This is one film I go back to and enjoy every once in a while. Lyle Talbot has always been a likable mug for me. He is one of those old time professionals who I am always happy to see listed in a film's credits. The plot is simple but very good. Talbot works as a dispatcher at a small rural railway station. One rainy night, shortly after a company payroll has arrived at the station, a masked criminal arrives to steal it. Talbot intercepts the villain's plan and a struggle ensues. He manages to fight off the masked man and save the payroll. But during the fight he is away from his station and misses a call to change the tracks for an oncoming train. This causes a terrible train crash resulting in many lost lives.
Talbot is shocked when the police and railroad authorities don't believe his story. He is charged with negligence and sentenced to five years in prison. Yet fate intervenes and he escapes custody, going underground to live as a tramp in the country. One day he happens upon a rural station where his help is needed. An older dispatcher (Frank Reicher) falls ill and Talbot happens by just in time to save the station from another train wreck. Bitter from his experience with the railroad company and feeling betrayed by his fellow man, Talbot manages to put these feelings aside and agrees to cover for Reicher for a short time.
It just so happens that the masked villain responsible for Talbot's fall from grace also works at this station. Eventually all the plot threads come together in a most enjoyable way. The story is extremely well written, the performances are really good. Lastly, I'd like to counter the previous reviewers assessment that Talbot's performance as a bitter man is not very good. To me it is bang on. Talbot is basically a nice guy embittered by one event in his life. When the old man falls ill, his true nature comes forward and he no longer has time to feel sorry for himself.
Directed by Ford Bebee. Starring Lyle Talbot, Polly Rowles, Frank Reicher, Henry Brandon, William Lundigan.
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