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Sunday, July 3, 2011

HE WALKED BY NIGHT (1948)

Dandy little police procedural, built on the docu-drama model Louis de Rochemont started @ 20th/Fox, still holds up after thousands of tv cop shows. Maybe more than ever, now that its analogue forensic techniques have passed from quaint to historic. (And how cinematic compared to read-outs on computer screens.) Richard Basehart is the ruthless killer whom the police can’t get a bead on. And those cops run the gamut from middle-aged white guy Roy Roberts; to hunky white guy Scott Brady; to that young, whippet-like white guy Jack Webb, the same Jack Webb who made the format his own with DRAGNET. The wall-to-wall narration is a bit much*, but there’s lots of good L.A. atmosphere and knock-out lensing from John Alton, the Prince of Darkness. The obvious standout sequence takes place in the storm drains under L.A., but don’t overlook that bleached-out sterile look he gets in a bungalow courtyard. Alfred Werker is the director of record, but Alton’s great noir partner, Anthony Mann apparently helmed a good chunk of this one.

CONTEST: *Name the full-length commercial feature where the story, dialogue & even the credits are done entirely with narration. (And, no, Chaplin’s re-release of THE GOLD RUSH, where he reads all the inter-titles, doesn’t count.)

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