I thought I had stumbled on a little Noir gem when I found ONE WAY STREET on You Tube.
Well, the first 20 minutes are noir heaven,but the broad middle of the movie looks as if it has been slipped in from some other script.Then the last 10 minutes lights up again. What a waste.
But that first twenty minutes is dynamite.
The film opens with the sound of sirens heard in an apartment where Dan Duryea,William Conrad and King Donovan are playing cards. Marta Toren, in a slinky black dress,cigarette in hand, is casually looking over Duryea’s shoulder.
The conversation mentions the sirens and the hope that someone called ‘Arnie’ has made it. Though they don’t seem too concerned.
There’s a black bag on the table nearby. It looks like a doctor’s medical bag.
Duryea tells Marta to call ‘Doc’ from the next room. She goes next door and looks smoulderingly at James Mason. She leans forward to kiss him, but he pulls back, picks up his medical bag and they join the others.
We then discover Conrad has been wounded and Mason attends to him. It becomes clear the threesome were part of a holdup and have stolen $200,000. And are waiting to see if the fourth member of the gang shows up. Mason is working for Duryea.
Before you can draw breath, Mason calmly gives Duryea some pills for his headache then tells him that he’s taking the bag full of money. The pills were poison and Duryea will be dead in an hour.
Duryea believes him. Marta decides to take her chances with Mason who says he’ll phone Duryea in an hour with the antidote.
Mason and Marta take off in a car (with the two bags) and he tells her, “What I gave him was as harmless as an aspirin.”
Just when you think things will settle down for a bit, they get a shock when Jack Elam pops up from the back seat,gun in hand.(Elam being the fourth gang member).
Action man Mason jumps on Elam,the gun goes off and Elam is dead.
Marta takes her eye off the road and they crash! When the cops arrive, they assume Elam was killed in the crash. (Eyesight check needed, the bullet hole is in plain sight).
Mason and Marta are allowed to leave the scene. After all, he gave the police his card.
They rent a plane and head for Mexico City,only for the plane to develop trouble and the pilot has to land near a sleepy Mexican village.
So far, so good, but then it all comes to a grinding halt. We hardly see Duryea and Conrad for the next half hour. Mason starts wearing a sombrero and right away, they feel right at home. He deals with local bandits, listens to the local padre and treats the villagers who are used to the ministrations of a medicine woman.
Finally ( though it seemed forever) Mason,knowing Duryea will never give up till he finds him, goes back to confront him. The ending is in keeping with that great beginning.
I’m not surprised hardly anybody talks about this film. Duryea and Conrad were just plain wasted.
But it’s worth a look just for that riveting start.