One Way Street (1950, Hugo Fregonese)

Here’s a goofy one–the title also could be The Doctor in the Sombrero–with James Mason as a mob doctor who makes off with two hundred grand and the boss’s girl, only to end up in rural Mexico, healing horses. It’s all pretty standard stuff, down to the excursion to Mexico, but Mason and Dan Duryea (surprisingly effective as the mob boss) bring some pep to it. The beginning, with a rapid setup, is great. Then the escape to Mexico, which quickly losses story potential, bogs down the rest of the movie. It’s fine for the most part, just painfully predictable. Mason’s a doctor who learns to care again, first about horses, then people, and finally romantic interest Märta Torén. All very predictable until the conclusion.

Where One Way Street (which makes little sense given the film’s content) is a little different is in its shedding of the film noir. The stopover in rural Mexico is somewhat genre-free. Predictable and a little boring, but it’s straight b-movie drama, not noir. Unfortunately, the return to Los Angeles ends up damaging the whole movie. First, the imperative for the trip is unclear (it’s just time for the movie to end) and, after a neat trick, One Way Street ends as dumbly as it possibly can.

Mason’s good at the beginning and the end and okay through the middle. There’s nothing for him to work with here. Torén’s mediocre and uninteresting. Of the Mexico portion, Basil Ruysdael comes out the best as a sympathetic priest. The real surprise is William Conrad as one of the gangsters. He’s great in his handful of scenes (and Jack Elam’s pretty good in an uncredited small part).

Another big problem is director Fregonese. He’s so uninteresting as a director–both in terms of composition and in directing actors–it’s hard to think he’d do anything to fix the script’s problems. With the terrible ending, the movie would be a little better, a standard b-movie, but it did have some potential for being better.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Hugo Fregonese; written by Lawrence Kimble; director of photography, Maury Gertsman; edited by Milton Carruth; music by Frank Skinner; produced by Leonard Goldstein; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring James Mason (Dr. Frank Matson), Märta Torén (Laura Thorsen), Dan Duryea (John Wheeler), Basil Ruysdael (Father Moreno), William Conrad (Ollie), Rodolfo Acosta (Francisco Morales), King Donovan (Grieder), Robert Espinoza (Santiago), Tito Renaldo (Hank Torres), Margarito Luna (Antonio Morales), Emma Roldán (Catalina) and George J. Lewis (Capt. Rodriguez).


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