The Champ: HE WALKED BY NIGHT (LA)
Is it just me or is there a secret CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON connection running through the last couple of films. First CROOKED WEB, with Richard Denning and now a pair of films featuring B Movie everyman Whit Bissell (Dr. Thompson in CREATURE) and written by Harry Essex, who also penned CREATURE. Coincidence? You be the judge. (Insert that famous strident CREATURE musical sting here – dah dah DAH!)
That aside, WALKED is a real treat on the big screen. Often referred to as a hybrid between the dry, bare bones police procedural and the more cinematic, shadowy and stylized classic Film Noir, WALKED gives you the best of both worlds. The plot is based on a true story of a brilliant and cold blooded serial killer that terrorized Los Angeles. This brainy WWII vet with a knack for electronics and no real human emotions was able to elude police and pass through dragnets by utilizing the vast network of storm drains beneath the city streets. In WALKED this wily criminal mastermind is played by Richard Basehart and Scott Brady is the driven young cop who hunts him down. I was just mesmerized by those knock-out tunnel sequences up on the big screen, particularly the long lovely shots of Basehart running down a square tunnel lit only by the swinging flashlight in his hand. Of course, this film is far from perfect. It has some silly, dated moments, like the narrator’s line about “the police’s work, like that of woman, is never done” but I still loved seeing this one on the big screen. It’s so important to preserve these films in their original form and once again I must bow to the amazing Film Noir Foundation
. If you aren’t already a member, you really ought to be. DVD’s are fine and dandy, but every time I see one of these great films on the big screen, I feel like I’m seeing it for the first time all over again.
The Challenger: THE KILLER THAT STALKED NEW YORK (NY)
This histrionic medical thriller is so over the top it’s a riot. I think the narration should win some kind of camp award for lines like (I’m paraphrasing here) “They needed to round up all women addicted to the rinse that makes their hair the color that gentlemen prefer.” Uh oh, guess I’m in trouble! Legendary film critic Leonard Maltin, filling in for Alan Rode, called this one a “pot boiler,” and that’s a perfect description. Of course, I love a good pot boiler, and this one delivers in spades. The plot revolves around beautiful blonde (and bootylicious!) Noir veteran Evelyn Keyes who plays a torch singer whose no-good playboy hubby talked her into helping him smuggle diamonds from Cuba. Little does she know, she also brought something else home from Cuba. Smallpox! William Bishop plays the young doctor working with the police in a desperate race to find the carrier before the whole city is infected. Great vintage street scenes (some of which I understand were shot here in LA, not New York,) the campy narrator issuing dire warnings about “blonde death stalking the streets,” the fact that the cute little girl actually died rather than being saved by some sappy last minute deus ex machina, and the wonderful finale with Keyes and Bishop out on ledge high above the city, all made this film a wild, silly but highly enjoyable ride. Still, WALKED is undoubtedly the better of the two. So that brings the score back up even at 4-4.
I get another break for two days, and then I’ll be back at it on Wednesday for THE KILLING vs THE SLEEPING CITY.