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He Walked By Night

Richard Basehart , Scott Brady , Alfred L. Werker , Anthony Mann    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 61.74
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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

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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
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
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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2.0 out of 5 stars Storm Drain Troopers May 31 2004
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Great acting all around
Fab movie, Jack Webb prelude to Dragnet. Great acting all around , Basehart start in films Great script, Why Oldies. Read more
Published 2 months ago by aaron
5.0 out of 5 stars Only the names were changed...
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. Read more
Published on May 29 2004 by Steven Hellerstedt
5.0 out of 5 stars Often misunderstood.
In response to Jammmer's (from Wyoming) review, let me begin by saying that the prerequisite for liking this movie has nothing to do with "Dragnet. Read more
Published on March 25 2004 by yarborough
3.0 out of 5 stars LA Crime, 40s Style
Well--some reviewers consider "He Walked By Night" a masterpiece--at least one other reviewer called it "pathetic". Read more
Published on Feb. 21 2004 by peterfromkanata
2.0 out of 5 stars LA Propaganda? Dead on Arrival?
This reviewer bought this 'docu-melodrama' based on these reviews, not knowing the prerequisite to enjoy this "masterpiece of American cinema" is to regard Jack Webb's "Dragnet" as... Read more
Published on Feb. 1 2004 by jammer
5.0 out of 5 stars MGM digs up gold!
I think mostly everything that needs to be said about this particular film noir classic has been said before, in other previous reviews. Read more
Published on Dec 15 2003 by Gate67
3.0 out of 5 stars very intreging.
it holds my interest to the utmost
Published on Oct. 7 1999 by curtis wade
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