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He Walked by Night

79 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Based on true events, this film noir classic is a "thrilling, absorbing story, superbly told, well-acted [and] brilliantly photographed" (The Hollywood Reporter). Starring Richard Basehart, Scott Brady and Jack Webb, this "tense, exciting" (Variety) thriller was the inspiration not only for the TV series "Dragnet" but for many other subsequent "ripped from the headlines" crime dramas. Taken from actual case files, He Walked by Night is the suspenseful, action-packed tale of a manhunt for the most cunning criminal in the history of the LAPD. With a combination of ingenuity, state-of-the-art technology, sweat and sheer determination, the police painstakingly track down a brilliant, elusive thief and cop killer who seems to have the ability to vanish into thin air. But can they catch him before he murders again?

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

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Richard Basehart, Scott Brady, Roy Roberts, Whit Bissell, James Cardwell
  • Directors: Alfred L. Werker, Anthony Mann
  • Writers: Crane Wilbur, Harry Essex, John C. Higgins
  • Producers: Bryan Foy, Robert Kane
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English, Spanish
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: MGM
  • DVD Release Date: December 2, 2003
  • Run Time: 79 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000CNY4Z
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,952 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "He Walked by Night" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Gate67 on December 15, 2003
Format: DVD
I think mostly everything that needs to be said about this particular film noir classic has been said before, in other previous reviews. I am adding to the review selection only to tell film buffs that the MGM released DVD of Dec.2nd 2003, is absolutely superior to any previous DVD release for this film. Apparently MGM had the original negative, or at least a top notch print the whole time. For a 55 year old film, this DVD release is excellent, and at a great price. Throw the Alpha, or the Film Noir Of Anthony Mann version to the side. This is the real deal! Great film noir, and a great quality dvd to boot. No extras, but a nice black and white print at a bargain price.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen M. Holland on September 11, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The genius of Richard Basehart, one of our greatest and most underrecognized actors, is showcased in this documentary-style release from the noir tradition. His characterization of the cop killer and thief is unsettling in its intensity and power. The direction and editing are razor-sharp; the use of light and shadow is hypnotic in its effectiveness. In the hands of less gifted people, this film could have come off as a basic 'Fifties low-budget cops and robbers story, but it never lets us down. The suspense is relentless. You feel the starkness, and the dark and damp of the locations chill you. The best thing in the film is Basehart's performance. Watch him in character doing surgery on himself to remove a bullet from a cop's gun. He actually breaks a sweat! You can't take your eyes off him for one frame. There lies true genius as applied to actors. We need more of his films to become available on DVD. Overall, "He Walked By Night" is a winner. It's an excellent choice for any classic crime movie fan who's looking for a truly riveting experience.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By cookieman108 on December 6, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
... with only the names changed to protect the innocent'...does this sound familiar? Some have likened He Walked by Night (1948) to the 50's television series Dragnet, and there are some similarities (one of the biggest being both feature Jack Webb), but this film differs from that popular series in that the focus is one the story, with emphasis placed both on the detective work and the elusive criminal, generally featuring the criminal more prominently, while Dragnet tended to deal more with the character of Joe Friday, with his no nonsense demeanor, and his partner, cracking whatever case may lay before them for that week, in my opinion. I've read that a police department advisor to this film actually suggested to Webb (who had a detective radio show at the time) that he do a radio series based on actual police files, and from this came the idea for Dragnet, which eventually evolved into the television series.

Directed by Alfred L. Werker (apparently Anthony Mann, a name known to noir fans, directed a good part of this film, uncredited), the film stars Richard Basehart, who played Ishmael to Gregory Peck's Captain Ahab in the 1956 version of Moby Dick, but is probably most well known for his vast television credentials spanning the late 50's up until the early 80's prior to his death in 1984 of a stroke (a few of the, in fact). Also appearing is Scott Brady (The Law vs. Billy the Kid), Roy Roberts (Chinatown), Whit Bissell (Target Earth), James Cardwell (The Return of the Whistler), and, as I mentioned before, Jack Webb (Dragnet).

The film starts off with the slaying of a police officer as he stopped on his way home late one night to investigate a suspicious looking character (Basehart) trying to gain entry into an electronics store.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By mirasreviews HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 24, 2005
Format: DVD
The introduction to "He Walked By Night" opens with the statement "This is a true story" and ends with "Only the names have been protect the innocent." If that sounds familiar, it was repeated weekly in the television series "Dragnet", for which "He Walked By Night" was the inspiration. Jack Webb, who produced and starred in two "Dragnet" series in the 1950s and 1960s, plays a forensics expert in this film. The real story behind the movie took place in 1946, when Erwin Walker -World War II veteran, former police department employee, thief and murderer- eluded the Los Angeles police for months.

When a police officer (John McGuire) patrolling the Hollywood beat questions a man he witnessed trying to break into a radio shop, the man shoots him in cold blood. After a citywide dragnet fails to capture the officer's assailant, police Captain Breen (Roy Roberts) assigns the case to Sergeants Marty Brennan and Chuck Jones. They are able to identify the culprit as Roy Martin (Richard Basehart) through an electronics store where he consigns stolen goods, but Martin eludes the police trap. Law enforcement is at a loss to locate a criminal who is clever, resourceful, reclusive, and entirely unknown to the criminal underworld. Until Sergeant Brennan (Scott Brady) has a revelation.

The manhunt and police procedural are narrated by the stentorian voice of Reed Hadley, who narrated perhaps 15 films in his career, including the noir docudramas "T-Men" and "Call Northside 777". Unlike his pursuers, the audience observes the activities and character of Roy Martin as he is hunted. Martin's only redeeming characteristics are his intelligence and his cute dog, but he nevertheless becomes a sort of anti-hero. We know more about him than we do about the wooden police officers.
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