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He Walked by Night (1948)

7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 2,813 users  
Reviews: 66 user | 36 critic

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

Directors:

(as Alfred Werker) , (uncredited)

Writers:

(story), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
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Title: He Walked by Night (1948)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Scott Brady ...
...
Police Capt. Breen
...
James Cardwell ...
Police Sgt. Chuck Jones
...
Lee Whitey
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Storyline

In the Post-World War II, in Los Angeles, a criminal shots and kills a police officer in the middle of the night. Without any leads, the chief of the LAPD assigns Sgt. Chuck Jones and Sgt. Marty Brennan to investigate the murder and apprehend the culprits. When the dealer of electronics devices, Paul Reeves, is caught selling a stolen projector, the police identifies the criminal, and connects him to other unsolved robberies. Using the witnesses of his heists, they draw their face, but the true identity of the smart and intelligent criminal is not disclosed. The perseverance of Sgt. Marty Brennan in his investigation gives a clue where he might live. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

From the Homicide Files of the Los Angeles Police. See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| |

Release Date:

9 August 1949 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

The L.A. Investigator  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Part of the film was directed (uncredited) by Anthony Mann. See more »

Goofs

After examining the bullet casings, Lee tells Capt. Breen that the same gun was used to shoot Officer Rawlins and Detective Jones. But Roy actually used a revolver to kill Rawlins and a .45 automatic to shoot Jones. See more »

Quotes

Narrator: And so the tedious quest went on. Sergeant Brennan wore out his shoes and his patience going from police station to police station, checking photos until his eyes were blurry, for policework is not all glamor and excitement and glory. There are days and days of routine, of tedious probing, of tireless searching - fruitless days - days when nothing goes right, when it seems as if no one could think his way through the maze of baffling trails the criminal leaves. But the answer to that is ...
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Featured in Menace II Society (1993) See more »

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User Reviews

The Noir Blueprint For "Dragnet"!
2 September 2001 | by (Hollywood, CA) – See all my reviews

Based on a true 1946 Hollywood Police Department case, "He Walked By Night" is an early attempt at a "police procedural" film. It has a semi-documentary look combined with many of the conventions of film noir (thanks partly to cinematographer John Alton). Many of the outside scenes were filmed in or around actual locations. Richard Basehart plays a loner who is well-versed in electronic technology, guns, and police procedures. He's able to stay one step ahead of the cops because his paranoia and attention to detail keep him in a constant state of alert. It's also helpful that he listens in with his police-band radio. For a time he confounds the Hollywood cops because he changes his modus operandi. He begins as a break-in artist who steals electronic equipment, but when he kills a suspicious young policeman and loses some of his tools, he turns to armed robbery of liquor stores. Nobody can find him because he travels through Los Angeles in its underground storm drains, where he has hidden stashes of guns and other survival equipment. We also follow the cops as they make use of whatever little information they're able to gather on Basehart's character, and slowly they do close in after several missed opportunities and track the killer into the storm drains, where the play of light and shadow really takes over. One of the cops in "He Walked By Night" is played by Jack Webb, and there's no question he got the inspiration for 'Dragnet" from this film. For starters, "He Walked By Night" begins with a sky pan of Los Angeles and scenes of everyday Hollywood while the narrator gives a kind of "this is the city" speech. The police scenes are often very quotidian (sometimes to the point of being overly detailed), with cops tossing in small talk like "how's the missus? glad to hear it" before they ask other questions. Much of the pacing, attitude and overall feel of "Dragnet," which began as a radio show a year after this film and then moved to TV in 1952, is already here. The final scene in Los Angeles' storm drains ("seven hundred miles of hidden highways," according to the narrator) provides probably this film's most memorable images. Its set-up and execution are remarkably similar to Orson Wells being chased through the sewers of Vienna in Carol Reed's "The Third Man," which was filmed a year later and likely inspired by "He Walked By Night." And who knows, it might also have given a few ideas to the makers of "Them" a couple of years later when they revisited the L.A. storm drains with their giant ants. Ultimately, Basehart's character remains an enigma. We never learn that much about him. "He Walked By Night" isn't a great film, but it's an enjoyable look at postwar police work and primitive forensics.


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