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Prison Train (October 26, 1938)

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Prison Train

Released October 26, 1938: The new D.A. has it out for Frankie, and when he accidentally kills a rival's son, he is sent to the pen on the Prison Train, where his rival tries to kill him.

Directed by Gordon Wiles

The Actors: Fred Keating (Frankie Terris), Dorothy Comingore (Louise Terris), Clarence Muse (train steward), Faith Bacon (Maxine), Alexander Leftwich (Manny Robbins), James Blakeley (Joe Robbins), Sam Bernard (George), John Pearson (Red), Nestor Paiva (Morose), Val Stanton (Sullen), Peter Potter (Bill Adams), Kit Guard (guard), Franklyn Farnum (the lawyer), George Lloyd (Bull), Harry Anderson (Hardface), Ivan Christy (singing Danish prisoner), Eddie Coke (Fingers), Jack Gordon (thug at the car).


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Prison Train is a cross-country adventure in crime and railroads. Frankie Terris is the biggest gangster in New York City, with a hot nightclub and illegal booze. But prohibition is over now, he needs to find a different means of income, and the numbers racket becomes his specialty. The new District Attorney is after him, and he decides to take his sister on an extended European holiday until the heat blows over. Before he leaves town though, he needs to settle some business with another gangster/nightclub owner. He and his sister drop in on Manny Robbins at his club, and Manny's son Joe takes an immediate liking to Frankie's sister, and they go dancing in the club while Manny and Frankie talk business. Later that night when Joe tries to kiss Frankie's sister, Frankie gets mad, and follows Joe when he leaves, and when they fight, Frankie accidentally kills Manny's boy Joe, and they happen to be on the Federal Post Office property when it happens.

So Frankie is caught, tried, and sent to the Federal Prison at Alkatraz, "The Rock," and this involves a cross-country train ride with a handful of prisoners in a train car that has bars and guards. Here is where the suspense and adventure happen. Manny swears to avenge his son's death by killing Frankie before he reaches Alkatraz, and he has men planted along the route and on the train to accomplish this. Things get more complicated when Frankies sister, instead of going to Europe alone as Frankie insisted, books passage on the same train to accompany Frankie to California. On the train she meets a nice fellow that turns out to be a government man that is trying to protect Frankie and get him to California in one piece. There is a gangster shoot-out on the train, but I'm not telling who gets killed and who survives . . .

This old movie was made during the early days of sound, and today we might call it 'documentary style,' with very little background music to fill the spaces between the dialogue, but you'll enjoy this slice of film history for it's gritty gangster aura.