FOLLOW ME QUIETLY (director: Richard Fleischer; screenwriters: story by Francis Rosenwald and Anthony Mann/Lillie Hayward/Anthony Mann; cinematographer: Robert de Grasse; editor: Elmo Williams; music: Leonid Raab; cast: William Lundigan (Lt. Harry Grant), Dorothy Patrick (Ann Gorman), Jeff Corey (Sgt. Art Collins), Charles D. Brown (Insp. Mulvaney), Paul Guilfoyle (Overbeck), Edwin Max (Judge), Frank Ferguson (McGill), Marlo Dwyer (Waitress), Michael Branden (Dixon), Douglas Spencer (Phony Judge); Runtime: 59; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Herman Schlom; RKO Pictures; 1949)
“Effectively filmed in a semi-documentary style.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
In a film made early in his career, Richard Fleischer (“Armored Car Robbery”/”Bodyguard”) does a wonderful job with this low-budget, taut 59-minute B-film thriller. It’s based on a story by Francis Rosenwald and Anthony Mann about a wacko serial killer in an unnamed big city (probably Los Angeles) who goes by the name of Judge. The self-appointed judge of who should die strikes when it rains and strangles his victims from behind, as he aims to make the world a better place by getting rid of its undesirable element. The killings have taken place over the last few months and investigating homicide detective Lt. Harry Grant (William Lundigan) and his partner Sgt. Art Collins have many clues but no suspects and are growing increasingly frustrated.
A tabloid magazine, “Four Star Crime,” sends an attractive young female reporter, Ann Gorman (Dorothy Patrick), to cover the story from the cops’ angle, and on a rainy night she corners the gruff Harry in a bar and after much effort gets him to sign an “authorization” contract saying the story must meet his approval before printed. Making use of the eye-witness reports, the police construct a faceless dummy to fit as near as possible the killer’s description. In the film’s centerpiece scene, Harry is so obsessed with catching the perv that he starts talking to the dummy seated on a chair in his unlit, empty office. The only thing is that the Judge has taken the place of the dummy and the cop never realizes that as he rattles on about what makes him so crazy.
After 8 murders, the police get a break through a clue left at the crime scene and trace the killer to his neighborhood. Canvassing the neighborhood, they finally find a waitress who recognizes the nondescript middle-aged killer from the dummy. The police set a stakeout at the killer’s apartment, but he bolts from the trap and runs into an industrial refinery where the police chase after him.
Follow Me Quietly is patterned after He Walked By Night. In this obsessive film noir, one oddly enough without a femme fatale, the police are the good-guys who take the viewer on a tour of a dark and cynical underworld that opened up in the postwar period. Fleischer leads us into this perverse noir world, but it only dallies with its noir atmosphere and instead turns into a straight mystery story–effectively filmed in a semi-documentary style that emphasizes police procedures over character studies or creating suspense over suspects.
REVIEWED ON 11/9/2004 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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