Cast & Crew
After their initial success with atomic power, scientists in the United States secretly launch the XGMI, the first atomic-powered guided missile. Soon after the launch, three foreign agents, Otto, Stefan and Hogar, seize radio control of the missile, but lose their navigational ability when their equipment malfunctions. After XGMI crashes in the Nevada desert, the spies, hoping to retrieve the rocket for their country, hurry there. Posing as uranium prospectors, they board the rickety "Carolina Cannonball," a steam-driven streetcar that runs along a spur between a deserted whistle stop at a remote railroad junction and the town of Roaring Gulch. Operating the trolley are Judy Canova and her speed-demon grandfather, Rutherford Canova. When the spies arrive in town, they discover that Judy and her grandpa are the sole remaining inhabitants of the former gold mining boomtown, which is falling apart from neglect. After settling into a dusty room in the town's dilapidated hotel, the spies tell Judy that they are expecting a shipment containing their prospecting equipment. That evening, as Judy pines for love, Grandpa, heartened by the arrival of prospectors, anticipates the town's revival and promises that she will soon have a tall, strong and brown-eyed sweetheart. On their next trolley run to the junction, Judy encounters the tall, strong and brown-eyed Don Mack, who claims to be a prospector, but is really an undercover government intelligence agent pursuing the spies. On the ride to Roaring Gulch, Don's baggage containing his walkie-talkie is crushed, severing his contact with headquarters. In town, Don tries to warn Grandpa about the spies, but the hard-of-hearing older man misunderstands him and thinks he is expressing his admiration for Judy. Don then tries to talk to Judy, but the spies show up and, to avoid being seen by them, he leaves abruptly without getting his message across. After unpacking their equipment, the spies steal the "Carolina" to search the desert for XGMI, but when the trolley's boiler explodes, they must walk back to town. Upon discovering that their room has been searched, they realize Don is a government agent and capture him with Judy's misguided help. Believing that Don is a thief and that the men just want to help him reform, Judy leaves Don alone with the enemy agents. After she departs, they begin to interrogate Don, but Otto's fumbling attempts backfire and the spy confesses more than his prisoner. Outside, Judy and Grandpa discover that the "Carolina" is missing and follow the track to where it sits, broken and abandoned. While Grandpa begins repairs, Judy searches the nearby desert for the trolley's pieces and finds the XGMI, which she mistakes for a wing tank of an airplane. The resourceful Canovas then use the XGMI to replace the boiler and Judy fashions discarded pieces of the rocket into a bracelet. With more vigor than before, the "Carolina" takes them back to town, where the spies' equipment, a radiation detector, registers the XGMI's proximity. However, readings from the equipment become garbled in the presence of Judy's bracelet, which causes lights, pinball machines and the player piano to act bizarrely. When the spies eventually learn from the gullible Judy that the XGMI now serves as the trolley's boiler, they tie her up next to Don and hijack the vehicle with Grandpa still on board. Motivated by the threat to national security, Don and Judy quickly untie themselves and jump on the "Carolina" before it leaves town. As the atomic-powered "Carolina" speeds along the track at a frightening rate, a fight ensues, but Don and Judy eventually overcome the spies and tie them up. Unable to stop the rocket-fueled trolley, Don fears that it will increase speed until it blows up and kills innocent bystanders. After the "Carolina" leaves the spur and races toward Las Vegas on a main railroad line, Don writes a note of warning and throws it to the bewildered stationmaster at a small whistle stop along the route. The stationmaster relays the message to the proper authorities and soon Air Force planes fly above the "Carolina," dropping bombs to blow it off the track before it reaches the populated area. Unsupervised by their captors, the spies free themselves and force Don and the Canovas to jump off the racing trolley. Afterward, the bombers hit their target and the "Carolina" and its occupants are blown to bits. Later, in Don and Judy's presence, Grandpa demonstrates to the Atomic Power Commission a working model of the "Carolina," which has been declared the first atomic-powered streetcar and proof that the country has entered the atomic age.
R. Dale Butts
T. A. Carman
Frank Gill Jr.
John Mccarthy Jr.
A. J. Vitarelli
Herbert J. Yates
Leon Askin (1907-2005)
Born in Vienna, Austria as Leo Aschkenasy on September 18, 1907, Askin developed a taste for theater through his mother's love of cabaret, and as a youngster, often accompanied his mother to weekend productions.
