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DVD: Railroaded! | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Railroaded!

DVD: Railroaded!

A psychopath and his drunken floozy wipe the floor with the angels in terse Anthony Mann film noir

Psycho killer: John Ireland as Duke Martin in 'Railroaded!'Eagle-Lion Films

Although Anthony Mann is best known for the five James Stewart Westerns (and one apiece starring Henry Fonda and Gary Cooper) he directed during the 1950s, it was the dour film noirs he made during the previous decade that made his name. Like Mann’s T-Men, Raw Deal, He Walked by Night, and Border Incident, Railroaded! (1947) was written by John C Higgins, whose pacey, violent stories owe much to the pulps.

Although Anthony Mann is best known for the five James Stewart Westerns (and one apiece starring Henry Fonda and Gary Cooper) he directed during the 1950s, it was the dour film noirs he made during the previous decade that made his name. Like Mann’s T-Men, Raw Deal, He Walked by Night, and Border Incident, Railroaded! (1947) was written by John C Higgins, whose pacey, violent stories owe much to the pulps.

The opening is particularly impressive for being low key. A heist on a beauty parlour that’s a front for a gambling racket goes wrong when a cop is murdered by the masked robber (John Ireland) involved with its bent proprietress (Jane Randolph). He pins the shooting on a young laundry van driver, who looks like he will take the fall until a skeptical homicide detective (Hugh Beaumont) intervenes, along with the suspect’s pretty sister (Sheila Ryan).

The movie is much less interested in this bland pair than the criminals, the woman a hard-boiled lush who soon falls apart, the cop-killer actually a reptilian nightclub manager. More complex than the sniggering sadist played by Richard Widmark in Henry Hathaway’s Kiss of Death (also 1947), Ireland's Duke Martin is an unsmiling sociopath who perfumes his bullets and onanistically massages his gun barrel. The same insolent actor's six-gun, Western fans will recall, was his surrogate phallus in the following year’s Red River, too.

Ninety-five per cent nocturnal, Railroaded! wasn’t shot, like Mann’s other noirs, by the masterful John Alton, but by Guy Roe whose velvety black cinematography sometimes admits only slivers of white light. The picture is not in the same league as Double Indemnity, Laura, or Out of the Past, of course, but at 71 minutes it’s an efficiently terse and perverse ambassador from the corrupt world of the post-war neon city.

Watch the catfight scene between Jane Randolph (in white) and Sheila Ryan

John Ireland's character is an unsmiling sociopath who perfumes his bullets

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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