He Walked By Night - Richard Basehart, Film Noir Classic

7.11 h 18 min194813+
Roy Morgan (Richard Basehart) is a burglar who listens in to radio police calls, allowing him to stay one step ahead of the cops. After Morgan kills a police officer, Sergeants Brennan and Jones have little success in putting the clues of the case together. But when Jones is wounded in a shoot-out with Morgan, Brennan employs all facets of detective work to find the elusive and clever criminal.
Alfred L. Werker
Richard BasehartScott BradyRoy Roberts
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Whit BissellJames CardwellJack Webb
Bryan FoyRobert Kane
Bryan Foy Productions
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4.2 out of 5 stars

198 global ratings

  1. 57% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 24% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 7% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 6% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 6% of reviews have 1 stars
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M. D. ROY EARLEReviewed in the United States on May 6, 2022
4.0 out of 5 stars
One brief scene away from a masterpiece
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There are a very few movies that are close to being masterpieces, but lack one essential element. "He Walked by Night" is one of them.
This is a great "police procedural / film noir," taking us backstage at the LAPD as they hunt down a murderer. Solid acting, excellent yet simple, easy to follow plot, and tremendous cinematography. What's missing is any explanation for the central character's motivation. Richard Basehart's villain is a "cardboard cutout" of a criminal...a "bad guy" without any personality other than he enjoys the company of a dog.
The other movie that comes to mind that shares this problem is "The Narrow Margin." Another tremendous movie that lacks one essential element (a little empathy for the undercover policewoman) that would have made it a classic.
Both, by the way, are excellent, entertaining movies. Both will reward repeated viewings.
One person found this helpful
Sean WanderseeReviewed in the United States on May 31, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
This is the City…
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A foiled burglary leads to the death of an off duty police officer by a mysterious man. The movie follows the LAPD as they try and capture the mysterious man as he continues his crime spree through post-war LA.

Fantastic film noir movie, one of my favorites. Gone are all the trappings of the genre, the vampy dames, the double crossing, the inner monologue, what’s left is docudrama procedural with some of the best noir cinematography around. The scenery of post-war LA strong and authentic, being a lower budget film it does away with the glitzy big locations and focuses on smaller more modest locations giving the movie more of an authentic feel. Richard Basehart is excellent as the remorseless killer but my favorite actor in the movie is Whit Bissell star of such horror greats as Creature from the Black Lagoon and I was a Teenage Werewolf. Jack Webb also has a role in the film, oddly not as a detective but as a crime scene investigator. It was while filming this movie that he met a LAPD detective who was the technical advisor on the film and those conversations led to first the radio drama then the television show Dragnet. You’ll see a lot of similarities with Dragnet in this movie which took the docudrama format and feel from this film.
2 people found this helpful
Karen WeeksReviewed in the United States on May 31, 2017
2.0 out of 5 stars
GREAT FILM, TERRIBLE TRANSFER, .Amazon, help us know what we are buying.
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This is a review of the Alpha Video release from 2003:
A great, chilling film, great cast, IT couldn't be a more perfect noir experience unfortunately this release was yet another public domain version and as such, the transfer is very disappointing especially considering it was shot by one of the great Directors of Photography, JOHN ALTON Take a look at the "Big Combo" and you can see what a master of noir lighting and camera placement ALTON was. If you have never seen this film, you can't go wrong for it's $5 and change cost but if you want to see this film restored to it's original look, this is not the version (is there a restored version?)
All that said, i will be writing to Amazon and let then know how deficient their customer review sections are. Unless the customer specifies what version of the film they are reviewing, most times you won't know what you are buying. Step it up Amazon
13 people found this helpful
cherguiReviewed in the United States on November 25, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Suspenseful, Psycho Thriller, Noir
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This movie is totally worth watching just for Richard Basehart, who seems to be able to portray mentally deranged, creepy, sociopathic characters (Fourteen Hours, The House on Telegraph Hill, and Tension). Basehart is a dark criminal who resorts to killing one policeman and seriously wounding another in order to protect his identity as a burglar. The old-timey CSI work is interesting. And the final scene has the trapped rat in the LA sewers with great sound effects. If you like film noir, Richard Basehart, some other vintage actors (Jack Webb), and a shoot-out ending, you should enjoy this film.
6 people found this helpful
MariposaReviewed in the United States on December 1, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
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Funny (funny 'peculiar', not funny 'ha ha') but I recently re-watched "Moby Dick" with Richard Basehart playing the ingenuous loner Ishmael. Now I see him playing a cold-blooded deadly criminal - I admire his acting range!

