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He Walked By Night

Richard Basehart , Jack Webb , Alfred L. Werker , Alfred Werker    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Product Description

Amazon.ca

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 of Them!). 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 for Dragnet. --Paul Gaita

Product Description

A cunning and intelligent cold-blooded killer evades a massive police investigation in this true-life drama.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Only the names were changed... May 29 2004
Format:DVD
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Only the names have been changed... May 30 2004
Format:DVD
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A superb, genre-defining film Sept. 17 2006
By Daniel Jolley TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
You can't possibly begin a discussion about gritty crime dramas without mentioning He Walked by Night, basically the grand-daddy of police procedurals and an obvious inspiration for the classic Dragnet radio and television series (with the radio series beginning a mere four months after this film's release). Sometimes classified as film noir, He Walked by Night is especially noteworthy for its impressive cinematography (thanks to John Alton) and its semi-documentary-style presentation. You would never know by looking at it that the film was produced for an independent Poverty Row studio (Eagle-Lion), but one must note that the direction owes more to an uncredited Anthony Mann than it does to Alfred L. Werker.

The story is only concerned with the crimes, the criminal, the pursuit, and the capture. None of the cops is given much of a personality (ironically, Jack Webb - in a secondary role as a forensics expert - is probably the most personable fellow in the entire film), but that's what makes this style of film so effective. The L.A. cops who work to track down a man who killed one of their own really represent cops everywhere, straight-laced, fully committed public servants concerned only with doing their jobs and getting bad guys off the streets. No matter how close an individual detective may be to the case, he goes by the book and puts together the puzzle pieces using the latest forensic technology (including, in this case, the equivalent of an Identikit) and investigative techniques. Contrast this with the unrealistic cop films of today, which invariably give us a renegade cop who doesn't play by the rules, routinely beats information out of possible informants, and generally makes a mockery of true police work.
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