Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… He Walked By Night (1948)

Now it’s time to start off the month of “Noir-vember” with the 1948 film He Walked By Night, starring Richard Basehart and Scott Brady.

When police officer Rollins observes somebody trying to break into a radio shop, he pulls over to check on him. Before he can do anything, the robber shoots him and makes his escape. Officer Rollins doesn’t survive, and so the killer is hunted down, led by Captain Breen (Roy Roberts), with detectives Marty Brennan (Scott Brady) and Chuck Jones (James Cardwell) helping him. The two detectives almost catch up with the killer at an electronic store he was selling electronic equipment to, but he escapes, shooting and paralyzing Detective Chuck Jones in the process. Afterwards, the killer commits a string of liquor store robberies, but once the police realize the robberies have been committed by the same man, they rely on the robbery witnesses to build a composite sketch of his face. Detective Marty Brennan figures out that the killer must have been associated with the police at one point, and, in questioning other precincts, discovers that the killer is Roy Morgan (Richard Basehart). Once the police discover where he lives, they close in on him. Will the police finally catch him, or will he escape yet again?

The story for this movie was inspired by the then-recent case of William Erwin Walker, nicknamed “Machine Gun Walker,” who had killed a police officer in 1946. In true Hollywood fashion, some things were changed for the movie, but don’t let that stop you. I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I thought I would (and I thought it would be interesting going into it)! While the credited director of the movie is Alfred Werker, there seems to be some contention that director Anthony Mann was involved in directing at least some of the movie. While I don’t know one way or the other about that, I can’t deny this movie left a strong impression on me. Whether it’s scenes like when Richard Basehart’s character is removing a bullet that hit him (without actually showing any blood or gore), or seeing how the police put together the composite image with the help of all the witnesses or the final chase, this movie has many wonderful moments. And of course, the movie’s almost documentary style inspired Jack Webb (who played the lab technician Lee in this movie) to come up with what would become known as Dragnet, which started out on radio before becoming a TV show as well! All in all, a very interesting movie, and one I would highly recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Classicflix, either individually as a special edition with extras or as part of the three-film John Alton Collection (without extras). Extras on the special edition include a commentary by Alan K. Rode and Julie Kirgo, a featurette on the movie, an image gallery and a 24 page booklet with an essay by Max Alvarez along with other pictures related to the movie. But of course, the transfer on this movie is also a highlight, considering how fantastic it looks, which makes it well worth it, with or without extras! The movie is one hour, nineteen minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

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