Follow Me Quietly (1949)

Directed by
Cinematography Robert De Grasse

A mysterious killer, known only as “The Judge,” kills anyone he considers worthless. Detective Harry Grant is assigned to track him down. With just a handful of clues, Grant constructs a faceless dummy to help his men conduct their investigation.

Police finally break the case after receiving an important clue. Finally, after cornering the killer during a chase on the catwalks of a refinery, the killer is revealed to be a middle-aged man whose cruel disposition and unattractive appearance lead him to become “The Judge.”

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The New York Times was dismissive of the film and wrote, “There is no intelligent reason why anyone should heed the proposal of Follow Me Quietly…[f]or this utterly senseless little thriller is patently nothing more than a convenient one-hour time-killer between performances of the eight-act vaudeville bill.”Reviewing it on DVD, Gene Triplett of The Oklahoman wrote, “[T]his obscure gem packs a remarkable amount of thrills and dramatic weight into a mere 59 minutes”. Paul Mavis of DVD Talk rated it 4.5/5 stars and called it a “strange, unsettling film noir mystery, with a disturbing subtext”.

Here come da Judge

27 July 2005 | by blanche-2 (United States) – See all my reviews

Interesting B movie starring William Lundigan and Dorothy Patrick about a police detective’s search for a serial killer called “The Judge.” Gritty city scenes (although as one poster points out, it was probably an RKO set) enhance the atmosphere, and it’s one of the things that makes “Follow Me Quietly” unusual. Two more items of interest: A very exciting finale and the twist of having the police make a dummy model from everything they know about the perpetrator. In one scene, Lundigan is talking to the dummy’s back, and it turns out to actually be the killer.

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Lundigan was a good looking, poor man’s Joel McCrea, perfect to be a detective in real life but not much of an actor. He doesn’t exude much energy. Patrick, an attractive blonde, neither wildly glamorous or beautiful, gives a spirited performance as a tabloid reporter.

FOLLOW ME QUIETLY (Richard Fleischer, 1949) ***

7/10
Author: MARIO GAUCI (marrod@melita.com) from Naxxar, Malta
8 April 2006

Superb, little-known noir – from a story by Anthony Mann (reportedly, he even directed some of it)! – which is certainly Fleischer’s best from the genre after THE NARROW MARGIN (1952). Although it took me a while to warm up to the two leads (especially William Lundigan, given his crucial role of an obsessive police detective who is virtually a mirror-image of the vicious killer, a concept done to death in subsequent thrillers), their relationship is nicely developed and the rest of the cast – particularly Jeff Corey as the hero’s wise-cracking sidekick and Edwin Max as “The Judge”, when finally unmasked (actually a meek little man, not unlike the Peter Lorre of M [1931]!) – also performs admirably.

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However, where the film – a brisk, taut 60 minutes! – truly scores is in its brilliant direction of the suspense sequences: the startling revelatory zoom of the villain’s blank-faced dummy is particularly striking, whereas the scene in which we realize that “The Judge” has effectively replaced the dummy in Lundigan’s office is genuinely creepy; these two sequences, not to mention the ‘look’ of the dummy itself, uncannily predate the Italian giallo genre by about 15 years – and I just have to wonder whether Mario Bava had actually watched this film somewhere down the line, and was perhaps reminded of it, when making his own seminal thriller BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964)!! Besides, the climax by the huge water tanks is quite splendid, and rarely has the rain been so ominously used as in this film!

A classic of its kind and, in hindsight, an influential one which, hopefully, Warners will consider releasing on DVD soon – as it’s actually better than some of the noirs which are out already or have been announced by them…

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In 1949, RKO Pictures was in financial trouble (but then again, when wasn’t it?). Howard Hughes was in the process of ruining the studio, due in large part to his poor decision-making when it came to which pictures to greenlight and his constant meddling with films as they were being made. In 1948, the year before Follow Me Quietly was released, RKO had seen its profits drop by a staggering 90 percent, from $5.1 million in 1947 to a mere $500,000 in 1948. Moving forward, the company would focus on churning out even more low-budget, one-hour B pictures in an effort to turn a quick profit.

One of RKO’s favorite directors for these one-hour programmers was a man whose name isn’t spoken in noir circles as often, or with as much reverence, as some of the other directors who have spent significant time in Dark City. However, from the late forties to the early fifties, Richard Fleischer had a decent run at the tables, directing no less than seven noirs (all but one for RKO) in a five-year period—Bodyguard (1948), The Clay Pigeon (1948), Follow Me Quietly (1949), Trapped (1949), Armored Car Robbery (1950), His Kind of Woman (1951, uncredited) and The Narrow Margin (1952). He also returned to the genre one more time in 1955 to the direct the color crime noir Violent Saturday (1955).

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In terms of quality, Follow Me Quietly marked a turning point for Fleischer. He recognized this when he said, “This is the film that, above all, increased my knowledge of the trade. I learned how to organize a film.” It’s true. Follow Me Quietly is an enjoyable, tightly-organized film that gives the impression that Fleischer would go on to even make even better films, which he did.

