The first great period of Anthony Mann's career was the string of blackly brilliant late-'40s thrillers and crimebusting movies--T-Men
, Raw Deal
, Border Incident
, et al.--that marked the full flowering of film noir. We won't kid you: Railroaded
was made just before Mann hit his spectacular stride--and just before the low-rent Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) evolved into the somewhat more prestigious Eagle-Lion. The rather plodding story line has to do with a young deliveryman's framing for a robbery and the incidental murder of a cop, and the slightly-at-cross-purposes efforts of his sister (Sheila Ryan) and a police detective (Hugh Beaumont, better-known as "Ward Cleaver") to clear him. Much more worthy of contemplation is the saturnine John Ireland as the principal evildoer, a small-time crook whose readiness to whack any number of people, innocent and guilty alike, gets creepier with each passing reel.
Mann hadn't yet teamed with cinematographer John Alton, and the lighting is generic--blah for the daylight scenes, merely murky for the night stuff. Still, it's gratifying to see that Mann on his own was already reaching for the occasional deep-focus composition, outré set piece (a shootout among upended stools in a darkened saloon), and surprising texture--like the close-up of a bullet hole in an alligator purse that announces a life lost, with chilling matter-of-factness, off screen and between scenes. --Richard T. Jameson