13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
"You need twenty-five years before you can pick up a pension...and you won't make it"
, 23 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Union Station [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
Union Station is one of those infrequent but cherishable low-budget 'B' movie thrillers where everything - simple story, decent script, terrific station location shooting, restless and inventive camera work, director with a fine eye for detail (Rudolph Mate), above par acting - comes together in one superior 75 minute package, and it must have been turned out in no time at all for c. $50,000, I should imagine. This R1 release from Olive Films has good sound and a clear picture. No extras.
The story concerns the kidnap by a gang of ex-cons of the blind daughter of a rich businessman and the efforts of the railway and city police to catch them. The film jumps out of its blocks from the first frame and keeps up an escalating tension with never a longueur all the way to the denouement. The tone is hard-boiled, and a couple of the scenes shocked me rigid (well, semi-rigid) with their brutality. Quite why the Hays Code censors swooned away at the sight of a bra strap or a married couple in a double bed (and no hint of canoodling) when (as here) they merrily waved through suspects being beaten up and threatened with a chucking in front of a speeding locomotive is a mystery to me. Suggestions on a postcard, please, to Humpty Dumpty, Wallsend. 2nd class will do.
Characterisation is sharp and plausible and has more touches of complexity than it has any claim to in the short running time: William Holden's hard cop who yet recognizes his place in society's scheme and Barry Fitzgerald's equally hard cop who's changed a little with maturity. Nancy Olson's wide-eyed secretary who reveals a hint of steel, Jan Sterling's gangster's moll, gullible yet not hopelessly vicious. Lyle Bettger's criminal, on the other hand, is corrupted to the core, a memorable villain.
The station locations are brilliantly used. The exterior and underground scenes and some interiors were shot at Union Station in Los Angeles; the elevated railway scenes in Chicago. Rudolph Mate's restless camera swings along the platforms, prowls the concourse, delves deep into the bowels of the station power plant and tunnels, and in an extraordinary sequence swoops from a walkway down onto a cattle market below. His handling of the extras who throng the station is exemplary, and his eye for detail superb - we peer with the camera through peep-holes in the walls and we see con men, kissing couples, pickpockets, would-be lotharios - the whole of life is before us. Finally, the actors persuade us of the truth of their story. The tough humanity of a fresh-faced William Holden in his overcoat and trilby, the gnome-like Fitzgerald keeping just this side of caricature. Jan Sterling in her cameo collapses dramatically in the gutter with a bullet in the guts and flails feebly yet persistently at the speeding wheels of Bettger's getaway car as it careers down the rain-sodden street, taking her dreams with it.
Just a great little picture that has to be seen!
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