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.
A trapper and his two partners work as scouts for a remote army fort where they witness an incompetent colonel's decision to throw his small unprepared garrison against Red Cloud's sizable Sioux force.
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
The names of all the stations mentioned in the film on the line as the train travels south out of New York would be familiar to a traveler on the modern Northeast Corridor as they are still used by Amtrak, except for Darby Junction which is a now a station on the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's Wilmington/Newark regional rail line. Their placement in the film is geographically accurate - Darby Junction would have been the first place the train could have stopped south of Philadelphia. See more »
Several of the firearms appear to be out of date. One obvious example of this is the Remington Model 95 pistol, which was released over 4 years after this story was set. See more »
Opening credits S l o w l y roll up from the bottom of the screen, over a background of a train station. The word "TALL" is extra tall.. and the credits are followed by: Ninety years ago, a lonely traveler boarded the night train from New York to Washington DC and when he reached his destination, his passage had become a forgotten chapter in the history of the United States. This motion picture is a dramatization of that disputed journey. See more »
In 1861, New York detective John Kennedy (Dick Powell) is convinced there's a plot to assassinate President-elect Abraham Lincoln but no one seems to believe him. So he resigns from the force and takes the train to Baltimore, determined to prevent the assassination.
In my opinion, this is Dick Powell's last great screen role. He made a few more movies before finishing his career out as a director and doing some minor TV work. He's very good here, as usual. Strong support from Adolphe Menjou, Will Geer, Leif Erickson, and Ruby Dee. It's a gripping period thriller from Anthony Mann that looks like a film noir, thanks to Paul Vogel's fine cinematography. Plus, it's a train movie and those are always fun.
There's a lot in this movie for history buffs to chew on. A guy named John Kennedy trying to prevent a presidential assassination in a film made over a decade before President Kennedy was killed is certainly interesting. The plot is loosely based on the 1861 Baltimore Plot, which resulted in one of Lincoln's earliest public relations nightmares because he was accused of cowardly sneaking into the city for fear of assassins. Times have certainly changed. Anyway you should definitely read up on that as it's pretty fascinating, especially considering what happened to him four years later.
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