He Walked By Night
	
		
				
			
	
	




	
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He Walked By Night

Language:

English   Country: USA   Year: 1948

He Walked By Night
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Director:

Alfred L. Werker; Anthony Mann

Starring:

Richard Basehart; Scott Brady; Jack Webb

Genres:

Film NoirThriller

Synopsis:

This film noir follows a police manhunt for a psycopathic cop killer. It is shot in semi-documentary fashion and features Jack Webb's first performance as an LA cop. Black & White.

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User Reviews

 

(Average=4.14 out of 5; Total Number=14)


Only The Names Were Changed... (rating=5)

Roy Martin (Richard Basehart) is as cold as an ice pick and as ruthless as teflon. Martin is a burglar, an extortionist, and worst of all, he's a cop killer.
Alfred Werker's HE WALKED BY NIGHT is a taut, moody police procedural. Some have called it a film noir, but it lacks certain key elements to merit that brand. In noir the cops are usually as corrupt as the bad guys. HWBN lacks that moral ambiguity. We never doubt that Martin is evil and the cops are good. Noirs also delight in probing the psyche of the protagonist. HWBN keeps it lead character at arm's length. Martin is a creature of the shadows and the sewers, half emerging into the light only long enough to extort or kill. There's not a shot in this movie that is taken from his point of view. Even when the scene includes only Martin and his dog we're kept at a distance. We're detached observers rather than participants. HWBN wants to exterminate rather than examine and explain. Evil can't be understood by the good, but it can be eliminated.
I wouldn't pick at this point if MGM didn't call HE WALKED BY NIGHT "this film noir classic" on the dvd jacket. The difference between HWBN and film noir is as great as the difference between Faulkner and Hemingway, and fans of the genre shouldn't be misled.
If you looking for comparisons, DRAGNET is a lot more appropriate. Jack Webb has a small role in here, and it was while working on this movie he met the LAPD technical advisor who helped him develop Dragnet for radio (it debuted shortly after the movie opened.) As it goes in most police procedurals, the bad guy is too clever by half and the good guys can prevail only after a painstaking investigation and a slow accumulation of evidence.
What HWBN does share with film noir is a gritty, alienating, urban setting and evocative light-and-shadow photography. Los Angeles is presented here as cold and lifeless, filled with anonymous cottages and enormous storm tunnels.
That said, HE WALKED BY NIGHT is a wonderful movie. Basehart is icily effective as the loner killer. The semi-documentary feeling and naturalistic acting styles employed are just right for the subject matter. If you don't find yourself running out of the room every time an old Dragnet or a newer CSI comes on, you might just enjoy this one.

Storm Drain Troopers (rating=2)

He Walked by Night is okay, but it isn't classic film noir.

If you want to see how Jack Webb's TV show Dragnet developed its style, this police procedural is the blueprint. Oddly (considering his wooden TV acting), here Jack Webb plays the most interesting cop. Webb is a CSI-type, spending his time in the laboratory comparing bullet striations and playing with explosives. The tough-guy detectives make fun of his soft-spoken manner. He lets the neanderthals mock him because he knows he's smarter than they are.

Except for Richard Basehart's insane killer techno-wizard, the acting is mediocre. You see a couple of the character actors who became regulars in Webb's repertory company for Dragnet.

When a cop is killed, the LAPD rounds up every male alone on the the streets. They roust men out of hotels and arrest everyone who looks suspicious. They handcuff all the scum together and drag them downtown. But they don't get the guy who actually killed the cop because he's a good-looking young white war veteran and doesn't resemble the types they instinctively go after.

As the narrator speaking to us from 1948 describes how the police go about rounding up all these lowlifes, he assumes we won't worry about any rights of theirs that are being violated. After all, it's only been seven years since Japanese-Americans were rounded up and put in camps.

When the cops try to interrogate an old Chinese man dressed like he walked in from a Fu Manchu movie, they can't hide their exasperation at his speaking his own language.

I expected there to be more to Richard Basehart's character. When the police first discover his scientific equipment and weapons, it looks like he's been planning something big, but nothing ever comes of it.

We never find out why someone so intelligent became a thief and killer. Because he uses the sewers under Los Angeles to avoid the police, I expected one (admittedly overdramatic) ending, but the police just track him down.

The ending is flat. You don't feel that justice is served, or order restored.

Only The Names Have Been Changed... (rating=5)

Roy Martin (Richard Basehart) is as cold as an ice pick and as ruthless as teflon. Martin is a burglar, an extortionist, and worst of all, he's a cop killer.
Alfred Werker's HE WALKED BY NIGHT is a taut, moody police procedural. Some have called it a film noir, but it lacks certain key elements to merit that brand. In noir the cops are usually as corrupt as the bad guys. HWBN lacks that moral ambiguity. We never doubt that Martin is evil and the cops are good. Noirs also delight in probing the psyche of the protagonist. HWBN keeps it lead character at arm's length. Martin is a creature of the shadows and the sewers, half emerging into the light only long enough to extort or kill. There's not a shot in this movie that is taken from his point of view. Even when the scene includes only Martin and his dog we're kept at a distance. We're detached observers rather than participants. HWBN wants to exterminate rather than examine and explain. Evil can't be understood by the good, but it can be eliminated.
I wouldn't pick at this point if MGM didn't call HE WALKED BY NIGHT "this film noir classic" on the dvd jacket. The difference between HWBN and film noir is as great as the difference between Faulkner and Hemingway, and fans of the genre shouldn't be misled.
If you looking for comparisons, DRAGNET is a lot more appropriate. Jack Webb has a small role in here, and it was while working on this movie he met the LAPD technical advisor who helped him develop Dragnet for radio (it debuted shortly after the movie opened.) As it goes in most police procedurals, the bad guy is too clever by half and the good guys can prevail only after a painstaking investigation and a slow accumulation of evidence.
What HWBN does share with film noir is a gritty, alienating, urban setting and evocative light-and-shadow photography. Los Angeles is presented here as cold and lifeless, filled with anonymous cottages and enormous storm tunnels.
That said, HE WALKED BY NIGHT is a wonderful movie. Basehart is icily effective as the loner killer. The semi-documentary feeling and naturalistic acting styles employed are just right for the subject matter. If you don't find yourself running out of the room every time an old Dragnet or a newer CSI comes on, you might just enjoy this one.


Summary

This gritty and often chilling documentary-style noir (based on a true story) about the hunt for a cop killer in Los Angeles is a must-have for fans of vintage crime films. Richard Basehart stars as a cold-blooded thief whose murder of a police officer sets off a citywide manhunt; the law, led by granite-jawed Scott Brady, tracks him relentlessly until the pair square off in the shadow-steeped drainage canals beneath the city (the same locale for the finale ofThem!). Though Alfred Werker is credited as director, noir and Western vet Anthony Mann actually helmed the majority of the film; his muscular direction lends palpable suspense to the picture, aided in no small part by longtime collaborators John C. Higgins (who co-wrote the script) and cinematographer John Alton, whose Germanic-influenced lighting creates an otherworldly atmosphere. Supporting cast member Jack Webb borrowed the no-nonsense, semi-documentary approach forDragnet.--Paul Gaita