The Film-Noir Bunch
Take a bunch of actors who had appeared in a bunch of film-noir thrillers and have them play similar characters except place them in the Wild West rather than a damp city street and you end up with "Station West". It is a curious experience watching "Station West" because so much of it says film-noir such as Dick Powell starring as a private investigator and Jane Greer as a femme fatale, plus there are scenes with typical film-noir dialogue. Yet because we are talking a western there is just as many scenes with typical western dialogue and there is next to no use of light and shadow to try and create atmosphere. It makes it entertaining but also a little strange and whilst probably the closest I have come to watching a western film-noir it doesn't quite pull it off.
When two cavalry men transporting a gold shipment are killed government private investigator Lt. John Martin Haven (Dick Powell - Farewell My Lovely) arrives in town incognito to try and get to the bottom of their murders. Quickly learning that Charlie (Jane Greer - Out of the Past) basically runs the town he is surprised to find out that Charlie is the pretty little singer he was making eyes at in the saloon. Talking his way in to a job working for her, Haven sets about getting to the bottom of who is behind the murders and theft whilst having to deal with the eager Captain George Iles (Tom Powers) who doesn't like all the subterfuge.
So "Station West" is this curious mix of western and film-noir which in truth ends up more western than noir. It's actually not bad with Haven tricking his way into Charlie's business to try and find out who is actually behind the murders and having to deal with the fact he likes Charlie. It isn't the most original of ideas as there were numerous westerns which featured a lawman going undercover to try and find out who was behind robberies and murders but it works.
The difference with "Station West" comes from the cast who are familiar for doing thrillers and film-noir playing the equivalent of their film-noir characters but in a western. It gives the movie that something extra which to be frank only really works if you know that the likes of Dick Powell, Jane Greer and Agnes Moorehead did film-noir. In fact it adds something else as well because whilst we have Dick Powell playing a private investigator he is not weighed down by overly heavy or descriptive dialogue and is allowed to have a more playful, western persona. It makes it amusing to watch these actors play these film noir roles but as western characters all with a touch of western playfulness.
The only problem I have is the style and in fairness this must have been the hardest part of making "Station West" for director Sidney Lanfield. The problem is that there is very little style other than typical western with only one scene really using darkness to create atmosphere as you would expect from film-noir. The daft thing is that in style it is solid, it is a well made western but because of the curious blend of film-noir with western you are expecting something more and different.
What this all boils down to is that "Station West" is an entertaining western but it is more interesting for having the film-noir element of actors and characters. It isn't a western film-noir because it lacks the most important ingredients of style and atmosphere but it is the closest I have come across and well worth a watch.