Union Station (1950) Chicago Train Station In Ransom Film Noir

Union Station (1950) blu ray box cover artwork william holden

This is the start of some more straight to the point reviews. They will probably all end up being Film Noir. Each time I see another one I wanna do a review post but as I usually waffle a bit I thought it’ll be good to work out a structured system to get me to the point. Hope you like. So without further ado here I bring you Union Station

What’s going down?

A speeding car tailing a cloud of dust arrives at a train station. Two dodgy looking guys exiting from either side. Both take up different positions on the train. A female passenger glimpses a side arm. Apprehensive she informs the train guard. Soon a tough Detective is on the case. A case that will involve the kidnapping of a young girl and a ransom.

Where’s it set?

The film’s main action is set within the walls of the giant train terminal of Chicago’s Union Station. With scenes spilling out onto the streets, on trains, down alleyways and railway sidings.

The main players

William Holden – Lt William Calhoun
Nancy Olson – Joyce Willecombe
Barry Fitzgerald – Inspector Donnelly
Allene Roberts – Lorna Murchison
Herbert Heyes – Henry Murchison
Jan Sterling – Marge Wrighter
Lyle Bettger – Joe Beacom

Union Station (1950) Barry Fitzgerald Inspector Donnelly William Holden Lt William Calhoun

Sure I’ve seen them in something?

William Holden is the big cheese in Union Station. You would’ve seen him in countless brilliant films, here’s four. The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957), Stalag 17 (1953), Sunset Boulevard (1950) and the The Wild Bunch (1969)
I don’t know Nancy Olson apart from she also starred in Sunset Boulevard (1950).
Jan Sterling has popped up in a few films I’ve featured on here like Mystery Street (1950) and Caged (1950). Most will know she’s most excellent in the Billy Wilder’s brilliant drama Ace In The Hole (1951) with Kirk Douglas.
Barry Fitzgerald is one fun guy. He is so suited to these chief inspector movies. He is superb in The Naked City (1948) and also And Then There Were None (1945).  Please feel free to recommend more from him.

Union Station (1950) William Holden Lt William Calhoun Nancy Olson Joyce Willecombe

Notes on production?

Directed by Rudolph Maté. He made the end of the world science fiction tale, When Worlds Collide (1951) and that rather brilliant film noir with Edmond O’Brien in D.O.A. Most will know Rudolph (not me as I’m learning all the time) is probably more known for his amazing work as a cinematographer and director of photography. So you know you are in safe hands for lots of crazy cool camera shots of dark lit corridors.

Union Station is based on a novel by Thomas Walsh called Nightmare In Manhattan. Which had New York City’s Grand Central Station as the center piece for the action. Just to make things a little weird they changed the movie setting to become Chicago Union Station but actually filmed Los Angeles Union Station as the location.

Hits like a sledge hammer

There’s a few big moments of wow. The large squad of menacing men in fedoras and a shocking interrogation scene. There’s also an off screen punch of a female character with just the noise alone making you go “oh shiiit!“. Generally all the hostage scenes are brutal. If you like tunnels and a shoot out you’re in for a treat. Oh and COWS!

Cutting remarks

Don’t ever call me Willy!
She’ll go home…if they ever fish her out of the river.
I may have to beat your brains out
That’s it scream, Cookie. No one is ever gonna hear you down here!
I’ll break any man who takes his eyes off that suitcase.
The people you have to deal with are lice

Union Station (1950) squad of menacing men in fedoras 2

Verdict

This is one cool film. BUT first you gotta get over the coincidence of the beginning of the story. Once past that it’s just great to watch Lt. William Calhoun wander on down through his station. Stopping everyday crooks as the bigger drama unfolds before him. Watching all his men fill the unique architecture of the station alongside the little Irishman Inspector Donnelly sprouting words of wisdom and orders at every turn. You get stake-outs, suspenseful tails, one of which is on the elevated train line and is especially good. It’s got brutal interrogation, shocking violence and what we love seeing in film noir, many cool backdrop camera angles of vents, pipes, alleyways and tunnels all lit up in beautiful black and white.

With a fast paced run-time of 80 minutes. This exciting film is perfect for a work night.

Rating score

Wolfman’s rating 8.5/10      IMDB 6.8/10

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