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He Walked By Night

4.0 out of 5 stars 94 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

This film-noir piece, told in semi-documentary style, follows police on the hunt for a resourceful criminal who shoots and kills a cop.

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Special Features

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Product Details

  • Actors: Jack Webb, Richard Basehart
  • Directors: Alfred Werker
  • Writers: Crane Wilbur
  • Producers: Bryan Foy
  • Format: NTSC
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: Desert Island Films
  • DVD Release Date: June 8, 2011
  • Run Time: 79 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00551WU4I
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #685,532 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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... 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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Well--some reviewers consider "He Walked By Night" a masterpiece--at least one other reviewer called it "pathetic". From my three stars, you can guess that I am somewhere between these two extreme views. I can think of a number of 40s "film noir" melodramas that are superior to this one, but I still found it an interesting way of passing 80 minutes.
With respect to acting honours, it is no contest. This is Richard Basehart's movie, hands down. His cold-blooded killer is a very different animal to some of the rough-looking types
( hello Rondo Hatton ) that inhabit some of these movies. We are reminded that, years before his TV fame on "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea ", Richard Basehart was a very fine actor. I agree that most of the actors portraying "LA's finest" are stone-faced, cardboard cut-outs--Scott Brady and, of course, Jack Webb are wooden in the extreme. I thought that Roy Roberts fared a bit better, expressing emotion that seemed to be beyond the grasp of those zombies reporting to him. B-movie regular, Whit Bissell, is appropriately nervous as an electronics dealer, who finds he has been doing business with a killer. Also, if you are a B-movie buff, you will spot Kenneth Tobey as a cop, just a couple of years away from his encounter with "The Thing From Another World", and several other nasty, sci/fi creatures.
I found the shots of LA in the 40s very interesting, and I love old cars, so the historical aspect was a plus for me. Of course, we are decades away from computers, so police methods in this film will seem very quaint to younger viewers. The "profile" scene is well done--various citizens are called in to help the police determine what Mr.
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