I found this movie to be surprisingly gripping. Yes, iMDB reports some technical glitches, but aside from little details I was very caught up in the emotions of the characters - literally gasping out loud at times, and cheering for the good guys. Good old Saturday-at-the-movies fun.

I think I will enjoy watching it again some time soon - not in the same class as "Moby Dick", but nevertheless very entertaining.
2 people found this helpful
joel wingReviewed in the United States on December 12, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
Police procedural as LAPD tracks down a master criminal
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He Walked By Night is an unusual Film Noir. That’s because it focuses almost exclusively upon the Los Angeles Police Department tracking down a master criminal played by Richard Basehart that killed a cop. It’s mostly a police procedural rather than a crime story.

The movie has some classic Noir tropes like the use of shadows. There’s one great scene where Basehart is running through the sewer system in the city for example that is a perfect Noir shot. There’s also some tough guy dialogue by some of the cops.

Overall, it’s a good cop story but I prefer other themes in Noir films.
MarionReviewed in the United States on January 24, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Clean Digital Copy on Prime - Noir Classic
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This simple action thriller, based loosely on a real criminal, gave one of the cast members of this picture the idea to make Dragnet. First started as a radio show, then translating to the small screen when television was invented.

The picture itself holds up well all these years later due to the beautiful lighting and photography and clear story telling. Uniquely, the final scene is shot in Los Angeles storm drains. Although the ending is abrupt, with no wrap-up of loose ends or questions in the minds of audiences, it's still worthwhile to see it for it's still-fresh texture.
Van T. RobertsReviewed in the United States on November 2, 2008
4.0 out of 5 stars
A Brilliant Crime Thriller!
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Everybody ought to know by now that director Alfred Werker's semi-documentary police procedural "He Walked By Night" with Richard Basehart and Scott Brady, inspired Jack Webb's classic radio and television crime series "Dragnet." The evocative, film noir photography of the late great John Alton, who also lensed a couple of John Sturges films "Mystery Street" and "The People Against O'Hara" as well as Richard Brooks' "Elmer Gantry," gives this lean, mean 1949 thriller an edge that neither its budget nor its action could have achieved in tandem. Alton's photography makes "He Walked By Night" the memorable experience that it remains. Good acting by all involved bolsters the film's credibility, especially a low-key Basehart registering brilliantly as a contemplative homicidal killer with a pet dog. The dog humanizes Basehart's elusive killer. The most overlooked performance is Whit Bissell as the timid electronics factory owner. Other commentators have provided relevant historical background for this atmospheric melodrama and they are worth reading if the historical background appeals to you. The noted film scholar Jeanne Basinger in her exemplary book about director Anthony Mann writers settles the issue of the directorial authorship of "He Walked By Night." She points out that Werker received final credit for "He Walked By Night," but Mann helmed all the scenes with Richard Basehart. Clearly, "He Walked By Night" qualifies more as a Mann film than a Werker effort. Critics have never ballyhooed this low-budget, superbly made, minor urban crime thriller, and this lack of critical recognition is really unfortunate. "He Walked By Night" provides top-drawer suspense entertainment in virtually every department. The only objectionable scene here involves a couple of detectives grilling a Chinese suspect. Not only does the man not know English, but also the detectives look like idiots for questioning someone that clearly doesn't understand English.

