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» » Subway Riders (1981)

Short summary

A Psychotic saxophone player (played both by Amos Poe and John Lurie) lures victims to deserted spots with his music and then guns them down.

User reviews


  • comment
    • Author: Samutilar
    SUBWAY RIDERS is a powerful poem of the 80's.

    But obviously, Nick from London does not like poems. I don't agree with him. What he hates, made this film probably the BEST FILM EVER.

    • Camerawork: I've never seen such an unique way of lighting and movements. Johanna Heer has invented an own language, an own grammar of using coloured lighting and, at the same time, moving a tilted camera. Somehow it works, the grammar is correct, but don't ask me how. She simply knows how to move. It took about 15 years, before Wong Kar-Wei and Christopher Lloyd could manage a similar style, which finally revolutionized modern cinema.


    • Then the weird, fast editing manages to fit with the strange camera movements to create an unparalled style. Maybe experimental, but still there is a moving story (no, many stories) about urban loneliness and desire. (Moving camera, moving story, ha!) But Poe also knows to slow down. Remember the "how many stars are there..." story?! The image seems to stay forever. Not only during the film, but now for 20 years in my mind.


    • SUBWAY RIDER includes so many stories, that one tends to lose the overview. Be assured that it is not necessary to have one. Forget it! Overview is for sissies! SUBWAY RIDER's topic is to be lost in the night and in the city, to keep on searching without knowing what, thus you should also expect to get LOST!


    It may even good to fall asleep while watching the film: then your consciousness cannot block and resist to the impression of this film. Switch off reason! Simply watch it again and you will understand better.

    ********** SPOILERS AHEAD *************

    Searching and getting lost is exactly what the detective (Robbie Coltrane before he has sold out to mainstream) is doing. His story is not "detective searching the killer", but "lonely, frustrated man under pressure losing his wife and stability". No wonder that he shoots the killer at the end, after all his frustration (remember him eating the cold food out of the can?!). While the killer is not a killer, but a dark angel-poet (remember the sound of horses, while he is drinking beer?!), helping the lost souls of yuppies and nighthawks find their peace in death (better be dead than living in New York City!).

    As you may have noticed, I also do not agree with IMDB's "contents" section. There is a saxophone killer indeed, but he has a mirror image, and they have a hooker neighbour, who has a mirror persona, too - and there is a psychic with a little girl, called "Cola-Marie"...

    And all form a cast of outdropped alien strangers on a far away planet... of course, the film on this planet has to be grainy, and mainly colour-neon-lit, shot totally on location, often at night. Some idiots may call this "too dark" or "bad quality", while that's the only way to catch this atmosphere. And the film does catch it indeed. He manages where most features fail. They destroy what they try to catch. Even worse, they tell us "We have captured it!" while in fact they present us dead bodies.

    To the damage of our perception, Hollywood and TV did persuade us that their faked images, the destroyed images of reality that they supply, and that they call "good quality", are the correct and only ones. Thus they manage to persuade some viewers that SUBWAY RIDER is bad stuff, with no socially redeeming values, shot in bad technique, by a crew of retarded amateurs.

    But what the big film business calls "professionalism" is in fact a status of death, and has nothing to do with life, truth or reality. If you search for this, and can stand some personal, visionary poetry, watch SUBWAY RIDERS.
  • comment
    • Author: Quashant
    This needs to be released on DVD. Very much worth your time as an early Robbie Coltrane vehicle. A Humorously befitting forerunner prior to his enrollment in the excellent BBC "Cracker" series. Also featured is Lance Loud the ex-front man of New York's, Max's Kansas City mainstay "The Mumps" in his first film. The Mumps were an important precursor in the New York punk rock scene. I haven't seen this film since the mid eighties. It did embark on some areas of slasher sleaze and cheese which were no different than Abel Ferrara or Herschell Gordon Lewis' era of excellent exploitations in independent film. I would like to see this again someday!
  • comment
    • Author: Adaly
    Series of bizarre murders occur in the New York subway. On the edge detective (super cool Robbie Coltrane) trying to solve the crimes, and his drug addicted wife. Saxophonist getting on the nerves of his call girl neighbor. Lonely woman attracted to the killer.

