BIG HOUSE FILM REVIEWS ~ Roger Westcombe
Starring John Ireland, Sheila Ryan, Hugh Beaumont, Jane Randolph; dir: Anthony Mann
Dour and purposeful, Railroaded reveals something about the strengths and weaknesses of Anthony Mann’s noir series. It’s a standard frame-up story, solidified through the strength of Mann’s directing skills beyond the merits of the material. Preceding his now legendary teaming with cinematographer John Alton for the unbeatable run of Raw Deal, T-Men, Border Incident, and He Walked By Night, Railroaded is still very dark but grim. The absence of Alton’s breathtaking set-ups pedestrianises this effort into something merely heavy-handed.
Mann’s transitional work Desperate (1947), also pre-Alton, gained an edge of complexity through Raymond Burr’s latent menace and a more nuanced study of human corruption absent here. Railroaded’s opening set-up of the robbery where all is not as it seems plants intriguing seeds of crim-versus-crim, but they are never adequately harvested. Instead it plows straight ahead, with too much suburban ‘aw-shucks’ niceness as counterpoint.
Yet for all these shortcomings Railroaded’s tension is remarkably well maintained, primarily due to the acting. Forget the derisory Leave It To Beaver references, Hugh Beaumont’s cop is fine in a Jimmy Stewart manqué way, Jane Randolph is excellent as gun moll Clara Calhoun (!) – tough, cynical and wounded – and Ireland’s saturnine composure is almost Nixonian. This Shakespearean-trained actor would deepen the complexity in future Mann noir like Raw Deal, even as he slipped to second banana status behind Burr. It’s even foreshadowed in Railroaded’s best in-joke, when Ireland parodies Bogey’s Petrified Forest breakout role of Duke Mantee: "I’m Duke", says Ireland. "Oh", says one of the numerous hardboiled dolls wandering through Railroaded – "I’m petrified".
Roger Westcombe's own website is at: http://www.bighousefilm.com/
For additional material on Anthony Mann and 'Railroaded' you might want to look at:
Short review of Railroaded by Heather Picker at http://www.that-movie-site.com/dvd-reviews/railroaded.htm
David Boxwell, "Anthony Mann - Emil Anton Bundmann", at:
Gary Johnson on the release to video of three Anthony Mann films in Images, #2, at: http://www.imagesjournal.com/issue02/reviews/mannoirs.htm
Steve Badger's 'Mann Movies: A Guide to the Films of Anthony Mann', at: http://www.suspense-movies.com/directors/anthony-mann/