A young mentally-ill killer, Gunther Wyckoff, escapes from a mental institution, murders a bus driver and, then, takes six hostages in a bar. The gun in Wyckoff's hand kills without emotion or pity, wielded by a man bare of emotion. It begins as a moral question whether an insane killer should or should not be sent to the electric chair, but goes elsewhere before it ends.Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Marshall Thompson broke new casting grounds in playing the criminally insane escaped mental patient in Dial 1119. This film was out of the B picture unit at MGM and was far more likely to have previously come from a studio like RKO or Columbia. MGM was one of the last big studios to put out a realistic type noir film like this one.
Time and circumstances get six people trapped in a bar in the fictitious Terminal City where Thompson after taking a weapon from a bus driver and killing him over it, he holds up in a bar. When the news comes over the bar television, Thompson shoots bartender William Conrad and holds the other customers which include Virginia Field, Andrea King, Leon Ames, Keefe Brasselle, and James Bell as hostages.
Thompson had been convicted once of murder, but was declared insane and given a life sentence at an asylum due to the work of psychiatrist Sam Levene. A fact that police captain Richard Rober won't let him forget. They have a lot to say to each other during the course of the film.
Dial 1119 moves at a pretty good pace and not a minute of its 75 minute running time is wasted. The lack of really big movie names no doubt helps create the realistic aura of the film.
Marshall Thompson usually played good guys and will ever be remembered as Daktari from the television show. I suspect he never got roles like this again because the public wouldn't accept him just like Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley.
This film is brutally uncompromising on its view of the death penalty. Opponents of capital punishment will not be pleased, but Dial 1119 is still a great noir film.
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