    Murder mystery, poetic narrations about loneliness and yearning. Tilted camera angels, playing with colors and lighting, seemingly unnecessary shots of the city and fast editing, occasionally out of place soundtrack, cheesiness of B-movie slashers - nothing makes sense, but it all fits together perfectly.

    'Subway Riders' is by no means classical narrative murder mystery. The story is not important. It is just an excuse to create the mood, and atmosphere. It is a wonderful experiment with style. Style over substance, and yet there is something deeper in that film.

    'Subway Riders' is not an easy film to watch. You have to be in some special mood, and without any expectations because it's not your regular thriller. There is no way to analyze this film (at least I can't). If you are into experimental cinema then 'Subway Riders' is something to look up. It is a wonderful treat of unconventional film.
  • comment
    • Author: Hiylchis
    Night streets. Saxophone player is letting the sounds from his horn fill the empty streets, and there's a killer on the loose. Hard boiled cop on the edge trying to solve the horrendous crimes, while his marriage falls apart. Neighbors who are annoyed by the sax players midnight's improvisations.

    'Subway Riders' is crime thriller directed by one of the No Wave Cinema pioneers Amos Poe. Interesting is that No Wave Cinema emphasized the mood more, than style and storytelling, but 'Subway Riders' is all about style. And the story itself is quite interesting, although incoherently told. Darkly lit (or even without any lighting at all) scenes that are mostly under- or overacted, tilted camera angels, unnecessary jump cuts, seemingly pointless scenes between minor side characters mixed with long scenes of someone driving a car, or drinking a coffee. But all this mess is put together so well, that it turns 'Subway Riders' into entertaining piece of art that mixes loneliness, sadness and madness with sax sounds, and gory crimes.

    If you have to watch a moody experimental film on rainy night, then let it be 'Subway Riders'. But don't expect your regular '70's/'80s slasher thriller. This one stands much higher.
  • comment
    • Author: Uanabimo
    I have watched many movies and this has to be the worst film I have ever seen.

    Please do not make the mistake of assuming that this will be entertaining B-movie stuff. Subway Rider's sole claim to fame is that it created a new category of film – Zzzzzzz-movies. Guaranteed to cure insomnia.

    Most of the film is shot at night and it is almost impossible to work out what is going on (this film may have worked better on radio!). The cinematographer must have had his lighting rig stolen on the first day of shooting. (I personally suspect, that after reading the script, the cinematographer pawned the lighting equipment so that he could buy enough drink to get him through the 3 days of filming!)

    It is no coincidence that 'Driller Killer' was filmed one year before Subway Rider was shot. If Abel Ferrara is not going to hell for wasting our time with Driller Killer, then he is surely going to be fanning hell's flames with his film stock, for inspiring Amos Poe to make Subway Rider.

    `Hep cats' may check out this film because it stars underground saxophonist John Lurie. Trust me, they will get everything they deserve! In the film, John Lurie shoots people after luring them to deserted areas with his music playing. After hearing him play the saxophone it is clear that, given time, justice would have been served and a member of the public would have beaten him to the draw.

    If you are still thinking of watching this movie please do not ignore the fact that it stars Robbie Coltrane. Subway Rider was Robbie's third film and, despite starring in 'The Pope Must Die', his career never recovered from its downward trajectory.
  • Credited cast:
    Robbie Coltrane Robbie Coltrane - Detective Fritz Langley
    Charlene Kaleina Charlene Kaleina - Claire Smith
    Cookie Mueller Cookie Mueller - Penelope Trasher
    John Lurie John Lurie - The Saxophonist
    Amos Poe Amos Poe - Writer Ant
    Susan Tyrrell Susan Tyrrell - Eleanor Langley
    William Rice William Rice - Mr. Gollstone
    Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
    Henry Benvenutti Henry Benvenutti - Super
    Ed Buck Ed Buck - Vulture
    Emilio Cubeiro Emilio Cubeiro - The Poet
    M. DeMuro M. DeMuro - Victim
    Babs Egan Babs Egan - Maid
    Nina Gaidarova Nina Gaidarova - Upstairs Girl
    Chris Kosburg Chris Kosburg - Boy in Bed
    F. Kutlik F. Kutlik - Victim
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