The Killer Is Loose
Cast & Crew
Alan Hale [jr.]
Upon encountering Leon Poole in his current position as bank loan manager, Otto Flanders recognizes him as the corporal from his war unit whom he used to call "Foggy" because of Poole's bumbling mannerisms. Poole, who is not pleased to see his old sergeant, is distracted by a robbery taking place at the back of the bank. When the thief pulls a gun and runs out the front door, Poole tries to stop him and is knocked out. While Flanders is questioned by detective Sam Wagner and his partner, Chris Gillespie at the police station, he now praises Poole's courage. Later, Sam, Chris and Sgt. "Denny" Denning monitor a wiretap, on which they hear the robber calling his accomplice. They trace the call to Poole's apartment and attempt to enter. Poole has barricaded the door, however, and shoots at them, prompting Sam to break down the door and enter shooting. When Mrs. Poole steps out, Sam, and who had been told she was not in the apartment, accidentally kills her, and Poole cradles his beloved wife in his arms. At the trial, Poole is sentenced to three, concurrent, ten-year prison terms, and upon being led out, glares at Sam's wife Lila, and vows to get revenge. A few years later, the jail warden rewards Poole's exceptional good behavior by transferring him to a state honor farm, where he works in the fields. After a short time there, a guard, believing Poole to be a model prisoner, assigns Poole to accompany him on a special trip into the city, not realizing that Poole has smuggled a handmade weapon into his uniform. Poole kills the guard as they drive on a deserted road, then finds a nearby farmhouse, where he murders the inhabitant and steals his clothes and truck. Soon, Sam, who has recently taken a desk job at Lila's insistence, learns of Poole's escape, but scoffs when the police consider him a prime target for Poole's vengeance. He tries to shield his pregnant wife from the truth of Poole's disappearance, but she guesses, and once again urges him to quit police work for his own safety. As soon as Denny and another officer arrive to guard Lila, Sam goes to the office, where Chris fills him in on the details of the manhunt, which is now focusing on the store from which Poole stole a gun the night before. Despite a city-wide roadblock, Poole gets through using false identification, and later in the day, Sam learns that Poole's first cellmate has revealed that the convict used to talk incessantly about killing Lila. Now convinced that his wife is Poole's target, Sam suggests that he serve as "bait" to lure Poole into the open. Sam proposes that they hide Lila at the Gillespie's house while he remains home alone with only a covert contingent of police watching the house. Sam's superior is proud of him for suggesting the plan, but Sam is worried about getting Lila out of the house without arousing her suspicion that she is in particular danger. To that end, he proposes that they take a vacation and asks her to pack bags for them. Once in the car, however, she deduces that they are headed to the Gillespies', and there, despite the warm ministrations of Chris's wife Mary, Lila realizes that Sam is returning to the house alone. Frustrated, she gives him an ultimatum: leave town with her now or she will abandon him. After failing to convince her that he cannot leave the most dangerous work to other men, Sam departs sadly. Meanwhile, Poole, exhausted and hungry, buys a raincoat to cover his farming clothes and wanders to Flanders' house. There, he finds Flanders' wife Grace, who recognizes him and tries to run, but he forces her to prepare him food. While waiting for Flanders to return, Poole recalls how the sergeant humiliated him during their assignment in the South Pacific. Flanders comes home soon after, and upon noting Poole's fatigue, tries to persuade the convict that he is too weak to continue. Poole, declaring that his wife was the only person ever to believe in him, shoots Flanders, causing Grace to collapse. Poole then takes Grace's raincoat and the family car and drives toward Sam's. At the same time, Mary finds Lila packing to leave and, angered, reveals that Sam is only trying to protect her from Poole. After Mary reprimands Lila for thinking she is better than any other policeman's wife, Lila rushes to return to Sam's side. Unable to find a taxi, she boards a bus, but is frightened by all the men onboard. Sam, who is communicating via radio with Denny and Chris's nearby surveillance teams, soon hears that Lila has disappeared and Poole has killed Flanders. The police update him on every pedestrian and car that passes by. When Poole, whom they believe to be a woman, walks down Sam's street but then disappears around a corner, Sam is suspicious, especially after Lila gets off the bus and is spotted approaching on foot. Denny cannot tell if the second woman is Lila, but soon the first "woman" begins tailing her, and Sam is sure that Poole is stalking his wife. However, if the police shoot at Poole and miss, he will have a clean shot a Lila, so Sam orders them to do nothing until she reaches his house. He prays that she will walk by the house so Poole will come in alone, and Lila does pass the front door, but when she then runs into the driveway, Poole jumps forward, and Chris's men come out of hiding with guns blazing. Moments later, Poole is dead, and Sam leads Lila back into their home.
