It's known to the Police Department of one of our largest cities as the most difficult homicide case in its experience. Principally because of the diabolical cleverness, intelligence and cunning of a completely unknown killer.....The record is set down here factually-as it happened. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Cracking little Noir picture this one. Richard Baseheart is Davis Morgan, a cold and calculated thief and murderer. He is not only unknown to the police, but also to the Los Angeles underworld. Something which made him a terrifying ghost on the streets. Based on the real life case of cop-killer come thief Erwin Walker, who in 1946 struck terror into the heart of LA, He Walked By Night zips along at a frenetic pace but maintains all the darkness requisites of the Film Noir genre. Directed by Alfred Walker (aided by one uncredited Anthony Mann) and also starring Jack Webb (who used the piece as inspiration for the popular "Dragnet" TV series), the picture has excellent use of shadows and a brilliant finale down in the Los Angeles drainage system. Where the sound of guns and running feet is just ferocious.
Baseheart is suitably chilling as a man coming unhinged by the day, whilst a home surgery sequence shows Baseheart to have had no small amount of ability. It's notable with Morgan's character that it's people he just doesn't like, there's a very telling scene with his dog that is sweet but at the same time saying so much about the man himself. This film reminded me very much of Edward Dmytryk's similarly fine 1952 film, The Sniper. So much so I'd say that as a double bill they be perfect for each other. With added plot worth in the form of early police forensics (check out the photo fit technique) and a largely unknown support cast adding a raw reality to proceedings, He Walked By Night comes highly recommended to fans of the Noir and Crime genres. 8/10