Walk the Dark Street (1956)
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After the Korean War is over, Ross happens to drop in on Connors. Not to apologize or anything like that. He has no idea that Connors holds him responsible. Connors is simmering with hatred and manages to suggest this by scowling, squinting, and grinding his teeth whenever he looks at the amiable Ross. Ross is blandly handsome and doesn't project much one way or the other.
Of course it's wildly improbably that Ross would just happen to look up Connors and drop in unannounced. Why should he? But it's even less probable that the two men should discover that they are both hunters, Connors more avid than Ross.
Over drinks, still glowing with rage, Connors suggests a game. Connors and Ross will hunt each other with camera guns in a delimited area of Los Angeles. Connors gives odds of ten to one and Ross needs the money so he agrees. What Ross doesn't know but the astute viewer does is that Connors gives him an ordinary looking rifle loaded with film while Connors will carry a real hunting rifle loaded with a real bullet. The two contestants, one in the know and one not, will stalk each other anywhere on the LA streets or in the stores or cafés. True, Connors may be arrested for murder but he doesn't care. The docs have told him he has a "bum ticker" and doesn't have long to go anyway.
There are two other characters. Regina Gleason, in still another improbability, is the ex girl friend of Connors' dead brother and she has been tracking Ross too. If it can be said that Connors and Ross both underact for whatever reason. The same can't be said of Gleason. Of Gleason it can be said that she overacts. When she plans to humiliate the trusting Ross, it might as well be Delilah planning to turn Samson into a skinhead.
It all sounds kind of exciting. "The Most Dangerous Game" in Echo Park. Actually it's rather dull because of the shamelessly inept performances and the lackluster direction. Well, I'll give an example or two.
During the hunt, both men independently spot a vacant tourist ship, the Avalon, tied up at a dock. And both board her, each unaware of the other's presence. Yet both stalk carefully through the passageways and over the boat deck, carefully peering around corners, warily opening doorways. They walk openly around the streets but act as if they know their quarry is aboard the Avalon.
And the pacing is glacial. The pauses between utterances are long. Dynasties rise and fall. Epochs come and go while one waits for a reply from the person he's speaking to.
(After a long silence.) Gleason: "I'm over twenty-one." (Long silence.) Connors: "I'd never have guessed it." (Long long pause.) Gleason: "You should have been a diplomat." (Pause that lasts so long you'll think you're stoned again.) "How do you know I'm not?" I can't really go on with this. It's an unpretentious and inexpensive movie with no principal actors. To ask anything of it is like breaking an iridescent butterfly on the rack.
This is a movie for when you have absolutely nothing else to do except maybe write a Master's thesis on the history of B features in 1956.
As another reviewer stated, this film is a variation on the old story "The Most Dangerous Game". Now this story was brilliant and some of the films (most notably the 1932 version) were wonderful. So, it isn't that part that bothers me--it's all the unnecessary back story as well as the nonsensical setting.
First, the unnecessary back story. The film begins in Korea during the war. A Lieutenant is having problems with his Sergeant--the Sergeant is very resentful he didn't get the commission and he broods about it. Little does the Lieutenant know that the Sarge wrote to his insane brother about all this--and rambled on and on about how the Lieutenant had it in for him. So, when the Sarge is killed, the brother is convinced the other guy is responsible.
Some time passes and the war is over for the Lieutenant. He goes to visit the Sergeant's brother to offer his condolences--unaware the brother is a nut-case. The brother is a big game hunter and suggests a game--that the two of them will hunt each other throughout the city--using their 'camera guns' (a gun with a camera built into it instead of ammo) to 'kill' each other. Naturally, the guns are NOT cameras and the brother plans on running around a big city with a giant hunting rifle and just shoot the other guy!! To top it off, the insane brother just happens to have a heart condition and MIGHT just die during the hunt. Not surprisingly, at the very end, that is exactly what happens.
Did the writer not understand what the word 'contrived' means?! After all, the plot takes all the best of "The Most Dangerous Game" and tosses it out--and inserts all sorts of unnecessary and ridiculous elements into it. The idea of a big game hunt in the city?! Insane! And, the way the brother's part was written?! Totally insane!! I really hated this film and hoped it would have style and intelligence. Alas, it had neither. I don't care if the film is free to download because it's in the public domain--it's not even worth your time to download!! Terrible.
