WALK EAST ON BEACON!
(director: Alfred L. Werker; screenwriters: Emmett Murphy/Leo Rosten/Leonard Heideman/Virginia Shaler/ J. Edgar Hoover article “The Crime of the Century”; cinematographer: Joseph C. Brun; editor: Angelo Ross; music: Louis Applebaum; cast: George Murphy (Inspector James ‘Jim’ Belden), Finlay Currie (Prof. Albert Kafer), Virginia Gilmore (Millie aka Teresa Zalenko), Karel Stepanek (Alexi Laschenkov aka Gregory Anders), George Roy Hill (Mr. Wilben, government scientist), Louisa Horton (Mrs. Elaine Wilben), Peter Capell (Chris Zalenko aka Gino), Bruno Wick (Luther Danzig), Jack Manning (Melvin Foss aka Vincent), Karl Weber (FBI Agent Reynolds), Robert A. Dunn (Dr. Wincott), Ernest Graves (Robert Martin), Vilma Kurer (Mrs. Rita Foss), Michael Garrett (Michael Dorndoff aka Frank Torrance); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Louis de Rochemont; Columbia Pictures; 1952)
“One of many Red Menace films made during the 1950s, but is not one of the better ones–too heavy-handed and lacks suspense and emotion.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Sends a strong anti-Communist message and massages the FBI for doing such a good job tracking down Commies. It was filmed at the height of the McCarthy era and is one of many Red Menace films made during the 1950s, but is not one of the better ones–too heavy-handed and lacks suspense and emotion. Alfred L. Werker (“The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”/”Sealed Cargo”/”He Walked by Night”) directs in a crisp semi-documentary style. It’s a way of filming that producer Louis de Rochemont was famous for (also for his March of Time newsreel), and this espionage film was a follow-up to his similar themed 1945 production of The House on 92nd Street. It’s based on a factual article called “The Crime of the Century” that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover penned (that told how Ethel and Julius Rosenberg stole military secrets and passed them onto Moscow). Screenwriters Emmett Murphy, Leo Rosten, Leonard Heideman and Virginia Shaler shelved most of Hoover’s factual story for this mostly fiction espionage story but kept in the public message the bureau wants to convey about its work and gave an accurate description of how they operate. The film scored points because of the excellent location shots around the Boston area that keeps things looking authentic, and the now demolished Scollay Square section (replaced by the no fun Government Center) gets some footage for those with nostalgia for that famous Beantown landmark that was once home to the elite but in modern times was known for all its tattoo parlors and for its hotspot night scene. It also does the same authentic thing for Washington and the New England coast. This film was the last one for its star, George Murphy, who would later become the Republican senator from California.
An anonymous frantic housewife tips off the FBI to watch for Robert Martin (Ernest Graves) to be a possible Red spy. FBI agent Reynolds (Karl Weber) has his men trail him and finds out he passes documents in a public park to a woman Commie agent (Virginia Gilmore) with a unique walk and then unexpectedly took a freighter to Poland without notifying his wife, and when checking their files discover Martin joined the Communist organization as a youth and kept it hidden from his wife and employees. This brings in no-nonsense Inspector James ‘Jim’ Belden (George Murphy) to take charge of the investigation and he quickly puts a tail on a few suspects involved with Martin and he also learns that top-notch Russian spy Alex Laschenkov (Karel Stepanek) has entered the country. Using the latest technology in snooping (hidden cameras, forensic gadgets, lip readers, and television equipment) the good guys learn the Commie agents want to steal the new formula that’s the brainchild of the former Russian, Dr. Albert Kafer (Finlay Currie), a mathematician genius, who is a refugee granted asylum in America and is working on a top-secret U.S. government defense project called by the code name of “Falcon.” The brainy mathematician is working on a sophisticated Electronic Calculator to help update military weaponry, in Boston’s Montrose Laboratories. When the elderly Kafer contacts the FBI about the spy group approaching him to give up his theorem and threatening to kill his only surviving son living in East Berlin, the other two died during the war in Nazi concentration camps, unless he cooperates with them, the FBI gets him involved in their sting operation to catch the bad guys and save his scientist son. The catchy title comes about from a meeting Kafer has with the spies, as he’s told by them to dress a certain way and at a certain time to just walk east on Beacon and a Commie agent will be there to take the formula off his hands.
Future film director George Roy Hill (“The Sting”/”Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”) appears in a small role as a government scientist married to a dedicated Soviet mole (Louisa Horton, his real-wife at the time), who gets caught smuggling out of the “Falcon” workplace a tape recording of the successful theorem and when caught claims he did nothing wrong and that ‘You can’t pin anything on me!’ The film’s unintentional funniest line belongs to Jack Manning, a taxi driver blackmailed by the Commies to do their dirty jobs or be ratted out to the feds, who tells his flabbergasted wife: ‘If you have a Party card, it’s like ‘finding yourself married to a woman you hate.’
REVIEWED ON 7/26/2008 GRADE: C+