June 7, 2008
Another train movie for Charley!
Before he began making Cowboy pictures, it seems most of Charles Starrett’s films were set on college campuses or on trains. “Sweetheart of Sigma Chi” followed “Return of Casey Jones” and so forth.
Charley plays Tom Caldwell, “winner of the Shotsweld Prize for Mechanical Engineering” who has designed a revolutionary, streamlined train. He fights against the stodgy old school and gets his train built, only to have it under-perform in its test run. “This speed demon turned out to be a turtle” says the surly conductor. “Silver Streak? More like Silver Freak!” huffs his former employer.
He fixes it, just in time! An outbreak of infantile paralysis among the crew building Bolder Dam provides the need to get some Iron Lungs there in 24 hours. The life of the brother of his girlfriend (and son of his former boss) is at stake.
What follows is a “2,000 mile race with death” as the radio announcer tells us. At speeds of over 120 mph!
In true Irwin Allen style, we have a bunch of colorful passengers aboard: a former German engineer on the lam who may be a saboteur, the black bartender who calms his nerves with too many cocktails, and the hysterical woman who screams “We’re going too fast, I tell you! We’re all going to die!”
Charles gets to play a nice mix of the nerdy engineer and the head-strong idealist. His underlying good guy quality gets him through the rough patches when he’s cursing the world. There’s a fun little fistfight too as the train runs out of control.
This is his second picture with Sally Blaine.
“This ain’t railroading, it’s insanity!” as the old-timer says.
— all images courtesy of Les Adams – Abilene, Texas