Alan Hale [jr.]
Dee J. Thompson
Richard H. Cutting
Robert L. Jacks
The Killer is Loose
When robbers invade a bank, mild-mannered, bespectacled teller Leon Poole tries and fails to stop them from escaping. He seems like a hero at first, but Detective Sam Wagner (Joseph Cotten) quickly discovers he was the inside man on the job. Attempting to arrest Poole, Wagner accidentally shoots and kills his suspect's wife. As Poole is led off to prison after his trial, he vows to seek his revenge. A couple of years later, he escapes. His target is not the detective, but his wife Lila (Rhonda Fleming) as he plans to inflict on Wagner the same pain he is suffering. Taken from a Saturday Evening Post story, this straightforward revenge thriller would later be mirrored in two much more intense film noirs - the two versions of Cape Fear (1962 & 1991). However, Boetticher and his cast manage to give The Killer Is Loose a decidedly offbeat edge which climaxes with Poole disguising himself as a woman to accomplish his goal.
Wendell Corey, probably best known to movie lovers as James Stewart's skeptical detective friend in Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954), gives what may be the best performance of his career as the killer Leon Poole. Derided during the war as "Foggy" for his thick glasses, Poole is an utter milquetoast, the sort of person who is usually a victim of crime in movies, not a perpetrator. Corey plays Poole as perpetually cowed, using a soft voice even when threatening others with death. It's a tightrope performance that has audiences sympathizing with him and, at the same time, being repulsed by his twisted logic and heinous behavior.
To further complicate the mixed emotions of the viewers, the potential victim, Wagner's wife Lila, is utterly unlikable. Always fearful of her husband's safety, she demands he leave the police work he loves for a desk job, selfishly arguing that he let other policemen take the risks. Wagner goes through elaborate charades to keep her from discovering the danger that faces them both. Well before the end, viewers will have lost patience and feel Wagner might be better off without her.
Boetticher uses his locales for a number of unsettling effects. A brightly lit, bland Southern California street becomes the setting for a robbery, a typically suburban kitchen of the 50's a scene for terror and murder, and a residential neighborhood a tense lookout filled with hidden policeman scanning the neighborhood foot traffic for signs of sinister intent. Cinematographer Lucien Ballard, who later that year would shoot Stanley Kubrick's The Killing (1956), contributed greatly to the look and feel of the film.
The Killer Is Loose was a quickly produced B-picture with a grade B plot but Boetticher and his actors infuse it with enough twists to make the movie interesting. If he had not immediately turned to directing Randolph Scott riding tall in the saddle, Boetticher could still have made a name for himself creating thrillers like this.
Producer: Robert L. Jacks
Director: Budd Boetticher
Screenplay: Harold Medford, based on a story by John Hawkins and Ward Hawkins
Art Direction: Leslie Thomas
Cinematography: Lucien Ballard
Original Music: Lionel Newman
Film Editing: George Gittens
Set Decoration: Morris Hoffman
Costume Design: William Sarris
Principal Cast: Joseph Cotten (Det. Sam Wagner), Rhonda Fleming (Lila Wagner), Wendell Corey (Leon Poole), Alan Hale, Jr. (Denny), Michael Pate (Det. Chris Gillespie), John Larch (Otto Flanders), Dee J. Thompson (Grace Flanders)
By Brian Cady
The Killer is Loose
TCM Remembers - Budd Boetticher
When director Budd Boetticher died on November 29th, American film lost another master. Though not a household name, Boetticher made crisp, tightly wound movies with more substance and emotional depth than was apparent at first glance. Instead of a flashy style, Boetticher preferred one imaginatively simple and almost elegant at times. Because of this approach films like The Tall T (1957), Decision at Sundown (1957), The Bullfighter and the Lady (1951) and Ride Lonesome (1960) have withstood the test of time while more blatantly ambitious films now seem like period pieces.
