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Blu-Ray : Highly Recommended
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Release Date: January 30th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 1948

He Walked By Night: KLSC

Overview -

Blu-ray Review By: David Krauss
The classic low-budget film noir gets a spiffy update from KLSC that makes an upgrade irresistible. A brand new HD master struck from a 16-bit 4K scan of the 35mm fine grain produces a stunning transfer that immerses us in this absorbing manhunt tale and celebrates the arresting cinematography of John Alton. A new commentary track and classy packaging add to the appeal of this top-notch disc. Highly Recommended.

Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono
Special Features:
Audio Commentary by film historian Imogen Sara Smith, Audio Commentary by author/film historian Alan K. Rode and writer/film historian Julie Kirgo, Trailers
Release Date:
January 30th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


Almost everyone has heard of Dragnet, the classic L.A.-based TV cop show that debuted in the 1950s and ran on-and-off for decades, but probably just a precious few recall He Walked by Night, the low-budget movie that inspired the hard-boiled series. And that’s too bad, because director Alfred Werker’s taut, no-nonsense film noir is a lot more artistic, affecting, atmospheric, and memorable than any of Dragnet’s formulaic episodes. By combining terse storytelling with a couple of dazzling set pieces and a host of fine performances, He Walked by Night holds our attention from start to finish as it methodically chronicles how the LAPD hunts down an elusive and diabolically clever lone-wolf killer.

That killer is Roy Morgan (Richard Basehart), a quiet, unassuming, well-dressed man who matter-of-factly shoots an off-duty police officer at point-blank range after he’s spotted trying to break into an electronics store. The murder sparks an intense LAPD investigation led by Captain Breen (Roy Roberts), who assigns two detectives, Sgt. Marty Brennan (Scott Brady) and Sgt. Chuck Jones (James Caldwell), to work the case. As they tirelessly track down leads, the reclusive - and elusive - Roy hides out in his secluded Hollywood bungalow with his trusty watchdog and continues to commit a string of robberies to throw the cops off his scent. A couple of close encounters with the police ensue, but Roy, who hasn’t been the same since he returned from service in World War II, always escapes the scuffles, often disappearing into the labyrinthian network of underground storm drains that snake beneath the streets of L.A. Like a nocturnal animal, Roy only leaves his nest after the sun goes down, making it harder for Breen and his crew to nab him.

Along with Call Northside 777The Naked City, and T-MenHe Walked by Night ushered in a new era of noir by examining the rough realities of urban streets and the ruthless thugs who prowl them. Yet instead of focusing on the suspect’s criminal deeds and off-kilter personality, this police procedural presents the narrative from the law’s perspective, allowing us to get an insider’s view of the investigation. Like a job shadower, we tag along with the detectives as they pound the pavement looking for clues, confer with a forensics expert on shell casings, and process the input of various witnesses to create a composite sketch. No superfluous romance or subplots clutter the canvas; He Walked by Night is all business all the time over the course of its brisk 79 minutes.

Heightening the film’s semi-documentary aura is the narrative’s true-life roots. Right up front, a prologue states the story is based on the “most difficult homicide case” the LAPD has ever had to tackle (before Charles Manson, of course). Though Roy Morgan is not portrayed as a serial killer, he still closely resembles Erwin “Machine Gun” Walker, whose murderous rampage a couple of years before put him on death row and was most likely attributable to some kind of post-traumatic stress brought on by his combat tenure in World War II. Because PTSD was a hush-hush topic - and not even identified as a common affliction - in those days, the John C. Higgins-Crane Wilbur screenplay only vaguely alludes to Roy’s war record, planting a seed that never gets the chance to germinate. Yet the mere hint that the war could be complicit in Roy’s crimes - quite an innuendo for 1948 - adds an extra layer of intrigue to the movie. (Learning so little about Roy personally and never discovering what compels him to repeatedly commit crimes are perhaps the film’s biggest faults.)

Of course, most film noirs worth their salt are distinguished by stunning cinematography, and He Walked by Night is no exception. The great John Alton constructs a number of striking shots and sequences, the most notable of which is the thrilling climax that largely transpires in the underground sewers of Los Angeles. Beautifully employing low-level light against the cold concrete tunnels, shimmering streams, and murky puddles, Alton immerses us in a dank, creepy netherworld teeming with cinematic possibilities. Alton worked with director Anthony Mann on T-Men the previous year, and though no solid proof exists, there’s a general consensus among classic film experts that Mann directed the famous sewer scene as well as other isolated sequences in He Walked by Night. No one seems to know why Mann was asked to participate and why or if Werker was removed from the picture, but many sources list Mann as an uncredited director on the film. The arresting visuals and artistic construction of the climax (which interestingly predates a similar and far more renowned sewer scene in Carol Reed’s The Third Man) suit Mann far more than the workmanlike Werker, making the connection seem very plausible indeed.

Basehart, in only his third motion picture, brings the cold and aloof Roy to brilliant life. With restraint and a quiet resolve, he showcases the enigmatic, duplicitous qualities that make this mysterious sociopath such a fascinating figure. Brady also makes a strong impression in only his fourth film, balancing the stereotypical square-jawed toughness of a movie cop with just enough affable charm to humanize his character. Plenty of unheralded supporting actors populate the proceedings as well, and Jack Webb, who identified the lasting appeal of He Walked by Night and parlayed it into a starring role in Dragnet a few years later, asserts himself well as a forensics expert.