He made a go of acting as a profession in 1925, when he took drama classes from Hans Thimig, a noted Austrian stage actor at the time. The following year, he made his Vienna stage debut in Rolf Lauckner's "Schrei aus der Strasse."
For the next six year (1927-33), he was a popular stage actor in both Vienna and Berlin before he was prevented to work on the stage by Hitler's SA for being a Jew. He left for Paris in 1935 to escape anti-semetic persecution, but returned to Vienna in 1935, to find work (albeit a much lower profile to escape scrutiny), but after a few years, the writing was on the wall, and he escaped to New York City in 1939, just at the outbreak of World War II. His luck in the Big Apple wasn't really happening, and in 1941, he relocated to Washington D.C. and briefly held the position of managing director of the Civic Theatre, a popular city venue of the day. Unfortunately, after the tragic events of Pearl Harbor in December of that year, the United States became involved in the war that had already engulfed Europe for two years, and seeing a possibility to expediate his application for American citizenship, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.
After the war, Leon indeed became a U.S. citizen and changed his name from Leon Aschkenasy to Leon Askin. He returned to New York and found work as a drama teacher, and more importantly, landed his first gig on Broadway, as director and actor in Goethe's Faust in 1947, which starred Askin in the title character opposite the legendary Albert Bassermann who played Mephisto. The production was a huge success. Askin followed this up with another director/actor stint with Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice and co-starred with Jose Ferrer in Ben Hecht's 20th Century. They were all Broadway hits, and Askin had finally achieved the success he had worked so hard to seek and merit.
It wasn't long before Hollywood came calling, and soon Askin, with his rich German accent and massive physical presence, made a very effective villian in a number of Hollywood films: the Hope-Crosby comedy Road to Bali (1952); Richard Burton's first hit film The Robe; and the Danny Kaye vehicle Knock on Wood (1954).
Askin's roles throughout the 50's were pretty much in this "menacing figure" vein, so little did anyone suspect that around the corner, Billy Wilder would be offering him his most memorable screen role - that of the Russian commissar Peripetschikof who gleefully embraces Amercian Capitalism in the scintillating politcal satire, One, Two, Three (1961). Who can forget this wonderfully exchange between Peripetschikof and Coca Cola executive C.R. MacNamara (James Cagney):
Peripetschikof: I have a great idea to make money. I have a storage full of saurkraut and I'll sell it as Christmas tree tinsil!
MacNamara: You're a cinch!
His performance for Wilder was wonderfully comedic and wholly memorable, and after One, Two, Three the film roles for Askin got noticable better, especially in Lulu and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (both 1962); but he began to find prominent guest shots on hit television shows too: My Favorite Martian and The Outer Limits to name a few; yet his big break came in 1965, when for six seasons he played General Albert Burkhalter, the Nazi general who was forever taking Col. Kilink's ineptitude to task in Hogan's Heroes (1965-71).
Roles dried up for Askin after the run of Hogan's Heroes, save for the occassional guest spot on television: Diff'rent Strokes, Three's Company, Happy Days; and parts in forgettable comedies: Going Ape! (1981), Airplane II: The Sequel (1982). After years of seclusion, Askin relocated to his birthplace of Vienna in 1994, and he began taking parts in numerous stage productions almost to his death. In 2002, he received the highest national award for an Austrian citizen when he was bestowed with the Austrian Cross of Honor, First Class, for Science and Art. He is survived by his third wife of three years, Anita Wicher.
by Michael T. Toole
Leon Askin (1907-2005)
In the opening scenes, voice-over narration by Art Gilmore describes the beginning of the atomic age, and footage is shown of a mushroom cloud and the atomic-powered submarine, U.S.S. Nautilus. According to an August 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, portions of the film were shot in the Mojave Desert of California. Although modern sources add Roy Barcroft to the cast, he was not discernable in the viewed print. About the film's portrayal of the enemy spies, the Variety review stated, "This May be taking an insignificant picture too seriously, but the reality of recent times relating to spies, enemy agents, and atomic secrets, hardly makes the subject a laughing matter. In the light of what has happened and the continuing danger, it seems a disservice to portray these agents as stupid, left-footed nincompoops."