Noirvember Review: ‘Follow Me Quietly’
Every November fans of classic cinema celebrate one of the great genres of filmdom, the film noir. These beloved films ensure fans get their fill of; gritty streets, tough detectives, mysterious femme fatales, dangerous villains, and a unique moody style. This month I will be looking at some of the great noir films of all time for what has been dubbed Noirvember.
Famed studio RKO was going through tough times, they always had a reliable profit center in their small budget B-films produced by Sid Rogel. With the trust of studio heads, Rogel purchased the rights to a project called Follow Me Quietly. He gave young director Richard Fleischer a huge amount of freedom with the script written by Lillie Hayward, so long as he delivered the film under budget. Faith was rewarded in 1949, when Follow Me Quietly proved to be a success in spite of its limited budget and runtime.
For the past six months whenever the rain falls on the city, a serial killer calling himself the Judge stalks the streets looking for a victim to strangle in his demented quest to rid the world of undesirables. An obsessive investigator Lt. Harry Grant has been tracking down every clue he can get on the killer yet his search is going nowhere. Also hunting for the Judge is a tenacious reporter, Ann Gorman who is looking to make a name for herself in journalism circles. As Gorman grows closer to Grant in an effort to get her scoop, the lieutenant’s psyche suffers more and more. Without any real description to act on, the police are forced to rely on a creepy faceless dummy to be a stand-in for the killer in the hopes of inspiring a lead somewhere. Strangely enough this proves to be the break in the case, leading a tense climax where the Judge is pursued through a winding maze by Lt. Grant.
From the very start director, Richard Fleischer establishes that our protagonist Ann Gorman is in a world that is not willing to accept her. The way she is treated once she enters a seedy bar to open the film says it all. The loudmouth gambling bookie by the door treats her in an almost patronizing fashion as she orders a ginger ale of all things and desperately tries to get a blurb from Lt. Grant. Viewers can see shades of how Clarice is presented in Silence of the Lambs in Ann. Actress Dorothy Patrick’s natural charm and the tenacity she brings to the character ensures that if nothing else the audience is definitely rooting for her. Contrasting her more enthusiastic character is William Lundigan who turns in a more brooding and focused performance for Lt. Harry Grant. The two leads have a solid chemistry and are easy for the audience to root for as they try to find a serial killer.
Richard Fleischer was able to use this movie as a launching pad for his storied career as he went on to become a very prolific director with films like: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Soylent Green, and another noir classic in Armored Car Robbery. And here from the start we see the young director had no problem jumping in and giving viewers a moody thriller. What could have been your standard B-grade crime flick is infused with style and atmosphere. Like many other noir directors, Fleischer made sure his characters inhabited a cold unforgiving urban environment, adding to the mood this flick this city was often called to be drenched in rain as a killer stalks the streets. When we reach our climax and the Judge is pursued, we see the set pieces become almost like a claustrophobic labyrinth. The director was greatly aided by cinematographer Robert De Grasse, a veteran of Val Lewton’s atmospheric horror films which fit perfectly in the world of noir.
Follow Me Quietly proved to be another unexpected hit from RKO’s B-flicks which kept the studio afloat in the post-World War II era. The pace moves a lot quicker than many other noir flicks, but given the time and budget they had to work with that is to be expected. If you are still assembling your Noirvember viewing list, make sure Follow Me Quietly is there.