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He walked by night

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Found out about this from Waldron's site. http://www.ultimatesacrificethebook.com/


Inspired by the true story of Erwin Walker, a WWII hero who turned to crime and terrorized Los Angeles in 1946, He Walked By Night (1948) is a remarkable low budget, film noir thriller that is often overlooked in film studies of this genre. Besides Richard Basehart's chilling performance as a meticulous thief of electronics equipment who becomes a wanted cop killer, the film glistens with the stylized black and white cinematography of John Alton whose use of light has been compared to the lighting in Rembrandt paintings. The film could well serve as a primer on how to shoot a film noir since it incorporates all of the familiar elements of the genre so masterfully into the visual design of the film: splintered shadows from Venetian blinds that transform a cozy bedroom into a prison, street lights over patches of wet pavement, a brief pinpoint of light from a hastily lit match in a dark room. Most memorable of all is the chiaroscuro camerawork in the final sequence as Davis Morgan - Richard Basehart's character - is pursued through the huge drainage canals underneath Los Angeles by the police. This was the first time this unusual locale was used in a film and it would later serve as an equally disturbing setting - the lair of giant mutant ants - for the science fiction thriller, Them! (1954).

Although Alfred L. Werker is credited as the director of He Walked By Night, most film scholars acknowledge Anthony Mann as the true creative force behind it. For reasons not documented, Mann took over the direction from Werker at a fairly early stage and you can see his distinctive imprint on such scenes as the one where Morgan extracts a bullet from himself or the nighttime shootout in the electric company between Morgan and Sergeant Brennan (Scott Brady). The Mann influence is also confirmed by the presence of screenwriter John C. Higgins and cinematographer John Alton, both of whom collaborated with Mann on previous projects. Higgins wrote the screenplays to Mann's Railroaded! (1947), T-Men (1947), Raw Deal (1948), and Border Incident (1949) while Alton photographed the director's Reign of Terror (1949), Devil's Doorway (1950), and several others.

He Walked By Night obviously made quite an impression on Jack Webb. The actor, who appears in this film as a character named Lee, would later produce his own TV series, Dragnet, which copied the semi-documentary approach used in He Walked By Night. Another interesting side note is the fact that He Walked By Night, along with two other film noir titles - T-Men and Canon City (1948), was financed by a silent partnership between Joe Breen, the head censor of the Hays Office, and Johnny Roselli, a Chicago businessman who served as a liaison between the mob and the Hollywood craft unions. Roselli had actually worked in the Hays office at one time and after later serving time for extortion, reestablished his relationship with Breen. According to author Eddie Muller in Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir (St. Martin's Press), "Roselli left Hollywood to help the Chicago boys establish their foothold in Vegas. He later was a middleman in negotiations between the Mafia and the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro. His show business career ended on a yacht off Miami, when he was butchered, stuffed into an oil drum, and set adrift by hoodlums who'd seen too many Charles McGraw movies."

Producer: Bryan Foy, Robert Kane

Director: Anthony Mann, Alfred L. Werker

Screenplay: John C. Higgins, Crane Wilbur

Art Direction: Edward L. Ilou

Cinematography: John Alton

Film Editing: Alfred DeGaetano

Original Music: Leonid Raab, Irving Friedman

Principal Cast: Richard Basehart (Davis Morgan), Scott Brady (Sgt. Marty Brennan), Roy Roberts (Capt. Breen), Whit Bissell (Reeves), James B. Cardwell (Chuck Jones).


by Jeff Stafford

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Guest John Gillespie

"Most memorable of all is the chiaroscuro camerawork in the final sequence as Davis Morgan - Richard Basehart's character - is pursued through the huge drainage canals underneath Los Angeles by the police."

...like the chase of Harry Lime in the climax of "The Third Man." I never knew about this film. What a cast of pros (Brady, Whit Bissell, Webb). It's true when they say that they don't make 'em like they used to.


