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Thursday, April 14, 2011

UNION STATION (1950)

Rudolph Maté helmed this tidy noir @ Paramount the same year he made his cult classic D.O.A. Same goes for co-stars William Holden & Nancy Olson; they made SUNSET BLVD this year! No wonder this exemplary programmer gets lost in the shuffle. Holden plays the tough police chief at a big city railroad station who reluctantly follows up on Olson’s ‘suspicious persons’ report. Turns out, she’s spotted the opening gambit of a kidnaping scheme. Barry Fitzgerald, repeating his characterization from THE NAKED CITY/’48, comes on board as the city’s Chief of Police. This sort of thing should be old hat, but Maté makes the most of it. There’s a surprising level of thuggish violence for the time, and some swell location stuff which Maté takes good advantage of: stockyards, subway tunnels, boiler rooms, etc. And those smooth lobby floors in the station give lenser Daniel Fapp lots of elbow room for great tracking shots. It can’t match the underlying story gimmick of D.O.A. (‘poisoned man hunts down his own killers’), but what amazingly clean direction! You could teach a film course off it. With just the right amount of studio polish from Paramount’s tech departments, this 80 minute throwaway is something special.

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