The two latest releases from the classic-focused label are ‘T-Men’ and ‘He Walked By Night.’
Classic Flix is a relatively new Blu-ray label focusing on restoring “long neglected classics” for releases packed with special features. Previous titles have included films starring Shirley Temple, Henry Fonda, Bette Davis, and more, and we’re taking a look at the new newest titles below. T-Men and He Walked by Night are both sharp crime tales from the 40s ripped (indirectly) from the headlines and filled with determined men hunting down amoral criminals.
A man is killed, and when word reaches his employers at the US Department of Treasury they send two more in his place. The pair go undercover as criminals on the lam hoping to get in with an increasingly powerful counterfeit ring, but the deeper they go they more dangerous it gets.
Director Anthony Mann‘s perhaps best known for the likes of Cimarron and El Cid, but his run of films in the late 40s so him deliver gritty, stark crime dramas about the clear divide between good and evil in the city streets. T-Men is presented early on with the stuffy import of an actual Treasury retiree reading an introduction to viewers about his department’s various duties, from protecting the president to chasing after counterfeiters, but the dryness ends once the film proper starts.
Mann and cinematographer John Alton (Elmer Gantry) take a straightforward docudrama — To Live and Die in LA this is not — and craft thrills in its action and visual opportunities. We move with our heroes into their new lives living in a seedy motel, fraternizing with unsavory elements, and facing the occasional beating to ensure their loyalty to friends in low places. Dennis O’Keefe and Alfred Ryder are fine, if unremarkable, as the undercover agents, but Charles McGraw holds attention as the film’s heaviest heavy. Narration carries throughout the film, and while it does more to distance viewers from the action than anything else it feels a part of the time.
The film comes to Blu-ray with a sharp restoration, a smart booklet, and a handful of extras. The commentary track offers a bounty of biographical and historical details on the production while two new featurettes offer additional insight into the filmmakers.
- Commentary by biographer & producer Alan K. Rode
- Into the Darkness: Mann, Alton, and T-Men [10:38]
- A Director’s Daughter: Nina Mann Remembers [9:18]
Buy T-Men on Blu-ray from Amazon.
He Walked By Night (1948)
A police officer is shot and killed, and the hunt for his killer keeps the city up at night. The man’s crimes continue as police work to identify the culprit, but can they catch him before he kills again?
There are some similarities between Alfred L. Werker‘s He Walked by Night and Classic Flix’s previous release, T-Men, starting with the fact that the earlier film’s director did uncredited directing work here. Exactly how much seems up for debate, but the two films also share a cinematographer (John Alton), a screenwriter (John C. Higgins), and the same commanding narration voiced by Reed Hadley.
For all of their similarities, though, this is the stronger film thanks to a more compelling tale, some strongly-crafted sequences, and a truly engaging antagonist. Richard Basehart (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) gives life to the killer, and we’re immediately drawn into his methodical mannerisms and plotting. Equal time is spent with the police as they work with witnesses to form a picture of their prey and follow leads, but it’s the not-so mad madman who fascinates with his electronics know how, crimes of opportunity, and deadly desire to elude capture.
It’s a solid tale, but it’s raised above the fray by some truly memorable set pieces and score choices. One scene sees the killer entering a home knowing full well that police are staking it out while another sees him lead the cops on a chase through the city’s sewers. Both are attractively shot, but they’re heightened even more by the decision to let the scenes play out without a score. Only ambient noises reach our ears as men live and die before our eyes.
Once again, the new disc offers an attractive restoration, a detailed booklet, and a pair of extras. The commentary (featuring Twilight Time regular Julie Kirgo) is highly informative while the sole featurette highlights the film’s production with more details.
- Commentary by biographer & producer Alan K. Rode and film historian Julie Kirgo
- Below the Surface: He Walked By Night [11:47]
Buy He Walked By Night on Blu-ray from Amazon.