"He Walked by Night" unfolds with several long shots of a Los Angeles city map. "Racket Squad" actor Reed Hadley delivers the prototypical description of L.A. that would open each "Dragnet" episode over similar shots. Afterward, Mann takes us first to the Hollywood Police Division where we learn that "He Walked By Night" is "the case history of a killer." The scene shifts to a dark, quiet. tree-lined street late one evening in Hollywood. An immaculately dressed Roy Martin (Richard Basehart of "Moby Dick") is prowling dark streets and casing an electronics shop. Equipped with lock-picking tools, he is about to commit burglary when an off-duty cop heading home, Office Robert Rawlins (John McGuire of "Flamingo Road"), spots him. Rawlins pulls over and questions him. When he asks to see some identification, Rawlins isn't prepared for the reception that he receives. Martin produces a gun from his suit and blasts away. Swiftly, the killer scrambles to his car, while Rawlins struggles to fire shots at him. In a desperate bid to stop Martin, Rawlins guns his sedan. Swerves it across the street and smashes into Martin's stolen car before he can get it cranked. Witnesses provide the authorities with a description, but Martin shaves off the pencil-thin mustache and begins on his next criminal endeavor. Later, we learn that Rawlins has died from his gunshot wounds.

When he isn't committing crimes, Martin modifies his stolen equipment and then rents it out to Reeves Electronics Laboratory run by Paul Reeves (a bespectacled Whit Bissell) who urges Roy to join his firm. Roy brings in his television projection set and leaves before the original owner arrives. The owner identifies the equipment and calls the police. At this point, Captain Breen (Roy Roberts of "My Darling Clementine") assigns Sgt. Marty Brennan (Scott Brady of "Dollars") and Sgt. Chuck Jones (James Cardwell of "The Sullivans") to the case and they question Reeves. Martin calls up and Reeves tells him that he has sold his television projector. Jones gets Reeves to tell Martin that he has his dough ready and to come in that night and pick it up. Later, Martin surprises everybody that night and shoots Jones, paralyzing him and knocking Brennan unconscious. In the process, however, Martin is wounded by Jones. In a scene that predates "First Blood," Martin digs out the slug himself with sterilized doctor's tools. Meanwhile, the crime technician, Lee (Jack Webb of "Dragnet") gradually pieces together information about Martin until Brennan suggests that he use something that allows witnesses of Martin's robberies to create a picture of him. It seems that Martin has been on a robbery spree and uses the storm drainage system underneath Los Angeles to escape from the authorities.

Anyway, Captain Breen relieves Brennan from the case since the latter has made no headway in capturing Martin and Breen is feeling the heat from his own superiors. Later, during one of his visits with the recuperating Jones, Brennan learns that the Breen is trying to rattle him enough to come up with a fresh approach to the case. Brennan starts looking where he didn't before--in the surrounding police departments. Eventually, he uncovers Martin's secret and his real name Roy Morgan. Breen masquerades as a milk man and finds where Morgan lives. The long arm of the law assembles with cops, guns, and tear gas to flush Morgan out. Predictably, Morgan flees to the storm drainage system with the LAPD in hot pursuit. They don't aim to let him escape their clutches again! This tightly-knit thriller is pretty good, even by 1948 standards. The police are depicted like idiots during the first hour because they constantly underestimated the resourceful adversary who even keeps a shotgun stored in the underground drain system. John Alton creates a marvelous sense of atmosphere with images that highlight the area above the heads of the participants. The photography in the storm drainage system is terrific stuff! Scott Brady is good as the cop determined to bust Morgan, and his Sgt. Brennan's one characteristic that is emphasized is his shortage of matches for his cigarette habit.

The MGM-UA DVD is the best copy of this movie that you are going to find. The public domain versions are fair to middling with sound problems, but the MGM-UA DVD sounds terrific!
3 people found this helpful
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