Monday, April 25, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Walk East on Beacon! (1952)

WALK EAST ON BEACON! is an entertaining FBI procedural in the tradition of films such as THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET (1945) and WALK A CROOKED MILE (1948). The movie will be particularly enjoyed by those such as myself who enjoy the "docu-noir" style and are interested in the Cold War era.

WALK EAST ON BEACON! was produced by Louis de Rochemont, who also produced the aforementioned THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET. The movie was filmed in "New England, U.S.A.," per the end title card, and it has just a handful of recognizable actors in the lead roles.

George Murphy, in his last feature film, plays the FBI man heading the investigation into a Soviet spy ring; Finlay Currie is a scientist being blackmailed by the Soviets; and Virginia Gilmore is a Russian spy.

Among the supporting players are future director George Roy Hill (THE STING) and his wife, Louisa Horton. The film is narrated by Westbrook Van Voorhis.

The low-key Murphy is well-cast as the lead investigator. It's quite interesting watching the methodology of both the Communist spies and the FBI, and extensive location photography in Boston and Washington, D.C., adds to the ambience. The film builds to an exciting climax involving spies being rounded up in Washington and at sea.

It's not a great film, but it's entertaining; I find films such as WALK EAST ON BEACON! fascinating on multiple levels. I love the peek into law enforcement practices, technology, and forensic work of the time period; the movie is also noteworthy as a reflection of our national concerns at the time and what messages the filmmakers wanted to communicate to the moviegoing public.

I was curious to know how the film was received upon its release, and found that the original New York Times review described the film as "expertly turned melodrama" and said the movie was "always interesting and sometimes absorbing affair...a swiftly paced, detail-filled yarn."

WALK EAST ON BEACON! was directed by Alfred L. Werker. It was the second film photographed by Joseph Brun; the following year he was nominated for the Oscar for photographing MARTIN LUTHER.

The movie runs 98 minutes.

WALK EAST ON BEACON! isn't available on DVD or VHS. It's a Columbia film which has been shown on Turner Classic Movies.

May 2013 Update: WALK EAST ON BEACON! will be released on DVD this summer from the TCM Vault Collection.


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