Cast & Crew
Frankie Terris runs the numbers racket in his town without serious problems with the law, even though the district attorney would like to find a way to put him in jail. Frankie's sister Louise, who is as devoted to him as he to her, knows that Frankie must be in the rackets and wants him to quit, so he promises to "sell" his business to nightclub owner Manny Robbins and leave with her for a long trip to Europe. Unknown to Frankie, Manny has been coerced into trapping him by the district attorney. When Frankie finds out, he orders his henchmen to kill Manny, but they accidentally kill Manny's son Joe instead. Frankie is convicted of the murder and sentenced to Alcatraz, but before he leaves, a grief-ridden Manny unsuccessfully tries to kill him. When Manny is arrested for attempted murder, some of his men resolve to kill Frankie and follow him on the train heading for Alcatraz. Just before the train leaves, Louise overhears plans for Frankie's murder and goes into one of the train's passenger cars to find a way to warn her brother. At the same time, government agent Bill Adams joins the train and befriends Louise. While the train is traveling through the mid-West, Manny and Frankie have a shootout and Manny is killed. Louise is then consoled by Bill.
Alvin G. Manuel
L. B. Merman
B. F. Zeidman
Shortly after the point in the story in which the character Louise tries to warn her brother on the prison train, the viewing print ended. Plot description of the remaining minutes of the film has been reconstructed from contemporary reviews, which do not fully explain some of the details. Although no exact release date has been verified for the film, most reviews appeared in mid to late October 1938, indicating an October 1938 release date. Film Daily reviewed the film twice, on 26 October and November 10, 1938, respectively. While the 26 October review credits Mathew Borden with the story and Spencer Towne with the screenplay, as do the film and other reviews, the 10 November review credits Shepard Traube with the screenplay and Leonardo Bercovici as the author of the story. As neither Film Daily Year Book nor any other source mentions Traube or Bercovici, their names probably were placed in the latter review in error. Hollywood Reporter notes that this film marked the motion picture debut of "the original fan dancer," Faith Bacon. Pre-production news item in Hollywood Reporter and Motion Picture Daily note that Prison Train was to be Majestic Pictures' first film for the newly formed Malcolm Brown Pictures, Inc. Screen credits and all information located on the film after its release call it an Equity release and do not mention Majestic. The Hollywood Reporter review of the film notes that it was the first production of the Benny Zeidman-Malcolm Brown Pictures Corp., and the Motion Picture Herald review calls it the "inaugural effort" of Equity Pictures. Onscreen credits only list Equity Pictures. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, the picture was partially filmed on location in the Southern Pacific Railroad yard in Los Angeles. This was the first major role in a feature film for actress Linda Winters, who portrayed Louise Terris in the picture. Winters changed her name to Dorothy Comingore, the name under which she acted in her most famous role, "Susan" in Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941).