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Follow Me Quietly (DVD Review)

8 Aug, 2011 By: Mike Clark

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
$19.95 DVD
Not rated.
Stars William Lundigan, Dorothy Patrick, Jeff Corey.

Long before Hollywood glutted the market by turning serial killer melodramas into a major sub-industry, this 60-minute toughie — the kind of double-bill supplement that screen-cheapie fanciers used to term “efficient” — was one of the first movies I know of to deal with the subject in an American urban setting (as opposed to say, your standard garden variety Jack the Ripper pic).

Like the rest of its RKO brethren, Quietly got an early TV release, and I got a kick out of watching it at age 12 or 13 because its lead was William Lundigan, who (as “Bill”) was a pitchman for Chrysler products every Thursday night on CBS’s alternating "Shower of Stars" (a variety hour on which Frankie Laine once introduced Frankie Lymon) and the hour-long drama anthology “Climax!” The latter show once aired a biopic that had the seeds to palm off Wendell Corey as Lou Gehrig (gonzo casting that was still preferable to Edward Herrmann‘s corrosion of the Iron Horse many years later).

What got me about Quietly, and is still fairly loopy to this day, was the idea of cop Lundigan requisitioning police funds to construct a “suspect” mannequin that fit meager witness descriptions, akin to the standard composite sketch but throwing in a suit, a tie and hat. The fact that it must look exactly like thousands of men in the city is, I suppose, an incidental. But it makes for an arresting and even mildly disturbing visual, especially once Lundigan plants the figure in his office and (in one scene) even begins talking to it.

The film’s modest budget and the running time prevent its plumbing these psychological depths to any degree, but Lundigan’s brainstorm does peg the movie as an modern police picture — though even with its early nod to forensics, it isn’t really stylistically akin to the pseudo-documentary and lab-oriented cop movies that were then the rage, some directed or partially so by the young Anthony Mann. The director here is Richard Fleischer before he removed the middle-initial “O” from his billing, but Mann, in fact, shares the story credit. Both filmmakers were being groomed for the big time, though Mann would reach it a little sooner. Unlike Mann, Fleischer was better in “B’s” (Armored Car Robbery, The Narrow Margin) than he was in movies with bigger bankrolls — though the estimable Dave Ker of the New York Times (a Fleischer fan) would likely disagree.

The director does a lot of moody things here with noir-style rain (the killer always strikes during heavy precipitation), and the chase ending seems heavily influenced by Jules Dassin’s once landmark The Naked City, as so many crime thrillers of the late 1940s were. Dorothy Patrick, who had leads in “B’s” and subordinate roles in “A’s,” plays the pesky journalist/love interest; I always thought she was memorable as the maid/murder victim in Fritz Lang’s underrated House by the River at Republic, a studio where Patrick frequently labored in ‘B’-Westerns with far less prestigious directors. Jeff Corey plays the secondary cop, not too long before the actor was politically blacklisted in Hollywood for nine years. America was so screwed up at the time that, just think: one actor could be sloppily accused of being a Red while another ended up hawking pushbutton driving for Plymouths every Thursday night. Or maybe it’s just that on certain levels, the modern movie era doesn’t own “diversity.”

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