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"Most memorable of all is the chiaroscuro camerawork in the final sequence as Davis Morgan - Richard Basehart's character - is pursued through the huge drainage canals underneath Los Angeles by the police."

...like the chase of Harry Lime in the climax of "The Third Man." I never knew about this film. What a cast of pros (Brady, Whit Bissell, Webb). It's true when they say that they don't make 'em like they used to.


Hey John.

I bought it on DVD - so I look forward to watching it. I like Basehart's stuff also - but the real reason for my interest are what Waldron's site claim to be similarities between the JFK assassination and this film [and of course Roselli's connection to it]. I watched 'The Package' last night - I don't know much about the film, but it certainly seemed as if someone was either 'cutting and pasting' or trying to say something. Not sure which.

Spoiler warning!

The two-dimensional, barely developed character that played 'Oswald' [actually 'Henke'] had an interesting angle. Brought up on trumped-up charges, returned on 'undercover' assignment, he's doubled by Tommy Lee Jones. Executed with a shot through the head and the rifle on his hands, before the target had even been eliminated - from a similar location on the trajectory - that would have made for more of an open and shut case for sure.

Similar to the 'Skulls' films - pathetic in their happy endings, with the Media coming out, investigations, and champagne all around - I don't know of any life that works that way. Makes one wonder about the spin, and the point of the spin.



Fictionalized thriller reuses real life elements from the Kennedy assassination., 12 August 2002

Author: lizziebeth-1 from Sydney, Australia

*** This comment may contain spoilers ***

The real star of The Package (1989) is the original story, written by John Bishop.

This political thriller is an even better-mounted Andrew Davis production than Under Siege (1992) which came soon after. It stars Gene Hackman as John Gallagher, the putated hero, and he does have a few good lines, eg when his team puzzles over why a lone man in uniform paces in the cold: "That's a general, guys. Generals do a lot of thinking. Whenever I'm asked to be one, I always say No", he jokes with his men.

Tommy Lee's character's identity as possibly a Thomas Boyette is crucial to the plot, so I don't want to blow the suspense. But suffice to say that the "package" is actually the person of TLJ, whom Johnny Gallagher has to escort off the Glienicker Bridge out of East Berlin, and then back onto USA soil, supposedly as punishment for Gallagher having lost a firefight with terrorists who kill the same general he and his team observed pacing earlier.

This is a clever rework of the wilderness of mirrors of the Kennedy assassination. The movie centers around a plot at the highest levels of both the US and Soviet armies. A small cabal of Cold Warrior hawks conspires to destabilize and possibly destroy the peace process of détente, which was well on its way to success.

They don't agree with "the removal of the nuclear shield", ie of the constant threat of (M)utually (A)ssured (D)estruction. (It was the policy until the very détente came to pass which this movie examines. Yes, its acronym really is MAD. You can bet a lot of mileage was made of that for decades.) But just what is the cabal actually planning? Who ordered the hit on that general, and why?

A number of the characters reveal their alternate identities from time to time. TLJ in particular is a chameleon, but I think he is best when he pretends to be (possibly) Secret Service. He wears Macintoshes really well. Some of his costumes don't always suit him, but he's fairly believable as a priest performing a live drop at a bus depot. (When two people surreptitiously try to pick up each other's goods in public, that's called a "live drop". They're usually done at depots. A "dead drop" is when one person deposits something in a hidden place and then marks an agreed-upon signal to indicate there is something to be picked up for whoever comes along much later.)

Like I said, the plot showcases and moves the story along very nicely. The only two things that fail in the movie (for me, rather grossly) are the incessant but transparent attempts by some unseen hand repeatedly yanking Gallagher's chain, and the fact that he keeps extricating himself and getting away. Others keep dropping dead all around Gallagher, but he's always fine. It gets really, really frustrating, because all the dead victims were soft targets who knew almost nothing but were terminated with prejudice, while Gallagher, who is in a position to figure out everything, they don't even attempt to kill until the last part of the movie. It's Gallagher that's the Teflon Kid, not ex-President Bill Clinton!

