Search - Prison Train on DVD

Prison Train
Prison Train
Actors: Fred Keating, Dorothy Comingore, Clarence Muse, Faith Bacon, Alexander Leftwich
Director: Gordon Wiles
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2004     1hr 4min


Larger Image

Movie Details

Actors: Fred Keating, Dorothy Comingore, Clarence Muse, Faith Bacon, Alexander Leftwich
Director: Gordon Wiles
Creators: Marcel Le Picard, Edward Schroeder, Alvin G. Manuel, Mathew Borden, Spencer Towne
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Classics, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Alpha Video
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 06/22/2004
Original Release Date: 10/26/1938
Theatrical Release Date: 10/26/1938
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 4min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

Similar Movies

The Mysterious Mr Wong
Director: William Nigh
   NR   2002   1hr 3min
Universal Horror Classic Movie Archive
The Black Cat / Man Made Monster / Horror Island / Night Monster / Captive Wild Woman
   NR   2009   5hr 26min
Once Upon a Time in America
Limited Edition Collector's Set
Director: Sergio Leone
   R   2003   3hr 49min
The Untouchables Season 2 Vol 2
   NR   2008   13hr 25min

Similarly Requested DVDs

She Had To Choose
   NR   2009   1hr 30min
The Most Dangerous Game
Directors: Ernest B. Schoedsack, Irving Pichel
   PG   2002   1hr 3min
Bulldog Drummond Escapes
Director: James P. Hogan
   UR   2003   1hr 7min
A Bridge Too Far
Director: Richard Attenborough
   PG   1998   2hr 55min
Blood on the Sun
Director: Frank Lloyd
   NR   2002   1hr 38min
White Zombie
Director: Victor Halperin
   UR   2002   1hr 9min
Dinner at the Ritz
Director: Harold D. Schuster
   2004   1hr 17min
Kansas City Confidential
Director: Phil Karlson
   UR   2002   1hr 39min
   UR   2004   1hr 6min
Doomed to Die
Director: William Nigh
   NR   2002   1hr 8min

Movie Reviews

All aboard
Steven Hellerstedt | 08/11/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"It might be, as the running prologue tells us after the titles run on Gordon Wiles' PRISON TRAIN, that the number's racket is a "million dollar swindle," but it doesn't have the cachet enjoyed by rum runners and speak easy operators. The gangster movie was pretty much played out by the time PRISON TRAIN was released in 1938. Its demise was accelerated by stale air used to revive the rigid genre. Characters had become undemanding stereotypes and plots had become predictable. More than anything, the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 was responsible for its slow, lingering death. It's hard to glamorize nickel lottery slips.

Gang lord Frankie Terris (played by Paul Muni lookalike Fred Keating), the prologue tells us, is "cynical and ruthless... (and) when cornered he reverted to his true type - a weakling." Terris wants out of the numbers racket and offers it to skeptical rival gang lord Manny Robbins. Frankie's beautiful and saintly young sister Louise (Dorothy Comingore) comes a calling and Robbins' handsome young son Joe takes her dancing. On the trip home Joe throws a couple of short, incomplete passes in Louise's direction. The last one is intercepted by brother Frankie, who sends the young man on his way before deciding he wants to thrash it out a bit with him. They engage in a brutal street fight, a handy tire iron gropes its way into Frankie's hand and he smashes in young Robbins' skull. Frankie Terris is found guilty of murder at the ensuing trial and sentenced to Alcatraz Prison. In a couple of eerie, mumbling close-ups we see the elder Robbins vowing bloody and personal vengeance.

Louise manages to slip on the train carrying prisoners from New York to San Francisco. Another major character is introduced in the second half hour or the movie - a corn-fed, hayseed G-Man who's on board primarily to fall in love with Louise and ostensibly to make sure the threatened Terris makes it to Alcatraz alive. Considering all the malevolent minions of Robbins infesting the train and the prison car, it's a hefty challenge. One of them is a gabby character named Red who is just deadpan and annoying, another is a Pullman porter named Sam. Sam is played by African-American actor Clarence Muse. In a notable break from stereotype Sam is an intelligent character who is given a sizable role. Another of the three actors listed on the dvd-cover is Nestor Paiva, who has a small role in the movie but is remembered by old movie fans for his role in MIGHTY JOE YOUNG and his talent as a dialect actor. The obscure Fred Keating, the star of the movie, isn't listed on the cover.

The third name belongs to Dorothy Comingore, who's claim to fame was her role as Susan Kane in Orson Welles' CITIZEN KANE. I've read reports that Welles was influenced by PRISON TRAIN. If true, it had to have been the visual style. Director Wiles throws enough weird camera angles and frame compositions to keep things interesting. My favorite trick occurs whenever Wiles wants to show Keating's inner turmoil. Wiles has his actor's hair mussed and Keating wears the dazed expression of a man roused from a deep sleep, who has a thousand-watt klieg light thrown in his face while being asked to name all the islands in the Lower Antilles. It's so startlingly expressionistic I guffawed the first time it was used.

The transfer print was decent, although there's an abrupt cut to black at the end of a scene towards the end of the movie that makes me suspect a short bit of film is missing. If you're a fan of old-time, black-and-white, prison and gangster movies, PRISON TRAIN offers a pleasant and sometimes surprising take on the genre.