(I’ve decided to try to post at least a short review of each film noir I watch in Noirvember. Some will be short, some will be longer. Hope you enjoy them!)
He Walked by Night (1948) Alfred L. Werker and Anthony Mann
As David J. Hogan points out in his book Film Noir FAQ, He Walked by Night and Jules Dassin’s The Naked City (also 1948) both work as police procedurals, but He Walked by Night contains far more noir elements, thanks in large part to John Alton’s brilliant cinematography of on-location Los Angeles.
This independent production from Eagle-Lion Studios gives noir one of its most memorable criminals in Roy Morgan (Richard Basehart, above), a completely amoral killer and thief with no criminal record who baffles the cops at every turn. We can clearly see the framework here for later characters such as Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). Chigurh’s famous self-surgical scene from No Country for Old Men is obviously modeled on a similar scene in which Morgan silently extracts a bullet from his side.
The police procedural element is compelling in many scenes, probably the most surprising of which is watching a young Jack Webb (slightly before his Dragnet days; the Dragnet radio show would air the next year in 1949) demonstrating his knowledge of forensics with an almost childlike wonder. Although manufactured and unlikely, a scene in which witnesses help construct an artist’s rendering of the criminal is very effective.
He Walked by Night also stars one of my favorite noir supporting players, Whit Bissell, as a clueless electronics expert who’s the only person who actually knows Morgan. (We’ll see Bissell in at least one more post. The guy really got around.) Watching He Walked by Night is not a bad way to kick off Noirvember.
(Photo: Arsenevich http://scalisto.blogspot.com/2011_03_01_archive.html )