Union City (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Union City
Directed byMarcus Reichert
Produced byMonty Montgomery
Written byMarcus Reichert
Music byChris Stein
CinematographyEdward Lachman
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • May 17, 1980 (1980-05-17)
Running time
82 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$500,000 approx.

Union City is a 1980 American crime mystery film directed by Marcus Reichert and 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 dissuade 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 starred Deborah Harry of Blondie fame, Everett McGill, and Dennis Lipscomb. At the time Harry was cast, the band was relatively unknown but this changed when "Heart of Glass" hit #1 in the US midway through filming. As director Marcus Reichert would later recall, she was forbidden to sing on the film's soundtrack for contractual reasons but her experiences led to the recording of the Blondie song "Union City Blue". Reichert also cast singer Pat Benatar, soon to make a mainstream breakthrough in the pop charts, in a featured role. Deborah Harry's partner and fellow Blondie member Chris Stein performed the film's original score.

The short story written by Cornell Woolrich had been set in the 1930s but Reichert relocated it to 1953 as he felt the period offered greater psychological possibilities for his interpretation of the material. With the encouragement of the film's originating producer Monty Montgomery, he wrote the screenplay in eight days. Union City was filmed on location on 27th Street off Summit Avenue in Union City, and on 48th Street and Hudson Ave, in March 1979. Although hailed as "an unqualified masterpiece" by critic Lawrence O'Toole when it appeared in The Directors' Fortnight at Cannes in 1980 and United Artists offered to distribute Reichert's finished film, the film was recut by co-producers Kinesis Ltd., who decided to be the American distributor, to get a PG rating; the excised material is believed by Reichert to have been destroyed when the Movielab building, in which the film was stored, was sold to Arriflex. The film has been released on DVD by Tartan Video and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film is now under contract to MGM/UA Pictures.

External links[edit]