June 14, 2017

He Walked by Night.

Review #947: He Walked by Night.

Richard Basehart (Roy Martin/Roy Morgan), Scott Brady (Sgt. Marty Brennan), Roy Roberts (Captain Breen), Whit Bissell (Paul Reeves), James Cardwell (Sgt. Chuck Jones), and Jack Webb (Lee) Directed by Alfred L. Werker (#676 - Shock and #721 - The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)

This is an interesting type of film noir in the fact that it is shot in a semidocumentary tone that is also loosely based off the crime spree of Erwin "Machine Gun" Walker, who like the character in the film was a former police employee and World War II veteran that committed thefts and burglaries with police in Los Angeles roughly three years before the film was made. In any case, this is a police procedural that does not waste much time in establishing its story along with its choices in how to film it, from the narration that occurs throughout the movie to the cinematography by John Alton (who I previously mentioned in The Big Combo - #934) to the group of police characters (and small supporting cast) that are given focus. Werker (along with an uncredited Anthony Mann) gives fine direction to the movie, delivering tension and violence without overshadowing the story.

Basehart gives the gritty kind of performance for a movie bounding itself in reality and having no sort of frills, and it works quite well in serving its purpose. Brady and Roberts are fairly decent police leads, working the movie in a serviceable way. Bissell does a fine job in making this character feel gullible but not outright annoyingly weaselly. One thing to note is that Jack Webb was inspired by a conversation with Detective Sergeant Mary Wynn (who served as police technical advisor for the movie) to create Dragnet, which is the most notable and most influential police procedural drama that had separate runs on radio and television.  Reed Hadley provides the narration in an uncredited role, and he does a capable job, doing a fair job in making the movie seem accessible. There is a consistent type of pace in this 79 minute movie, where nothing seems over-extended past a logical conclusion nor too short; one highlight is the scene where they attempt to identify the suspect via building a composite, with numerous changes before it is finally finished. The ending scene in the sewers is a riveting finale that has the right balance of sounds, shadows and lights, with Basehart's expressions and movements being quite helpful in seeing the climax to its bitter end (which is not exactly like the events in real life, but no matter). This is a fine little gem that does it by the book and succeeds.

To any readers, I am experimenting with using hyperlinks for anytime a previous review is mentioned. With any luck, this will work out without any problems. Hope you enjoy it.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

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