhappy lot) ; t the thugs show up, abuse takes over and escalates. The open-ended resolution is as bleak and unsatisfying as the utterly dispiriting journey to get there.
The passengers: Beau Bridges, Thelma Ritter, Jan Sterling, Donna Mill, Jack Gilford, Brock Peters, Gary Merrill, Ruby Dee, Mike Kellin, Ed McMahon, Robert Bannard, Robert Fields, Victor Arnold, Diana Van der Vlis.
Directed by Larry Peerce, written by Nicholas E. Baehr, adapted from his earlier made-for-TV picture Ride With Terror. Done in 1963, that one also featured Musante as one of the villains, along with Gene Hackman, Vincent Gardenia and Ron Leibman. Reviewers in 1967 (and some today) connected The Incident with the infamous 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese, but the outline bears resemblance to The Plunderers, a 1960 western with Jeff Chandler. That one’s a real barrel of laughs, too.
Done for $1,050,000, it made $2,076,000, 101st place in 1967. Making their big screen debuts were Musante, 30, Sheen, 26, Mills, 26, and McMahon, 43 (he’s very good: should have done more acting roles).