The Tattooed Stranger

Released Feb 9, 1950: THE TATTOOED STRANGER, starring John Miles, Patricia Barry, and Walter Kinsella. Directed by Edward Montagne (Project X, The Man with My Face, McHale’s Navy Joins the Air Force). TheTattooedStrangerDevelopments in camera technology in the late 1940s made it easier to bring cameras on location and shoot in low-light conditions, eliminating the need for expensive sets and complex lighting rigs. Not only did this allow films to have a more realistic feel, but it enabled small film producers on meager budgets to have a viable shot at competing with big studios. One type of low budget film that became popular during this period was the police procedural, an almost documentary-like chronicle of police detectives performing their work to solve crimes. This is one such film, and in many ways it plays out like an episode of CSI or Law & Order, except with a love story thrown in for good measure. The film opens with the discovery of a woman’s body in Central Park. She’s been shot to death and left in an abandoned stolen car. With no personal identification on her, except a tattoo on her wrist, the two homicide detectives assigned to the case (John Miles and Walter Kinsella) must find out who she is, who shot her, and why. The film goes to great lengths to demonstrate the importance of “modern” scientific forensic analysis. In fact, Miles is a former lab tech just transferred to the homicide division, and there are frequent comparisons between his scientific methods and the traditional methods of his veteran flatfoot partner, Kinsella. One of the film’s best features are the many location shots throughout the city of New York, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. The city is gritty, run-down, and rich with texture, providing a wealth of atmosphere to the story. Nowadays, we take location shooting for granted, but in the 1940s, it was not a common practice, so this film gives us a rare glimpse of life on the streets during that period. Be sure to look for an uncredited non-speaking appearance by Jack Lord, the future Steve McGarrett of television’s Hawaii Five-O. This was only his third appearance on film. The Tattooed Stranger is a micro-budget film with no-name actors and a fairly pedestrian plot. It’s generally a forgettable film, save for its charm as a precious time capsule of old New York and a glimpse into the origins of police dramas as we know them today. We give The Tattooed Stranger 3 out of 5 fedoras.

3 Fedoras

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