One Way Street (1950)

  • Year: 1950
  • Released: 01 Apr 1950
  • Country: United States
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  • Available in: 720p, 1080p,
  • Language: English, Spanish
  • MPA Rating: Approved
  • Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
  • Runtime: 79 min
  • Writer: Lawrence Kimble
  • Director: Hugo Fregonese
  • Cast: James Mason, Märta Torén, Dan Duryea
  • Keywords: mexico, gangster, film noir,

One Way Street Storyline

Shortly after a bank robbery, gangster John Wheeler and his henchmen hide in a small apartment, awaiting for the rest of the gang to arrive. Also in the apartment are Wheeler’s girlfriend, Laura and the gang’s surgeon, Dr. Frank Matson. Wheeler asks Dr. Matson for a few headache pills. After taking the medication, Wheeler is shocked to find out that he has been poisoned by the doctor and he will die in 48 hours unless he receives the antidote from Dr. Matson. Matson takes the bag containing the bank loot and also asks Laura to join him in escaping the gang. The doctor tells Wheeler that he will give him instructions via a phone call to help Wheeler find the antidote once the doctor will safely be far away with the bank loot and the girl.Wheeler has no choice and allows Dr. Matson and Laura to leave the apartment with the bank loot. However,their getaway is fraught with unforeseen dangers, including a vengeful Wheeler who is determined to recuperate his bank loot and his girl and kill Dr. Matson.

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One Way Street Movie Reviews

A defrocked doctor

In the Citadel Film series book on The Films Of James Mason, Mason himself said that he was never told by viewers that they saw this film or was ever questioned about it. I guess that One Way Street might be overlooked in the big budget films that would shortly follow in his career. That’s a pity because this one is a good, but fatalistic noir film, something along the lines of Odd Man Out.

In One Way Street Mason is a doctor whose practice is on the wrong side of the law, patching up criminals and not reporting about it. We’re never told brought him to this because no one starts this way in the field of medicine.

While on a house call to Dan Duryea’s mob after they’ve pulled a heist, Duryea rides Mason once too often and through a rather ingenious bluff he winds up stealing the loot from a robbery the gang just pulled off. Not only that, he winds up stealing Marta Toren away from Duryea so Dan has two reasons for going after him.

Mason and Toren have to land in a remote village in Mexico when the plane they’ve chartered develops engine trouble. Even a defrocked doctor is welcome among these people where Mason and Toren settle and start to enjoy life a little, but life and the past do catch up.

Duryea’s henchmen include William Conrad, King Donovan, and Jack Elam who are as scurvy a lot as you’ll find. Basil Ruysdael who is always an authority figure of some kind is fine as the local priest at the village where Mason and Toren are staying. Look fast or you’ll miss Rock Hudson in a bit role as a truckdriver with one line in the film.

Marta Toren who hoped to succeed both Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman as a cinema sensation from Sweden died tragically young. She never broke into A pictures in America, but she was for me one of the most beautiful women the big screen ever saw.

If your genre is noir you cannot go wrong with One Way Street.

Great beginning, pretty good ending. Too bad about the middle

One Way Street opens beautifully. Sirens shriek through the Los Angeles nightscape while, from the window of an apartment building, an elegant woman (Marta Toren) smokes as she watches them disappear. She reports her observations to Dan Duryea, who has just masterminded a big heist. One of his lieutenants (William Conrad), however, has taken a bullet, which gang-sawbones James Mason is summoned to extract. He does so, meanwhile launching a ploy by which he departs not only with all the loot but with Toren – Duryea’s moll. Although fate almost deflects their escape, they finally cross the border to Mexico.

And here the movie settles in for a long siesta. Mason and Toren find themselves in a primitive village where Mason’s medical skills are pressed into service (he cures a horse but can’t save a little girl). There’s plenty of warmed-over wisdom issuing from an itinerant priest (Basil Ruysdael) and plenty of danger from bandidos who keep cropping up, swigging mezcal while wiping their lips with the backs of their hands and eying Toren up, down and sideways. Despite these distractions, she seems to like it there and wants to stay, but Mason wants to press on to Mexico City (and their divergent goals and low-key temperaments serve to keep the romance distinctly cool).

This snooze is interrupted a couple of times by cuts back to Los Angeles, where Duryea and Conrad are bent on recouping the money – and on revenge. But only when Mason returns to have a face-to-face reckoning with Duryea does the movie spring back to life. And in a rhyme of its earlier, unexpected intervention, fate proves that it always has the last word.

One Way Street was the first feature in English by the Argentinian-born director Hugo Fregonese, who stayed in Hollywood long enough to churn out a few westerns and genre-pictures (Man In The Attic, one of the many versions of The Lodger was his work). From the bookends that open and close One Way Street, he had a feel for the look and pace of film noir, but the thick volume of Mexican folklore they surround turns out to be a not very film-worthy property.

I hate the Production Code

….which ruined the ending of this movie.

“One Way Street” from 1950 stars James Mason, Marta Toren, Dan Duryea, and William Conrad. Mason plays Dr. Frank Matson, a mobster, John Wheeler’s (Duryea) doctor. It isn’t clear why the doctor isn’t in practice; one assumes he botched an operation or something.

Matson steals $200,000 from Wheeler by telling him he has just given him poison, and that he’ll call in one hour with the antidote. He then leaves with the money and Wheeler’s girlfriend Laura (Toren). They wind up in a small village in Mexico where the two become fixtures – Matson provides medical care for the people and animals, and Laura says it’s the only place she has ever felt safe.

However, Wheeler is looking for them, so Matson makes a tough decision.

Well the code wrecked the end of this film. I was very disappointed.

Someone commented that Mason was miscast – he certainly has a lot of class and expertise for a mob doctor, who are usually drunks whose hands shake. Marta Toren was so beautiful, but she died at the age of 31. Tragic. Dan Duryea is his usual mean self, and William Conrad is on hand as a fellow thug.

Good movie except for…the end.