Saturday, March 01, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Railroaded! (1947) at UCLA

Time to return to UCLA tonight for another great double bill in the ongoing Anthony Mann Festival! I was glad to have the chance to enjoy these films with my friend Blake Lucas.

Tonight paired two of director Mann's 1947 film noir titles, DESPERATE and RAILROADED! I had previously seen DESPERATE on DVD back in 2011 and enjoyed it even more this time. Since that viewing I've seen lead actor Steve Brodie in a number of other films, mostly Westerns, and liked Audrey Long in BORN TO KILL, another film from 1947. It was fun to circle back to DESPERATE and watch it again in the context of greater appreciation for each of their careers.

The 35mm prints UCLA had planned to show for both of tonight's films proved to be unavailable, so DESPERATE was shown in 16mm. After a rough-looking first couple of minutes, this print proved to be quite good and provided a very enjoyable viewing experience. I was glad I'd decided to revisit this fast-moving film, which has an excellent supporting turn by Jason Robards Sr. as a police detective.

Unfortunately RAILROADED! was shown in a digital print which must frankly be described as ghastly, far below UCLA's usual standards; there were annoying digital lines across the poor picture, which periodically went black. A number of people walked out. I'll happily watch a hard-to-find film in any condition, but I must confess I was surprised UCLA showed that print instead of changing the program.

Since I'd made the effort to get there I stuck with it, and the film was intriguing enough to hold the interest despite a less-than-optimal viewing situation. The film was quite entertaining, a fast-moving 72 minutes, and I enjoyed it very much.

Duke (John Ireland) and Clara (Jane Randolph of CAT PEOPLE) collaborate on the robbery of the bookie operation which runs in the back room of Clara's beauty salon.

When things go awry and a cop is killed, Clara and Duke frame the innocent Steve Ryan (Ed Kelly). Steve is arrested by Sgt. Mickey Ferguson (Hugh Beaumont), and Steve's spunky sister Rosie (Sheila Ryan) immediately goes to work to clear her brother's name.

The bright script by John C. Higgins has some wonderful dialogue, including a nice sparring relationship between the police sergeant and the accused man's sister; sparks fly as they battle and then eventually collaborate on the case.

There are some beautifully shot moments, discernible even with a poor print, and the fun scenes include a knock-down, drag-out brawl between Clara and Rosie. Jane Randolph does a very good job as the alcoholic tough cookie who gradually falls apart, realizing that the guy she's hooked on really doesn't care about her, and John Ireland makes an interesting villain (perfumed bullets?!). I think I actually jumped the second time he smacked Jane Randolph, he was one hate-filled guy.

Among the supporting cast I especially liked Mack Williams as Doc, the criminologist. I always enjoy '40s era police procedural scenes! The cast also includes Charles D. Brown, Clancy Cooper, Keefe Brasselle, and Peggy Gordon. It was fun to recognize Ellen Corby who pops up in a scene.

The movie was filmed in black and white by Guy Roe.

I'm fortunate to have this film in my DVD collection thanks to the kindness of my friend Kristina, and I plan to revisit the movie very soon with a better picture.

The DVD can be rented from Netflix or ClassicFlix.

In addition to the DVD, RAILROADED! has been released on VHS.

Earlier films seen in this series: DR. BROADWAY (1942), which was paired with the previously reviewed TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE (1945); THE MAN FROM LARAMIE (1955), shown with the previously reviewed STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT (1944); THE NAKED SPUR (1953), shown with the previously reviewed HE WALKED BY NIGHT (1948); and THE LAST FRONTIER (1955), seen with the previously reviewed STRANGE IMPERSONATION (1947).


Blogger Blake Lucas said...

I too appreciated meeting up and seeing these together, Laura.

Even in less than ideal circumstances--the promised 35 prints had lured me back to these, and I hadn't seen either one in a long time--I enjoyed them both very much.

It's amazing how a good movie like RAILROADED can somehow survive every hazard, like this truly sad digital prevention. Plainly, its qualities still came over as your review so well reflects. I'm glad you have the DVD to see it again that way and will look better.

Those perfumed bullets always draw comment--a very ingenious touch for Ireland's character.

9:25 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks so much, Blake! It was a fun night at the movies -- as you say they were very enjoyable even when the prints weren't as expected. I like what you say about "a good movie like RAILROADED can somehow survive every hazard." So true!

Definitely a unique "signature" for Ireland's character. It's always fun to discover unexpected touches such as that when watching a film for the first time.

BTW, this is a good place to note that this year the Academy's "In Memoriam" reel omitted film noir icon Audrey Totter. As we've discussed previously, the Academy is obviously not too interested in properly honoring Hollywood's great past.

Best wishes,

11:10 PM  
Blogger KC said...

I watched Railroaded! to see Jane Randolph, thinking it was going to be a throw-away thing. Boy was I wrong! I loved watching the interactions between the actors. They had great chemistry. I didn't realize at the time that I was becoming a fan of Anthony Mann too. It was only when I read the book and realized how much of his stuff I loved that I caught on to that. Sorry you had that yucky digital experience. Bummer!

8:43 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

KC, I've been a little slow answer comments this week but wanted you to know how much I enjoyed your comments on RAILROADED! I'm really glad you saw it too. Hope you'll get the chance to see more Mann soon. This "deep dive" into his work thanks to UCLA has been a wonderful opportunity -- to date I've liked every single one!

Best wishes,

11:39 PM  

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