He Walked by Night is another underground noir that’s been unearthed, restored, and elevated to its proper place in film history. When viewed in tandem with T-Men, this beautifully shot and constructed movie reminds us great independent films aren’t just a recent phenomenon. We just have to work harder to rescue and preserve these Golden Age gems so they can be fully appreciated by current and future generations. He Walked by Night always will be classified as a B movie, but it gets a strong A for artistry, and for this police procedural, that’s a significant badge of honor.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The KLSC edition of He Walked by Night arrives on Blu-ray packaged in a standard case with reversible cover art inside a sleeve. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 and audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono. Once the disc is inserted into the player, the static menu with music immediately pops up; no previews or promos precede it.

Video Review


A brand new HD master struck from a 16-bit 4K scan of the 35mm fine grain yields an absolutely beautiful 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer that's a definite cut above the 2017 ClassicFlix release. Don't get me wrong; the ClassicFlix transfer was very, very good, but this superior rendering takes everything to the next level. A clearer, more vibrant picture, better contrast and shadow delineation, deeper blacks, crisper close-ups, and less grain all enhance the presentation, although don't think for a second that the KLSC transfer sacrifices a film-like feel or in any way compromises the exceptional cinematography of the esteemed John Alton.

A much higher bit rate strongly contributes to the transfer's success, with numbers hovering around 38 Mbps throughout. (By comparison, the ClassicFlix bit rate wanders all over the map, but settles in the high 20s most of the time.) I often ding KLSC for the lack of clean-up on its transfers, but this one is practically pristine. The spotless image not only immerses us in the action, it also allows us to more fully appreciate the cinematography. A few shots here and there exhibit noticeable softness and slight fading, but the instances are brief. If you're a fan of He Walked by Night, you'll definitely want to upgrade.

Audio Review


The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track seems to be identical to the uncompressed mono track on the 2017 ClassicFlix release, although the starting volume level is much lower. Like its 2017 counterpart, the KLSC track maximizes all the aural nuances and bold accents that distinguish He Walked by Night. Because music is used so sparingly, the film relies on natural audio elements to convey mood and build suspense, and this well-modulated track clearly reproduces each element. Gunshots burst forth with a startling intensity that reverberates throughout the room, while screaming sirens, rumbling motorcycle engines, and the dissonant barking of a watchdog add essential atmosphere. When the score does kick in, a wide dynamic scale handles all of its highs and lows without any distortion, and during all the long stretches of silence no hiss, crackle, pops, or surface noise disrupt the delicious quiet. Best of all, every bit of dialogue and narration is easy to comprehend.

Special Features


KLSC provides a new audio commentary and recycles the 2017 commentary that appeared on the previous ClassicFlix disc. The other two ClassicFlix extras - a retrospective featurette and image gallery - have not been ported over.

  • NEW Audio Commentary by film historian Imogen Sara Smith - The film noir expert sits down for this new commentary and begins by classifying He Walked by Night as more of a semi-documentary, police procedural, or true-crime film than a traditional noir. Smith puts the film in the context of its time, compares the real-life aspects of the story to what ended up on screen, notes the lack of female characters, and examines the careers and personas of actors Basehart, Webb, and Whit Bissell, director Anthony Mann, writer Crane Wilbur, and cinematographer John Alton. She also talks extensively about the scenes Mann is purported to have directed, analyzes Mann's style, provides a brief history of Eagle-Lion Films, and describes an alternate ending. All of Smith's commentaries are well researched and presented and this one is no exception.

  • Audio Commentary by author/film historian Alan K. Rode and writer/film historian Julie Kirgo - Film noir expert Alan K. Rode and the always delightful Julie Kirgo team up for this enthusiastic and insightful commentary that examines He Walked by Night from many different angles. Kirgo calls the film “one of the most effective portraits of Los Angeles of the period,” while Rode provides facts about the real-life killer who inspired the film and plenty of background information on almost every member of the cast and crew. Both analyze the characters and themes, point out locations, sprinkle in bits of interesting trivia, and share their unbridled admiration for the work of cinematographer John Alton. They also point out a shot that was also included in the previous year’s T-Men, explain connections to Dragnet and L.A. Confidential, and praise the movie’s realistic tone. In addition, the easygoing rapport between Rode and Kirgo boosts the appeal of this breezy track, which any classics or noir fan will both enjoy and appreciate.

  • Trailers - More than a dozen previews for other KLSC noir releases completes the extras package.

Final Thoughts

He Walked by Night remains an absorbing and often arresting film noir that brims with style and features an array of stellar performances. KLSC improves on the 2017 ClassicFlix release, thanks to a gorgeous new HD master struck from a 16-bit 4K scan of the 35mm fine grain. A new audio commentary and slick packaging that includes reversible cover art (love that!) enhance the appeal of this updated and upgraded edition. Noir fans should pounce. Highly Recommended.