4.24.2015

Friday Night Film Noir: Railroaded! (1947)


You don't see too many movies with exclamation points in their titles these days. It definitely changes things. (Imagine if it was Forrest Gump! for example.) Railroaded! is extra curious as I would assume the exclamation point is there for jump-off-the-marquee-emphasis. But as the folks at film noir of the week point out: "(It) isn't actually a very accurate title for the film, since the cops don't railroad Steve. They work with the evidence they have. (Framed! would have been a more accurate title.)" 


THE PLOT: Clara (Jane Randolph) runs a beauty parlor that is really a front for a bookmaking operation. She arranges for her boyfriend Duke (John Ireland) and his associate to rob the place one night, but when they do, a cop who happens by is killed and his associate mortally wounded. Before he dies, he frames an innocent man, whose sister Rosie (Sheila Ryan) goes on a quest to clear his name.

I've got mixed feelings on Railroaded! On one hand, I love it. I'm not especially picky when it comes to film noir. If it's a clear print and the soundtrack is mixed well, it usually makes the grade for me. On the other, it's more interesting to me as a signpost to things yet to come; what we see here develops so much more in the later and greater work of Anthony Mann.

My favorite part of things is the main bad guy, Duke. The killer who perfumes his bullets. 


He exploits and eliminates his way up the food chain. His frame-up scheme relies on Clara, who has to identify Rosie's brother in court. 

He spirits her away to a hiding place. Things go about as well as expected.

Sheila Ryan's Rosie is the heroine of the film. When her brother is framed for the murder and the cops are satisfied with the evidence they have - all of which was carefully left where they could find it by Clara and Duke - she takes up the investigation herself, bullying her way into Clara's apartment and thrashing her to the ground, then making eyes, see, with Duke.


Hugh Beaumont (best known as Ward Cleaver) plays the detective who comes to believe in Rosie's brother's innocence. He helps Rosie with her plan to use Duke to find out who really robbed the beauty parlor and killed the cop. 

Naturally, an unnecessary romance blossoms between them.

The aforementioned review didn't think much of the cinematography. And while it's true that Mann did his best film noir work with John Alton, this is no less well-filmed by Guy Roe. 


Not especially well-regarded in its day, Railroaded! is now routinely recognized as one of the better low-budget films of all time. You can do an awful lot with very little; DIY filmmakers take note.

It proved to be another feather in Anthony Mann's cap, for sure. With Railroaded! he rose "above the B-movie format and create a compelling crime drama that cleverly exploited all the elements that made the film noir genre so distinctive - deep shadows, unusual camera angles, doom-laden compositions and cynical, disillusioned characters in an amoral universe. (It) was a further refinement of this formula with Mann using his camera to visualize the inner conflicts of his main characters while simultaneously exploring connections between sex and violence and other noir tenets. " (TCM)

Personally, there's not much going on with this sex and violence stuff in the movie.

Sure, Duke perfumes his bullets and compulsively rubs and cleans the barrell of his gun.
When it comes to Freudian reads on such things, Railroaded! has a little smoke here and there, but worthier examples abound.


~

2 comments:

  1. These are especially nice-looking screencaps. Does the whole movie look this great? If so, that's a solid recommendation.

    I don't know what to think of a guy perfuming his bullets. I want to think it's fey, but I'm not sure I actually do. It makes me want to write -- or commission somebody else to write -- "The Killer Dandy," a tale of a murderous fop who always looks and behaves fabulously but is nonetheless deadly. Sort of like "The Man with the Golden Gun" with a twist.

    Perfuming your bullets. Weird.

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    1. I like "The Killer Dandy" quite a bit. It's funny you mention TMWTGG, as I guess that could legitimately be re-named that. Legitimately as far as more or less accurate, or unchanging the tone of the film, but without question "The Man with the Golden Gun" is the superior title. Still, as an alternate film, "TKD" has legs.

      Glad you liked the screencaps. "Railroaded!" has Anthony Mann's usual flair for shadows. His work with John Alton is better, but Guy Roe acquits himself well on this one.

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