CATEGORIES On the Scene

No matter how many times you watch Brian De Palma's mafia classic, it is impossible not to cringe as Kevin Costner lets go of the baby carriage and it rolls in slow motion down the stairs amongst a barrage of gunfire. And even if you've just watched one of Costner's later films, in which he tends to play washed-up middle-aged guys, you'll still think he's a bad-ass as he chases the carriage while shooting nearly all of trigger-happy gangsters.

'The Untouchables' follows the true story of Prohibition agent Eliot Ness (Costner) and his vendetta to bring down Chicago's largest mob boss, Al Capone (Robert De Niro). David Mamet adapted the script from Ness's autobiography. The film favors drama over historical accuracy at times, but it feels pitch-perfect on nailing Prohibition-era Chicago.

No matter how many times you watch Brian De Palma's mafia classic, it is impossible not to cringe as Kevin Costner lets go of the baby carriage and it rolls in slow motion down the stairs amongst a barrage of gunfire. And even if you've just watched one of Costner's later films, in which he tends to play washed-up middle-aged guys, you'll still think he's a bad-ass as he chases the carriage while shooting nearly all of trigger-happy gangsters.

'The Untouchables' follows the true story of Prohibition agent Eliot Ness (Costner) and his vendetta to bring down Chicago's largest mob boss, Al Capone (Robert De Niro). David Mamet adapted the script from Ness's autobiography. The film favors drama over historical accuracy at times, but it feels pitch-perfect on nailing Prohibition-era Chicago.

Location as Character:
Reportedly, the original script set the shootout on a stopped train. However, Paramount Pictures decided that staging the scene on a 1930s period train would be too costly. That's when De Palma decided to set the battle in Chicago's timeless Union Station and pay homage to 'The Battleship Potemkin's' famous Odessa Steps scene.

Sergei Eisenstein's revolutionary Russian silent film portrays the Tsar's Cossacks massacring hundreds of civilians on the Odessa Steps, now since renamed Potemkin Stairs in honor of the real Battleship Potemkin uprising. As a mother in the crowd falls to her death, she nudges her baby carriage down the steps.

The stairs in Chicago's Union Station, which was built during Prohibition, are similar in structure to the Odessa Steps, but smaller. De Palma uses a similar camera angle as Eisenstein used to frame the baby's face as it rolls into danger.

Historical Significance: Nailing the setting of Al Capone's Chicago is a crucial element in this enduring film. While it enjoyed critical success and grossed over $76 million domestically, it also holds a number linchpins for contemporary cinema. It marked a return to form for Brian De Palma, who had just directed the flops 'Wise Guys' and 'Body Double.' He's currently working on the prequel, 'The Untouchables: Capone Rising.'

The film also turned Kevin Costner into bona fide movie star, gave Andy Garcia his big break, marked David Mamet's first box-office goliath and won Sean Connery his first and only Academy Award.

Fun Facts: 'Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult' spoofed the train station scene. That means they actually spoofed a tribute to Sergei Eisenstein's masterpiece. Did you ever think a link could be drawn between 'The Battleship Potemkin' and a 'Naked Gun' film?

Directions:
Chicago Union Station is on the border of Greektown and The Loop on 210 South Canal Street. You can take the 90/94 freeway or public transit on the Pink, Brown, Orange and Purple Lines.

Visitor Info: Both Amtrak and Metra rail lines run from the station. Inside there's also a large food court and car rental agencies.