Surprisingly enough, Ordung (talk about a self-prophesying surname) wrote and directed a real diamond-in-the-rough with his 1956 outing "Walk the Dark Street" that toplines Chuck Connors of TV's "The Rifleman" fame. The psychotic villain that Connors plays in this suspenseful film noir entry has little in common with Lucas McCain. Indeed, both guy carry rifles, but the comparison ends at each other's arsenal. Connors plays big-game safari hunter Frank Garrick. He is single with no family except the memory of his late brother. The provocative title "Walk the Dark Street" suggests that this trim low-budget thriller would take place under street lamps after midnight. Not only does the action transpire at night but also during the day. Essentially, the use of 'dark' in the title is more metaphorical than literal. Ordung has cleverly provided a fresh spin on the vintage Richard Connell short story "The Most Dangerous Game," which won O. Henry Memorial Prize when Colliers magazine published it back in 1924 and he has done an efficient job of staging it. Mind you, this minimalist survivalist thriller differs enough from the usual item to stand out on its own with more than a modicum of merit. Some of the things that Ordung tries to get away with probably wouldn't have flown back in the 1950s, but "Walk the Dark Street" doesn't seem too far-fetched by today's standards.
Revenge lies at the heart of "Walk the Dark Street." Frank Garrick dearly loved his good-for-nothing little brother, U.S. Army Sergeant Tommy Garrick (Eddie Kafafian of "Flesh and the Spur"), and he cherishes a hand-written letter that little brother sent him from Korea. Apparently, the military handed out a battlefield commission and chose another sergeant, Dan Lawton (veteran TV guest star actor Don Ross), over him. One day, Tommy goes berserk and disobeys Lawton's orders and is riddled by sniper fire. Before Tommy died, he wrote Frank about Lawton and assured him that if he died, Lawton would be the prime suspect. Of course, Lawton had no control over Tommy's demise. The insubordinate fool got himself killed with his impulsive behavior. After the war, Lawton comes home to find his sporting goods store in the doldrums because of his business partner's inability to manage it. Meantime, he pays Frank Garrick a visit and explains the circumstances surrounding Tony's unfortunate death. Garrick treats Lawton with courtesy, pours him a drink, and even shows him some 16mm film of a safari that he went on in Asia. Interestingly enough, the footage of a crocodile and later a python look better than anything from "Wild Kingdom." Frank explains that he suffers from a poor heart and his physician prohibits him from hunting. Nevertheless, Frank wants to go on a different hunt. He wants to hunt a man. Initially, Lawton is dubious about such an endeavor until Frank explains that he has perfected a cartridge that takes a picture of his target rather than blowing it to smithereens. Lawton would like to oblige him in the hunt, but he is wrestling with his business woes. Frank offers to pay Lawton the sum of $10-thousand dollars if he can out-hunt him. Lawton doesn't have that kind of cash and he is $5-thousand in the hole as it is with his business. Frank dismisses the inequality of the deal and convinces Lawton to compete with him. He prepares a map and confines the hunt to the concrete jungle of Los Angeles, California. Writer & director Ordung delivers modest gem with a couple of twists that make it a good movie to watch. The only other character of any substance is Helen Leyden (Regina Gleason of "Speed Crazy") who was Tommy's girlfriend that Frank hated. Mind you, "The Most Dangerous Game" has been remade many times, but "Walk the Dark Street" qualifies as one of the better variations.
The cast is very small. As usually, there's no need of an imposing cast and budget, for very good storytelling; and annoying, unmeant silliness never comes from tiny budgets, but from untalented morons, art can be cheap, when there's craft. The main characters are a veteran of the Korean war and the brother of his sergeant, played by Chuck Connors. An exquisitely crafty drama, enthralling, deeply satisfying, it has a flawless taste but also a nice aesthetics of the feminine, with a couple of statuesque broads. So you can safely ignore mainstream tips, and discover movies perhaps not very hailed.