Budd was born Oscar Boetticher in Chicago on July 29th, 1916. With a father who sold hardware, Boetticher didn't come from a particularly artistic background. In college he boxed and played football before graduating and heading to Mexico to follow what's surely one of the most unusual ways to enter the film industry: as a professional matador. That's what led an old friend to get Boetticher hired as a bullfighting advisor on the 1941 version of Blood and Sand. Boetticher quickly took other small jobs in Hollywood before becoming an assistant director for films like Cover Girl. In 1944, he directed his first film, the Boston Blackie entry One Mysterious Night. Boetticher made a series of other B-movies, like the underrated film noir Behind Locked Doors (1948), through the rest of the decade.
Boetticher really hit his stride in the 50s when he began to get higher profile assignments, including the semi-autobiographical The Bullfighter and the Lady in 1951 which resulted in Boetticher's only Oscar nomination, for Best Writing. Sam Peckinpah later said he saw the film ten times. Other highlights of this period include Seminole (1953) (one of the first Hollywood films sympathetic to American Indians), the stylishly tight thriller The Killer Is Loose (1956) and the minor classic Horizons West (1952). In the late 50s, Boetticher also started directing TV episodes of series like Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip.
In 1956, Boetticher started a string of films that really established his reputation. These six Westerns starring Randolph Scott are known as the Ranown films after the production company named after Randolph Scott and producer Harry Joe Brown. Actually the first, Seven Men from Now (1956), was produced by a different company but all of them fit together, pushing the idea of the lone cowboy seeking revenge into new territory. The sharp Decision at Sundown twists Western cliche into one of the bleakest endings to slip through the Hollywood gates. The Tall T examines the genre's violent tendencies while Ride Lonesome and Buchanan Rides Alone (1958) have titles appropriate to their Beckett-like stories. The final film, Comanche Station, appeared in 1960.
That was the same year Boetticher made one of the best gangster films, The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, before watching everything fall apart. He and his wife decided to make a documentary about the famous matador Carlos Arruza and headed to Mexico. There Boetticher saw Arruza and much of the film crew die in an accident, almost died himself from an illness, separated from and divorced his wife (Debra Paget), and then spent time in various jails and even briefly a mental institution. This harrowing experience left him bankrupt but he still managed to complete the film, Arruza (1968), which gathered acclaim from the few who've been able to see it.
Boetticher managed to make just one more film, My Kingdom For... (1985), a self-reflexive documentary about raising Andalusian horses. He also made a cameo appearance in the Mel Gibson-Kurt Russell suspense thriller, Tequila Sunrise (1988). He died from complications from surgery at the age of 85.
By Lang Thompson
TCM Remembers - Budd Boetticher
Prior to the June 13, 1953 publication of the novelette The Killer Is Loose in The Saturday Evening Post, Hollywood Reporter had reported, in February 1953, that the story had been purchased by Twentieth Century-Fox. Los Angeles Times soon noted, on March 3, 1953, that the studio sought Orson Welles to play the role of "Leon Poole," with Victure Mature set for the role of "Sam Wagner." Robert Bassler was assigned to produce the film, and according to a March 3, 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item, planned to shoot it that October in CinemaScope.
By November 30, 1954, Hollywood Reporter stated that Robert Goldstein and Robert L. Jacks, part-owners of new independent production company Crown Productions, Inc., had purchased the story from Fox and assigned Danny Fuchs to write the screenplay. They intended the film to begin shooting in March 1955, and in February 1955 announced in Hollywood Reporter that Maurice Suess would act as the production manager. On March 10, 1955, however, Hollywood Reporter reported that the start date had been delayed, causing Suess to leave the production. The bank robbery sequence at the beginning of the film was shot in and around the intersection of Roxbury Dr. and Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles.
Although mid-August 1955 news items add Karolee Kelly, Steve Mitchell and Rudi Dana to the cast, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Modern sources add the following actors: Frank Gerstle (Bank robber); William Hudson (Detective on Stakeout); Stafford Repp (State Police Capt. Lyle Snow) and Charles Wagenheim.
Released in United States Winter February 1956
Released in United States Winter February 1956