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RKO might have considered it an in-joke when they named their new thriller Follow Me Quietly (1949) because the movie was doing just that, following on the heels of a critical success and a talent they had let slip through their fingers.
Anthony Mann, future director of Winchester '73 (1950) and El Cid (1961), had written a treatment for Follow Me Quietly with Francis Rosenwald while he had been employed by RKO as a minor-league director in the mid 1940's. Finding no real use for his talents there, he had left to join Eagle-Lion, a poverty-row studio that churned out low-budget movies for the bottom of double-bills, and scored a huge critical success for the script and partial direction of He Walked by Night (1948). Police tracking a cop killer was the story but it was the way the script concentrated on the day-to-day work of a criminal investigation that intrigued reviewers.
RKO, noticing the reviews He Walked by Night received, dug through their papers and discovered Mann's earlier treatment for a similar story. Again the emphasis was on a policeman doing his duty but this time he was in pursuit of an insane serial killer who calls himself "The Judge." The killer is not seen as he stalks his victims in the rain, the apparent trigger for his murderous rages. Lt. Grant is assigned to find the Judge but the clues seem to lead nowhere so, trying to get inside the mind of the killer, Grant builds a life-size mannequin and sits it in the corner, spilling out his thoughts on the case to this surrogate.
As Mann was not available to direct, the movie was handed over to Richard Fleischer who turned out to have a sure hand when helming low-budget fast-paced thrillers. "This is the film that, above all, increased my knowledge of the trade. With Follow Me Quietly, I learned how to organize a film, allowing me to make the pursuit at the gas refinery more complex." Fleischer would go on to have a long career in directing, best known for his science fiction work Fantastic Voyage (1966) and Soylent Green (1973) although his early thriller work, such as Follow Me Quietly and The Narrow Margin (1952), is gaining new interest.
RKO did not spend much on this production, using William Lundigan and Dorothy Patrick as the leads, one of the rare times that they enjoyed that distinction (they were usually cast in supporting roles). However, the studio was willing to go for what really mattered, the film's visual look. Cinematographer Robert de Grasse, Academy Award-nominee for Vivacious Lady (1938) but, more appropriately photographer for the horror classic The Body Snatcher (1945), was brought aboard to provide the detailed lighting effects that gave this thriller an extra chill.
Variety praised the result as "a real perspiration-popper." At sixty minutes, Follow Me Quietly does its job of providing a taste of terror and a haunting vision of the dark side of the American city while offering some unexpected delights.
Director: Richard Fleischer
Producer: Herman Schlom
Writer: Lillie Hayward from a story by Francis Rosenwald and Anthony Mann
Cinematographer: Robert de Grasse
Editor: Elmo Williams
Music: Leonid Raab
Cast: William Lundigan (Harry Grant), Dorothy Patrick (Ann Gorman), Jeff Corey (Art Collins), Nestor Paiva (Benny), Charles D. Brown (Mulvaney), Paul Guilfoyle (Overbeck).
BW-60m. Closed captioning.
by Brian Cady