If asked to name a 1950 noir starring William Holden and Nancy Olson a majority would understandably name Billy Wilder’s classic Sunset Boulevard. However, there’s another film that meets that criteria, the somewhat forgotten Union Station. Though it’s billed as noir, Union Station is really a straightforward thriller. While it’s certainly suspenseful, it’s not particularly bleak or hopeless.
On a train headed for Union Station secretary Joyce Willecombe (Olson) spots two armed men acting suspiciously. She reports it to the conductor, who wires ahead and arranges for Lt. Detective William Calhoun (Holden) to meet her at Union Station. They discover that the men have kidnapped Joyce’s employer’s blind daughter Lorna Murchison (Allene Roberts). A wealthy man, Henry Murchison (Herbert Hayes) begs the police not to interfere with his ransom arrangements, but Calhoun and fellow cop Inspector Donnelly (Barry Fitzgerald) keep a close eye on the Union Station locker used by the kidnappers. Indignant, Joyce accuses Calhoun of putting police interests ahead of Lorna’s safety. Given few leads, Calhoun realizes they must locate Lorna before the kidnappers kill her.
Though there’s not much to his character, William Holden is his usual engaging presence. He’s a tough cop who thinks of himself as a “common man” despite the fact that he puts duty and process before people. There’s not much in the way of character development. However, it is clear that Calhoun has a soft spot for damsels in distress. With Joyce, his stern personality tend to peel away, revealing a charming man with a sense of humor. While Joyce is simultaneously tending a wound he received while chasing the suspect, and teasing him about his lack of emotional sensitivity, he yelps in pain before breaking into a big grin.
Nancy Olson doesn’t get much of an opportunity to flush out her character. Initially, it seems as if Lorna’s safe return will be a mission for Joyce to take on, as both the conductor and Calhoun treat her report with an obvious skepticism. She even follows one of the suspects to gather information. However, she quickly moves to the background as soon as Calhoun takes over the investigation. Joyce is almost always present, but never the center of attention.
Frequent noir Bad Girl Jan Sterling plays a gun moll. Despite her limited screen time, she manages to make an impression. A real talent, Ms. Sterling’s greatest noir performance would come a year later in Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole.
Despite the films lack of real character development, director Rudolph Maté offers up enough suspense to keep Union Station engaging for its short 81-minute running time. Also, for William Holden fans, while Union Station is a minor entry in his filmography, it shows what a versatile performer he was.
Presented in 1.33:1, Olive Films 1080p presentation is largely impressive. There is a few instances of print damage, and an occasional jitter, but it’s largely minor. Much of the film looks a touch soft, but features impressive clarity and depth. Contrast is well balanced. There are no real compression artifacts to speak of.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 soundtrack offers a slight crackling on a few occasions, but is generally satisfying. There is little separation between the dialogue, effects, and music.
There are no subtitles included.
There are no extras.
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