Paramount's UNION STATION (1950) is another memorable noir from Hollywood's golden past making its belated DVD debut. A gritty and compelling thriller it was adapted for the screen from the violent novel "Nightmare In Manhattan" by Thomas Walsh. Daniel L. Fapp's stark Black & White cinematography brought a great style to it with its shifting use of light and shadow and the genuine locations, especially in the bustling Union Station itself in Los Angeles, added a realistic look and feel to the whole thing.
A girl (the resistible Nancy Olson) sees a man (Lyle Bettger) on a train wearing a gun under his jacket and immediately suspects him of being up to no good (how it never occurs to her that he could perhaps be a cop is conveniently glossed over). She however reports the matter to the conductor who in turn alerts railway cop William Calhoun (William Holden). It soon comes to light that the man with the gun and another have kidnapped a blind girl and are holding her hostage for a ransom of $100,000 from her well to do businessman father (Herbert Heyes). Things really hot up when Calhoun, with help from the city police headed by Inspector Donnelly (Barry Fitzgerald), stakeout Union Station - the nominated drop zone for the ransom. The picture ends with a climactic chase sequence as Holden pursues Bettger through a maze of dark tunnels underneath the station for the inevitable and exciting shootout.
Performances are generally fine throughout. Holden is terrific in it but it is unusual to see him as a cop. He plays the part well but watching him you can't help thinking he is an actor of a much higher calibre than is called for here and deserving of classier and more artistically challenging parts such as his Acadamy Award winning role as Sefton in "Stalag 17" (1953) or his perfect Joe Gillis in "Sunset Boulevard" which he and his co-star here Olson would embark on right after UNION STATION. Also kicking around his thick Irish brogue again Barry Fitzgerald repeats his role, almost verbatim, from "The Naked City" (1948) the only difference being his name here is Donnelly instead of Muldoon. But there's little doubt the movie belongs to Lyle Bettger as the heartless and sadistic kidnapper. Beside Jack Elam has there ever been a meaner or nastier baddie in movies? Born in 1915 Bettger made a full career out of playing menacing characters. He had a sinister smirk and a scary glare that was positively unnerving. His first film was Barbara Stanwyck's "No Man Of Here Own" just before UNION STATION and with the exception of only one time playing the hero in "Carnival Story" (1954) he continued throughout a busy career to be every moviegoer's favourite baddie "you loved to hate". Lyle Bettger retired in 1979 and died in 2003 at the age of 88.
Unusually there is no one composer credited with scoring the picture. But there are minor contributions from Heinz Reomheld and stock music from Victor Young and Hugo Friedhofor. There is a spirited main title over the credits which sounds very much to me like something the great Victor Young could have written. The score was compiled and supervised by Irvin Talbot.
The DVD release is an impeccable transfer with sharp as a button images and smooth sound. Clearly they had access to a new print of the movie and it shows. But there are no extras - not even a trailer. But now for a word of caution! Watch out for the most ridiculous and irritating logo you are ever likely to see which comes at the start of the DVD from a crowd called Olive Films. This has to be some kind of gag! But after all is said and done you can be confident, this silly intro. does nothing to diminish the excellence of the movie which remains a timeless classic.
Crime / Drama / Film-Noir / Thriller
Crime / Drama / Film-Noir / Thriller
Secretary Joyce Willecombe grows suspicious of two men boarding her train and is referred to 'Tough Willy' Calhoun, head of the Union Station police. The all-seeing, no-nonsense Calhoun is initially skeptical, but the men (who escape) prove to be involved in a kidnap case. Calhoun calls in equally tough police Inspector Donnelly, but the ruthless kidnapper's precision planning stays one jump ahead of them. Most of the action centers around bustling Union Station.
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March 22, 2018 at 04:00 PM