Last night, I saw "The Original Gangstas" an action film that was shot on location in Gary, Indiana forty-six years after the release of "Appointment with Danger." So much had changed during the interim. Railroad passenger travel had been superseded by airlines and automobiles. While the Union Station figured prominently in both films, the neoclassical structure was an abandoned building by the time that it was used as a gang hideout in the latter film.
The prologue to "The Original Gangstas" covered the serious economic decline of Gary once United States Steel closed its mills. The population of the city was decimated and numerous businesses were shuttered. Poverty and crime flourished.
Location shooting and casting were probably the strongest asset that the movie possessed. Fred Williamson, James Brown, Pam Grier, Richard Roundtree, and Paul Winfield were the lead players. The plot was trite and cliched. It was in effect a rewrite of the made for television Western "The Over the Hill Gang."
One ridiculous plot element was that the inept political administration and the incompetent police department of Gary were depicted as being run by whites. Gary has been led by black politicians almost exclusively since the election of Richard Hatcher in 1967. In fact, Hatcher (along with Carl Stokes of Cleveland) was one of the first African Americans to serve as mayor of a major American city.
The film script makes passing reference to Fred "The Hammer" Williamson's real life (a Gary native who attended Northwester University where he played college football before starring for the Kansas City Chiefs), James Brown, however, was cast as a former heavyweight boxer.
In both films, Gary, Indiana was a far cry from the musical number performed by Ronnie Howard in "The Music Man."