Union City (1980)

PG  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Mystery  |  19 April 1981 (UK)
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Reviews: 6 user | 7 critic

A man is so obsessed with finding the person responsible for stealing his milk bottles that he ignores his beautiful young wife, who has other ideas on her mind.


(as Mark Reichert)


(short story "The Corpse Next Door"), (as Mark Reichert)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Young Vagrant
Terry Walsh ...
Paper Boy
Cynthia Crisp ...
Charles Rydell ...
Cab Driver
Lillian (as Deborah Harry)
Sally MacLeod ...
Woman In Bar
The Contessa
Terina Lewis ...
Larry Longacre
Wolfgang Zilzer ...
Ludendorff (as Paul Andor)
Arthur McFarland ...
Mr. Lewis
Mrs. Lewis (as C.C.H. Pounder)
Asha Robinson ...
Daughter, Lewis Family


Guilty paranoia in a gritty 1950's industrial town. An accountant, living a repressed life, becomes so obsessed with the person who is stealing his morning milk that he commits an act of irrational violence. His beautiful wife, meanwhile, is making plans of her own. Written by Kim Rubin

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

19 April 1981 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Nachts in Union City  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Debut film of director Kathryn Bigelow who worked on the movie as a script supervisor. Biggelow's debut film as a director, The Loveless (1981), like this movie, was also set in the 1950s. See more »


In the office scenes around 20-22 minutes or so in. See more »


Lillian: I guess I'm just not a nice person.
See more »


References How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) See more »


Union City Blue
Performed by Debbie Harry and Blondie
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User Reviews

Rigidly stylized Union City proves more influential than popular
26 October 2002 | by (Western New York) – See all my reviews

Union City was to be the vehicle (many of her fans thought) that would launch Deborah Harry, lead singer of Blondie, into screen superstardom. It didn't happen, though Harry went on to appear in numerous movies. But in Union City, she's kept in drab, dark locks until the very end, and gives a stylized, one-note performance, as though she were in a skit. No doubt that was at the prompting of writer/director Marcus Reichert, who made a rigidly stylized movie that looks almost cartoonish – though today, `like a graphic novel' might be the better phrase.

And that isn't exactly a put-down. The achievement of Union City lies in sustaining interest despite the fact that very little, really, happens. It takes place in 1953, in a tired old apartment house across the Hudson from Manhattan (with a couple of excursions to a corner saloon). Accountant Dennis Lipscomb, a master of the paranoid personality style, is obsessed with a milk thief who drinks from the bottle delivered every morning. His feckless wife (Harry) doesn't pay much attention to his irrational rages, and he in turn pays little attention to her, at least where it counts – she's carrying on with the building superintendent (Everett McGill). When Lipscomb finally catches the thief, he accidentally kills him and stows the body in a Murphy bed in a vacant apartment.

Most of Union City is a mood piece, with Lipscomb hitting the bottle to drown his guilt and Harry sticking daffodils into her underthings to vent her sexual frustration. The moods are expressed in the movie's distinctive look, with garishly saturated hues glowing through the heavy gloom – and some of that look is echoed in later movies like the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple and The Man Who Wasn't There, in David Lynch's Blue Velvet, even in Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy. But Reichert doesn't just surrender to the atmospherics; at the end, when Harry unveils her bottle-blonde tresses, like Tippi Hedren in Marnie, he delivers a twist (courtesy of Cornell Woolrich, who wrote the original story) that daringly relies on the viewer to fill in.

For some reason, the print of this movie released in Canada runs some three minutes longer than the American version. Those three minutes contain a scene in which Harry – like Arlene Dahl in Slightly Scarlet, like Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8 – scrawls on a mirror with lipstick. (Maybe keeping that scene intact would have given Harry the push to stardom she craved.) Union City can be counted a success (though not a popular one), paving the way for a second-phase cycle sometimes called neo-noir.

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