I guess I'm just not or will ever be a sucker for film-noir, it's not that I dislike it, although I hate the general over use of the term, I just don't go wild about it. Take "Railroaded!" a 1947 film-noir by Anthony Mann which sees a robbery, an innocent man being set up for a murder and of course the investigation to clear him. It is a solid little 1940's crime story which has plenty of fans who are impressed by Mann's blunt direction but other than moving at a nice pace with nice performances it fails to fill me with the same enthusiasm as others.
Clara Calhoun (Jane Randolph) is the owner of a beauty parlour but she also has a secret bookie operation running in a back room for club owner Jackland Ainsworth (Roy Gordon). But Clara and her boyfriend Duke (John Ireland) plot to stage a robbery of the bookies and when a cop is killed during the robbery they set up the innocent Steve Ryan (Ed Kelly) whose van they steal to use as a get away vehicle. Det. Mickey Ferguson (Hugh Beaumont) a family friend of the Ryan's has the unfortunate job of arresting Steve but something makes him question whether he is in fact innocent as does Steve's sister Rosie (Sheila Ryan) who is determined to prove her brother innocent.
"Railroaded!" has in fairness a nicely put together opening with a nice sweeping shot which takes us from above a city down to the street to where Clara's beauty parlour is. Then what follows plays with us a bit as it sprints through the set up as we watch Clara signal someone via the backdoor which leads to the robbery, the murder and also the set up of Steve. And this keeps on going as the story comes together and we discover both Duke and Clara work for Jackland and they are an item, doing the dirty on their boss. The trouble is that once the set up is in place what follows ends up very ordinary as Steve gets arrested and his sister Rosie tries to prove his innocence, it basically becomes far too predictable.
Now what did little for me but I am sure will appeal to film-noir devotees is Anthony Mann's very blunt styling. In the opening robbery scene we have a camera view which looks straight down the barrels of a shotgun which I am sure is terrific for those who are quickly captivated but felt too staged for my liking. And then we have a girl fight as Rosie and Clara end up coming to blows which in fairness took me by surprise but didn't do much for me. As I said I am sure that Mann's styling is wonderful for film-noir fans but does little for me.
What did do it for me was the acting and more importantly the acting of one person as whilst the likes of Sheila Ryan, Jane Randolph and Hugh Beaumont are solid it is John Ireland as Duke who brings character. It might be cliche but John Ireland makes Duke a menacing character that doesn't just tough talk but dishes out violence and always seems to be thinking of himself.
What this all boils down to is that "Railroaded!" isn't by any means a bad movie as it moves at a good pace and even if you don't care a great deal for film-noir it is still entertaining. But with Anthony Mann's styling I am sure it has greater appeal for those who do love their film-noir.