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He Walked by Night (1948)

7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 2,724 users  
Reviews: 65 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 Sgt. Marty Brennan
...
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:

Savage! ... Searing! ... True! 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
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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

Goofs

A revolver ejects its spent casings only if the shooter does so manually, which Richard Baseheart didn't do, therefore the police could not have even had them to compare with the fired casings from the automatic. An even bigger blunder was the photo comparing the two fired shells, they were clearly marked .380 auto, an entirely different round than the .38 special or .45 auto that the police claimed were fired from the same gun. So now there were three different guns used to create this technical error. In addition, when Jack Webb shows his blow-up photos, all three ejector markings are in the precise same location on the cartridge head, a statistical impossibility. In fact, all three are blow-ups of one photograph. See more »

Quotes

Narrator: [Referring to the composite sketch] They showed that picture to the inmates of jails and prisons, to men with a wide acquaintance among the cat burglars and the violence boys, informers, con men, and sharpshooters - those on the fringe of crime and those deep in the rackets. Many wanted to help - nobody could! No one in the Underworld recognized that mysterious face. He was as unknown as if he had lived in the 16th Century.
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Connections

Edited into The Big Combo (1955) 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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