The plot of the film is fairly straightforward B fare. A serial killer who calls himself The Judge has been murdering people for months, strangling them only on rainy nights. He leaves notes that are made out of letters cut from magazines that claim he’s punishing sinners and meting out justice. The two cops on the case, Lt. Harry Grant (William Lundigan) and his wisecracking sidekick St. Art Collins (Jeff Corey), are sitting on a lot of individual pieces of evidence that they just can’t seem to piece together, and his own lack of progress is driving Grant crazy. In addition to his stress over not cracking the case, he’s also trying to fend off Ann Gorman (Dorothy Patrick), a reporter for the lower-than-low tabloid rag “Four Star Crime,” who is doggedly pursuing him for his take on the case.

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Then, one day when Grant is staring at all of the evidence they’ve compiled, he gets an idea. Instead of just sending out the standard, blasé description of what they think The Judge looks like, why not make a faceless but life-size dummy of him based on what they know? The idea is a hit within the department. They bring in all of the department’s cops and let them see it so that they get a better idea of his shape and size. They stand potential perps next to it in the lineup room to see how they measure up. They take pictures of it from various angles and canvass the neighborhoods where the crimes were committed to see if anyone recognizes him.

If you’re thinking that this idea sounds…wacky, you’re not off base. Why would a dummy be any better than a sketch, especially when in many instances they’re just using pictures of it to try to identify the killer? Fleischer needs to sell this as a serious idea and not a hammy plot device, and for the most part, he succeeds.

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The scene when the dummy is introduced becomes creepier as it progresses—with the sole light in the lineup room focused on the back of the dummy, Grant provides a voiceover through the speaker system from the point of view of The Judge, based on the psychological profile they’ve established for him. Fleischer sells the seriousness of this scene, which successfully walks the line between disturbing and unintentionally ridiculous, through creative camerawork and stark lighting on the dummy, making its anonymity and facelessness seem menacing. Later in the film, Grant, who has stayed late into the night, talks to the dummy, who he keeps sitting in a chair in his office, projecting his anger and frustration toward The Judge onto it. Again, while this scene could have played out as silly, it instead plays out as tense and suspenseful, because the way Fleischer stages and lights the scene, we’re immediately wondering if it really is just the dummy, or if The Judge has sneaked into the office and taken its place.

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In order to sell such a gimmicky plot, Fleischer needs to get at least serviceable performances from Lundigan and Patrick, and despite one clunkily delivered exposition dump from Lundigan early on, they sell their roles well enough. He aids their performances through creative cinematography—the night scenes in the rain are particularly well done and affecting—and some of the aforementioned stylistic flourishes (Dutch angles, anyone?) add a nice touch. The climax of the film—a chase through an empty factory—is well-paced and exciting, and it contains a nice bit of symbolism at the very end.

No one would mistake Follow Me Quietly for an A picture. It’s short, it’s low budget, and the performances are good but not great. (Sidenote: about two-thirds of the way through the film, its B budget gets the better of it, resulting in a great unintentional laugh. Grant is sitting at his desk at night, and it starts to rain outside, signaling to him that The Judge may strike again. However, the seriousness of the moment is undercut by the fact that when the rain starts falling against his windows, it’s clearly coming from must have been several sprinkler heads just above the windows. The water sputters out of them initially as the water pressure builds up, then starts hitting the window in a fan pattern instead of falling straight down.) However, none of this detracts from the fact that this is a briskly paced, nicely photographed and highly enjoyable little noir with enough punch to keep you thoroughly entertained throughout its one hour running time.

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Assassin without a face

7/10
Author: TrevorAclea from London, England
29 November 2006

Until I saw it listed in a French DVD catalogue, I didn’t even remember that “Follow Me Quietly” existed. Picking it up more out of completism because of its co-story credit for Anthony Mann (who may have directed some sequences) than out of hope, it turned out to be a highly enjoyable sleeper. True, it’s little more than a highly disposable studio programmer, but it moves briskly along at just over an hour and is filled with memorable moments, be it a newspaper editor dictating the story of his own murder or a conversation with a dummy of a faceless serial killer that has a neat payoff that has no bearing on the rest of the film whatsoever beyond just being a good scene.

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There’s some fun in the sparring between William Lundigan’s cop and Dorothy Patrick’s rookie reporter for a downmarket crime magazine that owes much to director Richard Fleischer’s neat touch with dialogue that would be much better utilised on The Narrow Margin. Mann’s signature is evident in the finale, prefiguring his beloved mountain/canyon shootouts by having the finale take place in a chemical factory’s gantries and platforms. Nothing special, but just the welcome sight of pros doing their job much better than anyone asked them to. For once the French title, Assassin Without a Face, seems a better fit than the American, the relevance of which only becomes apparent in the penultimate scene.

Taut B mystery

7/10
Author: missy_baxter (missy_baxter@yahoo.com) from Boston, MA
6 July 2001

Normally lightweight William Lundigan is quite good as the hero cop of this quickie programmer. The rest of the cast is also quite good and the suspense remains high throughout. The plot is deceptively simple which is what makes the whole thing work in this atmospheric thriller. The only disappointment you’ll have is that it’s over so quickly.

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