Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Station West (1948) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

STATION WEST (1948) is an outstanding Western now available from the Warner Archive.

STATION WEST was released by the Archive the same week as ROUGHSHOD (1949), which I reviewed a few days ago. Both titles are Westerns which should be much better known, and hopefully they'll find new audiences thanks to now being available on DVD.

STATION WEST is basically a "Western noir," a late '40s subgenre which also included titles such as PURSUED (1947) and BLOOD ON THE MOON (1948). Star Dick Powell transfers his tough guy persona to the West, where he tangles with classic noir types including Jane Greer (OUT OF THE PAST) and Raymond Burr.

Powell plays Lt. John Haven, who arrives in a Western town on an undercover mission; he's charged with solving the murder of two soldiers in a gold heist. Haven poses as a rowdy sort, picking a fight with a soldier (Steve Brodie), in order to ingratiate himself with the town lowlifes. Powell's sarcastic dialogue would have been right at home with one of his film noir characters.

Greer plays a somewhat mysterious saloon owner who flirts with Haven, and she also has the chance to sing "Sometime Remind Me to Tell You." There's actually quite a bit of singing in the movie, as Burl Ives is marvelously cast as a hotel clerk whose singing provides some commentary to the action and gives the film wonderful mood. It's ironic that Greer and Ives get the chance to sing while former musical star Powell doesn't!

There is so much I love about this movie; besides the great dialogue and the music, there's the striking black and white photography in Sedona by Harry J. Wild; the excellent action sequences, including an absolutely brutal fistfight between Powell and Guinn "Big Boy" Williams; and the superb cast, which also includes Agnes Moorehead, Tom Powers, Gordon Oliver, Olin Howlin, John Doucette, and Charles Middleton. Powell's close friend, Regis Toomey, gets a couple of scenes as a detective.

The Frank Fenton-Winston Miller screenplay was based on a novel by Luke Short, whose work also provided the basis for BLOOD ON THE MOON, RAMROD (1947), and several other good Westerns.

STATION WEST was directed by Sidney Lanfield.

Although IMDb says the film runs 87 minutes, the Warner Archive DVD is 80 minutes long; this time matches the print I've previously seen on Turner Classic Movies, and it's also a match for Leonard Maltin's reference guide. Update: Please see the comments for an extended discussion on the film's running time.

I previously reviewed STATION WEST in 2011. The last time I saw this film, in 2014, was in a 35mm print which had sadly seen better days, so it was a great pleasure to watch this film on the Warner Archive's good-looking new DVD.

It should be noted that some of the exterior nighttime scenes are quite dark, but that has also been the case with the previous prints of this film I've seen. In contrast, some of the daytime exteriors are almost too bright, and the picture quality throughout is a bit inconsistent, which again matches what I've seen in the past. Interior closeups of Greer are lovely, and overall the film is clean and highly watchable -- especially when I compare it to the 35mm print I saw where dialogue kept dropping out! There are no extras on the disc.

Highly recommended.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger Jerry E said...

Yup, excellent and unusual western. It sounds from what you say, Laura, that even WA's restoration has not been able entirely to eliminate the contrasts between too dark/too bright at times. Even so, a film well worth catching.

3:47 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

I saw Station West on its original release, and liked it, but my understanding is that a full reel, somewhere just south of ten minutes,, is missing, and has been for years as the picture was cut for television release. But, maybe not.

7:55 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Jerry,

Glad you like this one too. I wonder if some of the uneven picture is simply inherent in the original film?

Barrylane, I'd not heard of the film having missing footage before, and I'd honestly be hard-pressed to know where it could be missing as the story strikes me as complete. IMDb (which admittedly is not always the final word in accuracy) doesn't indicate anything in this regard.

That said, I noted this morning that IMDb lists the run time as 87 minutes and the Warner Archive box says 80; I don't remember looking at the end time on my player last night and will check the disc later today. I have experienced the Archive boxes having the incorrect running time in the past so we'll see. I'll post the DVD time here later.

Best wishes,

8:58 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

The Archive DVD does run 80 minutes, as stated on the box. I'm going to update the post with more info on the running time.

Best wishes,

10:30 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Laura, thanks for your comment re the running time of Station West. I've just had a look at Halliwell's Film Guide, a British publication, and a good one, that lists the running time at 91 minutes.

10:31 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's very interesting info re Halliwell's guide! I've updated the post with some info as a result of today's DVD time check -- I also went back to my 2011 review and was reminded I'd noticed the discrepancy between IMDb and the TCM print at that time.

I've also directed readers to the comments for our discussion.

Many thanks for your contributions on this topic!

Best wishes,

10:36 AM  
Blogger John G. said...

I have the British Odeon Entertainment Group DVD of this title, and it runs 79 minutes, 31 seconds. Fine video quality. It's an honest-to-goodness DVD, not a DVD-R, and it's all-region. Even plays on my Panasonic portable DVD player.

Odeon has hundreds of similar titles on, and the price is right with the current strength of the U.S. dollar. I'm awaiting a copy of "Man on the Eiffel Tower", starring Franchot Tone and the lovely Jean Wallace. This movie has been treated shabbily on DVD, but apparently Odeon used UCLA's restored print for their version.

3:19 PM  
Blogger Maricatrin said...

I agree, this one is a really good western-noir, featuring sharp (and funny) dialogue throughout... such as: "Was she alone?" "No, she had a gun with her." Another forgotten Dick Powell classic, like CRY DANGER.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

John G., many thanks for sharing your information on the Odeon release, I appreciate you contributing to the state of our knowledge on this!

MAN ON THE EIFFEL TOWER sounds very interesting, like the leads.

Maricatrin, I also love CRY DANGER. Have fond memories of taking my teenage son to see it at UCLA a few years ago and we couldn't stop chuckling, so many great lines. A real gem.

Best wishes,

11:27 AM  
Blogger John G. said...


I received the Odeon "Man on the Eiffel Tower" today, and it's also all-region. I did a spot-check of the picture quality, and even with UCLA's restoration it's not the cleanest print. I can only imagine what the public-domain DVDs look like!

A note about Odeon's strange cover art. They have a picture of Dick Powell and the actor who played the banker or insurance guy (been awhile since I've watched the movie) on the cover of "Station West" (no Jane Greer to be found), while the artwork that Warner Archives used for its cover is on the inside of the Odeon when you open the DVD case.

With "Eiffel Tower", the excellent cover art/movie poster is also relegated to the inside while the DVD cover shows a sour-looking Charles Laughton (who's also in the film) smoking a pipe. Believe me, if there were still DVD stores around, NO ONE would make an impulse purchase of this DVD with Laughton's mug staring them in the face. :-)

4:03 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

John, thanks so much for that feedback on MAN ON THE EIFFEL TOWER! That's also interesting info about Odeon's cover choices.

I appreciate you sharing all this info very much.

Best wishes,

9:02 PM  
Blogger KC said...

Finally getting caught up on my post reading. I expected to enjoy this film, but was surprised to love it as much as I did. Just one of those cases where everything comes together beautifully. I'm surprised it's not better known, but maybe the WA release will help raise its profile. Loved your observation about Powell not singing while Greer and Ives did!

11:10 PM  

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