Thursday, November 26, 2015

Union Station (1950)

*** out of 5

This Rudolph Mate-directed film has more of investigative procedural than noir about it, but even then there are many aspects of the plot that stretch credibility for that type of story.  Nancy Olsen witnesses some suspicious behavior on her train ride into town, and takes her concerns to William Holden, the head of the train station police/security team.  He's a sharp guy who doesn't miss a trick, and he quickly uncovers a link between Olsen's observations and a kidnapping/ransom plot involving a blind heiress (Allene Roberts).   Working in coordination with a cynical police inspector (Barry Fitzgerald), he must track down the suspects to find the girl before the ransom can be transacted and the girl killed by the kidnappers, who are led by a shifty Lyle Bettger, who shows more concern for the life of ease he can buy with the $100,000 ransom than he does for his cohorts or his moll, Jan Sterling.
For some inexplicable reason, Olsen goes along with Holden every step of the way, long after she is of any practical value to the investigation.  There is a loosely assembled romance tacked onto the plot between them, but the film works best when it focuses on the dramatic investigation, and the frequently frustrated efforts that go into rescuing Roberts.  There is also some tension wrung out of the girl's attempt to escape from the tunnels where she's been kept while the ransom is being gathered.  Also watch for an interesting chase scene in a cattle shoot, that ends with a grim death by stampede.

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