25 July 2014 | romanorum1
A Good Western with Snappy Dialog
In the first fifty years of cinema, the year of 1948 had to be the best for the western genre up to that time. For, in 1948, movie producers generated a number of very good features like "Fort Apache," "Yellow Sky," "Blood on the Moon," "Four Faces West," and "Red River." "Station West" was also one of the better westerns made that same year.
"Station West" features Dick Powell as John Haven, an undercover government agent assigned to investigate a gold robbery and the deaths of two guards, both US cavalrymen. Some have compared Powell's temperament to that of twentieth century detective Phillip Marlowe. He surely has both the sarcasm and self-assurance of the fictional private eye even though Powell is out of his normal character by appearing in a western. Anyway Haven takes the night stage to Rock Pass, a booming but also a corrupt town. The guitar-playing hotel manager (Burl Ives) immediately recognizes Haven as a stranger and lets him know that "Charlie" (Jane Greer) and her minions have their hands in nearly everything of importance. As Haven checks in, he discovers that he will have to make his own bed and that fresh towels will not be provided. "Thanks for the keys," he quips to the singing hotel manager.
Things happen fast in the town gambling house/saloon, where suspicious characters come and go. Haven is attracted to the attractive femme fatale Charlie (actually Charlene) as folks like gambling manager Prince (Gordon Oliver) and house bouncer Mick Marion (Guinn Williams) watch with scowling faces. Even the bartender (John Doucette) eyes the stranger with unfriendliness and suspicion. There is also the jellyfish attorney Mark Bristow (Raymond Burr). Before long, Haven secretly meets with Captain Iles (Tom Powers), Lt. Stellman (Steve Brodie), and Mrs. Caslon (Agnes Moorehead) to work on a plan of action for the investigation. It is obvious that Haven, who has a personality conflict with Iles, has his own methods for smoking out the bad folks. Back in the barroom, Haven – with difficulty – in an all-out brawl defeats Mick. But Charlie, impressed with Haven's victory and toughness, hires him as her transportation boss. In fact, Charlie seems to place much trust in Haven. And Haven obviously likes the attractive woman. So are these two – protagonist and antagonist – really falling in love with each other? Anyway, Charlie has set his plan in motion to get the evil ones, not quite realizing Charlie's role.
Along the way there are several odd scenes. For one, Haven is looking for the gold cache that he ditched when suddenly Mrs. Caslon sneaks up behind him holding two loaded pistols. She thinks he stole the gold. But since Caslon is wearing a nineteenth dress not conducive to riding one wonders how she happens to pop up unnoticed by Haven away from town in the wild. Another odd part involves James Goddard (Regis Toomey). We know immediately after his shooting that he was a Wells Fargo agent. But why did he want to ride the (unprotected) night stage along with Haven in the first place? Also, Haven as a junior officer should be able to recognize a button from a military coat right away. He had to be told the information by the hotel manager. Perhaps some minutes of the movie were inadvertently cut; the feature seen was about 80 minutes long, chopped down by 12 minutes from the original release. Nevertheless the three described situations do not detract too much from the storyline.
The acting is great all-around, while the script is at a high level. Burl Ives homespun folksy singing is excellent. And how about Harry Wild's filming of this feature in beautiful Sedona, Arizona, a personal favorite? So, despite its minor flaws and the fact that action is limited, this western is worth seeing.