Union City (film)

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Union City
Directed by Marcus Reichert
Produced by Monty Montgomery
Written by Marcus Reichert
Starring Dennis Lipscomb
Deborah Harry
Everett McGill
Music by Chris Stein
Cinematography Edward Lachman
Columbia Pictures
The Tuxedo Company
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • May 17, 1980 (1980-05-17)
Running time
82 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $500,000 approx.

Union City is a 1980 American crime mystery film starring Dennis Lipscomb, Deborah Harry and Everett McGill. It was based on the short story Union City: The Corpse Next Door by Cornell Woolrich and released by The Tuxedo Company and Columbia Pictures on May 17, 1980.


Harlan (Lipscomb) is a repressed, uptight accountant living in an apartment block with his beautiful, neglected wife Lillian (Harry). He becomes obsessed with discovering who is drinking from the milk bottles left outside his apartment every morning, so he ties some cord to a bottle which will alert him when it's taken, and through this he finds the culprit to be a homeless war veteran (Sam McMurray). The vagrant apologises but the obsessive Harlan attacks him, knocking him down and seemingly cracking his skull. In a panic he hides the body behind the folding bed in another vacant apartment opposite his own.

Harlan's behaviour becomes ever more irrational, driving Lillian away from him and into the arms of building supervisor Larry Longacre (McGill); he believes another deranged resident known as the Contessa (Irina Maleeva) is planning to run away with him and puts potential residents off the room where he hid the vagrant's body with his bizarre behaviour.

However, eventually a young couple of newly-weds, Alphonse (Tony Azito) and Jeanette (Pat Benatar) Flourescu move in. Harlan attempts to dissaude Alphonse from opening the bed but is unsuccessful. Alphonse looks at the bloody but empty bed as a terrified Harlan throws himself through the apartment to his death on the street below. A crowd gathers around his body, watched briefly by the disinterested vagrant, alive with his head bandaged.



The film co-starred Deborah Harry of Blondie fame. At the time she was cast the band was relatively unknown in its home country but this changed when "Heart of Glass" hit #1 in the US midway through filming. As director Marcus Reichert would later recall this considerably complicated filming. She was forbidden to sing in the film or on its soundtrack for contractual reasons but her experiences reputedly led to the recording of the Blondie song "Union City Blue". The film also featured a small role for up and coming singer Pat Benatar, a friend of Harry also soon to make a mainstream breakthrough in the pop charts. Harry's partner and fellow Blondie member Chris Stein performed the film's original score.

The short story written by Woolrich had been set in the 1930s but Reichert relocated it to 1953 as he felt the period fitted the material better. He wrote the screenplay in eight days. The movie was filmed on location on 27th Street off Summit Avenue in Union City, filming also on 48th Street and Hudson Ave, in March 1979. The film was cut by distributors Movielab to get a PG rating; the excised material is believed by Reichert to have been destroyed when the building it was housed in was sold to Arriflex. The film has been released on DVD by Tartan Video and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

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