Although it features the pairing of William Holden and Nancy Olsen, Union Station certainly is no Sunset Boulevard, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a modest procedural of 80 minutes, but it has a gritty realism that is rather reminiscent of Pickup on South Street (1953) or The Naked City (1947). This is ironic since it’s hardly believable and yet it still ropes us in. The story goes something like this.
A young woman (Olsen) says goodbye to a blind friend and later after she boards a train, she sees two suspicious men board the same car as her. At the final destination of Union Station, she goes to lead cop Willie Calhoun (Holden) who uses his network of plainclothesman to investigate and tail the men. As it turns out, the blind girl has been kidnapped and a ransom is put up for her at $100,000. Her father is understandably desperate to get her back and does whatever he is relayed to do. He remains in contact with Calhoun and the Inspector named Donnelly (Barry Fitzgerald) who resolve to get his daughter back and apprehend the perpetrator.
However, the man they are dealing with has been around the block a few times, and he is well acquainted with Union Station. Thus, the station becomes the main point of interest in the film evolving from less of a game of cat and mouse to a chess match. Men are tailed aboard trains, in terminals and everywhere else. When one man leaves another takes his place, eyes are always watching and the beauty of it all is you can never tell who is a policeman and who is not in the veritable mass of humanity. But it goes the other way too.
The ransom is ultimately set to go down at Union Station and just in the nick of time, Calhoun catches a break. All that’s left is to chase down the mastermind, but it’s not so easy as he also has the blind girl Lorna stashed away. Calhoun must race to apprehend the culprit while also getting to Lorna first. It’s a photo finish.
Did I say already that Union Station employs a gritty realism? Well, it does, and it is full of slimy criminal types pitted against no-nonsense cops who are not opposed to using rough methods if necessary. Willie Calhoun is the number one tough guy and he’s relentless in his job as the intense finale suggest. Donnelly is a character blessed with the voice of a Leprechaun thanks to Fitzgerald and believe me that’s a compliment. He’s a personable, mentoring type who is a nice compliment to Holden. Inquisitive Joyce Willecombe is necessary to get the plot rolling and also as the love interests, but Nancy Olsen gives an appeal that reaches farther than that.
Enough said, now take a trip down memory lane to Union Station where you are sure to be lost with the masses in this engaging procedural.