A New York City detective, traveling by train between New York and Baltimore, tries to foil an on-board plot to assassinate President-elect Abraham Lincoln before he reaches Baltimore to give a major pre-Inauguration speech in 1861.
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The historical fact of a possible assassination attempt on the President-Elect Abraham Lincoln makes the movie very interesting. The drama comes from a fictitious New York police sergeant discovering the plot and boarding the last train to Washington, DC, to protect the new president to be. Dick Powell does a very good job using deduction and logic to find who on the train could be conspirators. He is foiled at different times but manages to succeed even when the conspirators have caught him. The movie's action takes place mostly on the train and the effects of travelling are well done. Historically, several states have already seceded from the union and that included Virginia. That's why Lincoln had to travel to Washington, DC, through Maryland, also a slave state. When he was taking his own "Inaugural Train" the plan was to kill Lincoln in Baltimore during a long stop but Lincoln's supporters did some slight of hand to sneak him on board the last train to the capital. Maybe not ... Written by
In 1861 the train would have traveled on a number of different short line railroads to get from New York to Washington (the Philadelphia & Trenton; the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore; the Baltimore and Washington, etc.); the Philadelphia, Washington & Baltimore Railroad was not formed until 1902 and it was still in existence (on paper) until 1976. Obviously the filmmakers kept the name consistent to provide continuity and to avoid having to repaint the engine and cars after every few shots. See more »
Superbly directed and photographed, and very well acted by Dick Powell, Will Geer, and Adolph Menjou, this movie ranks as one of director Anthony Mann's best achievements. Not one of his trademark noirs, it still has the characteristic tense look and feel, while staking out its own claim to originality, capturing the mood of the country as it is about to explode into a bloodbath. Set on the eve of the Civil War, a New York police detective (Dick Powell) boards a southbound train in New York to foil a conspiracy to assassinate President elect Lincoln. The train setting provides an apt stage in which the passions of the day are played out, with Unionists and Secessionists armed to the teeth. Factually, the details are probably off, but the mood of the time seems to be fairly accurately portrayed.
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