One Way Street (1950)

One Way Street (1950) is a couple on the run in Mexico killer gangster thriller starring James Mason, Märta Torén and Dan Duryea.

The full cast list is impressive however, with some solid noir delivered by some of its finest character exponents, like Jack Elam, King Donovan, William Conrad and even Rock Hudson making a showing.

As the city of Los Angeles pulsates with the wail of sirens, the stage is set for a tale of intrigue and betrayal. From the window of her apartment, the enigmatic Marta Toren observes the chaos below, her cigarette smoke curling into the night. She relays her findings to the cunning Dan Duryea, the architect of a daring heist. But when one of his henchmen falls to a bullet, it's James Mason's turn to shine, using his surgical skills to extract both the slug and Duryea's coveted prize - Toren herself.

Their flight takes them across the border to the rugged terrain of Mexico, where the pace slows to a languid crawl. In a rustic village, Mason's talents as a healer are put to the test, while Toren finds herself drawn to the simplicity of their surroundings. 

Märta Torén in One Way Street (1950)

But danger lurks in the form of some rather lacklustre bandits, their eyes lingering hungrily on Toren as Mason grapples with his own demons.

Intermittent glimpses of Duryea's ruthless pursuit inject urgency into the narrative, but it's only when Mason confronts his nemesis face-to-face that the story ignites once more. In a twist of fate, the echoes of their past actions reverberate, proving that destiny always has the final say.

Dan Duryea in One Way Street (1950)

One Way Street (1950) marked the English-language debut of Argentinian-born director Hugo Fregonese, whose mastery of noir aesthetics is evident in the film's bookend sequences. Yet, amidst the rich tapestry of Mexican folklore, the narrative falters, struggling to sustain its cinematic allure.

Of One Way Street, perhaps it is a forgotten film noir gem amidst the glitz of Hollywood's grand productions, and perhaps it is also a Mexican-heavy slide to the death film noir, with a great set up and a slippery middle section, with a somewhat bizarre and ridiculously fateful conclusion.

Gangster hideout in One Way Street (1950)
James Mason, King DonovanMärta Torén, Dan Duryea and William Conrad.

In this shadowy world, Mason portrays a doctor walking the razor's edge of legality, stitching up wounds of the underworld without a word to the authorities. What led him down this dark path remains a mystery, a secret buried beneath layers of deceit.

But when fate intertwines him with Dan Duryea's crew, tensions ignite. A daring bluff leaves Duryea robbed of both loot and love, sparking a deadly vendetta against Mason. The stakes rise as they flee to the desolate corners of Mexico, seeking refuge in a remote village where even outlaws find solace.

Dan Duryea in One Way Street (1950)

Yet, shadows of the past loom large, casting doubt on their newfound peace. Duryea's ruthless enforcers, led by William Conrad and his ilk, are relentless in their pursuit. Even the village's stern priest, played by Basil Ruysdael, cannot shield them from the storm brewing on the horizon.

Amidst this turmoil, Marta Toren's tragic beauty shines like a beacon, a fleeting star in Hollywood's constellation. Though her dreams of stardom were cut short, her allure remains etched in celluloid, a testament to the allure of the silver screen.

For those who wander the dimly lit alleys of film noir, "One Way Street" beckons with its fatalistic allure. A journey through the shadows where danger lurks at every turn, it is a testament to the enduring power of the genre.

In the labyrinthine tale of One Way Street, James Mason assumes the mantle of physician to the nefarious Dan Duryea, a man ensnared in a web of criminality. Their flight from justice leads them to the sun-drenched shores of Mexico, where they find refuge in the embrace of a quaint village, guided by the benevolent hand of a kindly priest, portrayed by the venerable Basil Ruysdael. 

Yet, amidst the warmth of their newfound sanctuary, the specter of retribution looms large, beckoning them back to the shadows of Los Angeles.

Jack Elam in One Way Street (1950)

In the pantheon of James Mason's cinematic oeuvre, his portrayal of doctors stands as a testament to his versatility and depth as an actor. Each character he inhabits is imbued with a unique blend of complexity and turmoil, and this particular doctor is no exception. Yet, there is a distinctiveness to this role that sets it apart from the others.