The most chilling line (this is a thriller, after all) is delivered by Karl Richards "from Intelligence" (Ron Dean), Henke's rather unassuming, avuncular handler. When the pointedly naive Henke observes that "This setup is perfect. Really", meaning his own brand new office, Karl agrees that "Yeah. It is", and we get chills of realization that there is much more going on than Henke is aware of. Here's my spoiler (apologies): Henke's the patsy. He's the patsy in exactly the same way that we're supposed to be reminded Oswald was. Henke is even "sheep-dipped" (tarred with a false reputation exactly opposite to what he was being used as) the same way as Oswald was, handing out anti-Communist leaflets on the street, exactly the same as Oswald. The analogy is unmistakable.

Dennis Franz repeats his stereotype role as police detective Milan (Gallagher's ex-wife, the formidable Eileen Gallagher (Joanna Cassidy) pronounces it incorrectly as "Mylon") Delich, the gruff detective who is nevertheless deep. Franz is, as always, very credible, with great cop's reflexes, and he even has a very brave scene where he stands his ground in a shootout, despite being already wounded. Franz began doing Buntz during his years on Hill Street Blues, which I can recall, and for me it's always nice to see "Buntz" again. Franz has spoken of his apparent typecasting, but he for one actually enjoys it. It's a character he enjoys exploring indefinitely, he says.

As for our satisfaction at the ending - it's pretty satisfying, but sad. Glen Whitacre (John Heard) is chillingly premature when he spits at Gallagher that "you're a dead man". He constantly underestimates everybody, including his own situation, so I guess he's probably the dumbest of the co-conspirators. He gets a run for his money, though, from the salt-and-pepper team of dumb rough guys for the cabal, who look like Frick and Frack. They keep turning up everywhere in different guises. They even turn up as a couple of good guys in other Andrew Davis movies, who has obviously cottoned onto the notion of using the same stable of actors in his movies wherever possible.

All in all, a very well developed story, if perhaps a little overdeveloped in order to keep Gallagher alive and well enough to do damage. 9/10.

Looking forward to seeing the parallels in 'He walked by night.'

- lee

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Lee, John et al,

Thanks for the heads up. Both those films seem like they're worth a look, though I'm surprised "The Package" only gets a 6.2 on IMDb. (nearly--but not always--an infallible indicator).

My favorite in the American film noir genre is "Sweet Smell of Success" (1957), supposedly based on the career of one Walter Winchell. The performances of Lancaster and Curtis override the somewhat dated argot. It's a gem, IMO. It didn't score any gongs at the Oscars that year. I suspect influence was exerted.

When I was a kid, a b/w anthology called the "Outer Limits" used to scare me regularly. The second episode broadcast in the first series was called "The Hundred Days of the Dragon". Written by Allan Balter and Robert Mintz, it tells of an Asian empire which has pioneered a serum which makes human flesh pliable, putty-like and easily changed. A physical double, who also has an identical voice to the US President, is injected with the drug and after a special metal template is pressed onto his face, he assumes identical facial features to that of the US President. They then manage to assassinate the newly elected US President and install their doppleganger as President. They have designs on the VP, Secretary of State etc. in order to complete the takeover. If you disregard the story's main flaws i.e. the lack of security surrounding the US leadership and the unbelievable properties of the serum, it is excellent film noir. The reflection of the trees on the walls, light reflected through venetian blinds and a very eerie score from composer Dominic Frontiere--it's got atmosphere.

The newly installed "President" starts talking about negotiations and treaties, pulling troops out of the "Ling Valley" etc, much to the horror of the (real) VP. At one point the VP reminds the "President" of the commitments he made--while campaigning in Dallas. Watching it now, it's all too bizarre and full of scary coincidences. It was first broadcast on September 23, 1963--sixty days prior to the assassination. Worth a look.

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