Unlike his previous portrayals, there are no signs of suicidal tendencies or deadly jealousy here. Instead, our protagonist faces his fate with a stoic acceptance, fully cognizant of the inevitability of his circumstance. The movie's amazing taglines are:

A stolen fortune, a borrowed woman, and a man too many!


Menacing MASON vs Dangerous DURYEA

The opening scene crackles with tension, drawing the audience into a world of suspense that culminates in a gripping car crash - the first of many to come. The motif of the one-way street, introduced early on, resonates throughout the narrative, serving as a harbinger of the trials to come.

Rock Hudson in One Way Street (1950)

Amidst the backdrop of a quaint Mexican village, we encounter a cast of compelling characters - from the enigmatic padre to the local hoodlums with their reckless abandon. The juxtaposition of the serene countryside with the gritty underworld of gangsters lends a palpable sense of contrast to the film. Frank Skinner's evocative score further enhances the atmosphere, seamlessly weaving between moments of romance and pastoral tranquility.

The promise of Mexican cliche in One Way Street (1950)

In essence, One Way Street is quintessential James Mason noir - a mesmerizing journey into the depths of human tragedy. While he may have portrayed similar characters in the past, each iteration is infused with a captivating allure that keeps audiences spellbound until the very end.

One Way Street (1950)

Initially, the narrative unfolds with all the promise of a classic noir, but as our protagonists meander through the idyllic landscapes of Mexico, the story takes a curious turn. Here, the portrayal of the simple Mexican folk, with their eager hospitality and curious youth, veers perilously close to caricature. 

The threat of bandidos adds a frisson of danger, but it is tempered by a saccharine sweetness that rings false. Longing for the grit and darkness of the city streets, we yearn for Mason and Toren to confront their demons on familiar ground and get away from the lightweight bandidos that plague this production.

James Mason in One Way Street (1950)

"You let this dame thing throw ya!" says Arnie to his boss, Dan Duryea, expressive of that most common criminal and professional trope in noir, that thoughts of a woman an reduce a man's focus on dough and comradeship.

The film, directed by Hugo Fregonese, stars James Mason as a doctor who becomes embroiled in a dangerous underworld after crossing paths with a criminal gang led by Dan Duryea. The story unfolds as Mason's character, along with Marta Toren's character, finds themselves in a remote Mexican village after a daring escape from the gang.

Critics note that while the film's opening is strong, with atmospheric shots of Los Angeles and compelling character introductions, it loses momentum once the action shifts to Mexico. The pacing slows down considerably, with long stretches of exposition and minimal plot development. Some reviewers find the Mexican setting and folklore elements to be distracting and less engaging than the noir elements of the story.

Despite these criticisms, there is appreciation for Mason's performance and his portrayal of a conflicted protagonist seeking redemption. Toren's performance is also lauded for her beauty and presence on screen, although some find her chemistry with Mason to be lacking. 

Dan Duryea's role is seen as relatively minor, with limited screen time and less impact compared to his other films.

James Mason in film noir fig in One Way Street (1950)

Technical aspects of the film, such as cinematography and sound design, receive generally positive feedback, with particular praise for the film's visual style and use of lighting to create atmosphere. However, some reviewers point out inconsistencies in the portrayal of Mexican characters and language, noting instances of English fluency among rural villagers and dubbing issues with non-Latino actors.

Overall, "Take Aim at the Police Van" is viewed as a flawed but still entertaining entry in the noir genre, with its strengths lying in its stylish direction, strong performances, and atmospheric storytelling. While it may not reach the heights of other noir classics, it remains a notable addition to James Mason's filmography and a testament to the enduring appeal of the genre.

SPOLIER: Film noir death awaits William Conrad in One Way Street (1950)

Mason and Toren deliver commendable portrayals, their talents shining amidst the shifting sands of fortune. Ruysdael's portrayal of the saintly priest, while imbued with a mischievous glint, teeters on the brink of caricature. 

Duryea, in his archetypal role of the tough-talking gangster, is joined by William Conrad, embodying the essence of the 50's hoodlum with aplomb. Yet, it is in the dark alleys of Los Angeles that the film truly comes alive, gritty and raw, a testament to the unforgiving streets that serve as the crucible of fate.

Märta Torén in One Way Street (1950)

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