Walk East on Beacon

Premiered Apr 29, 1952: WALK EAST ON BEACON, starring George Murphy, Finlay Currie, and Virginia Gilmore. Directed by Alfred L. Werker (Shock, Repeat Performance, He Walked by Night).  Walk East on Beacon is a documentary-style police procedural about the FBI’s efforts to thwart a Communist plotWalkEastonBeacon that mobilizes American sleeper agents in an effort to steal newly developed scientific formulas related to rockets, space travel, and guided missiles.  It was made at the height of “Red Scare” hysteria when America was obsessed with the fear of being infiltrated by Communism.  In fact, the film is based on a piece written by J. Edgar Hoover that originally appeared in The Reader’s Digest, so it’s not surprising that much of the film is devoted to showcasing technological gadgetry employed by the FBI to spy on American citizens.  Right from the start, when the no-nonsense newsreel-style narrator sets the stage for the story over strident patriotic music, it’s pretty clear we’re in for a very dry presentation.  This same lecturing narrator is heard throughout the film as he explains the techniques employed by FBI agents, while other parts of the story are acted out in dramatic sequences.  Unfortunately, none of it is very interesting. The story plods along at a slow, deliberate, and clinical pace, lacking any emotional dimension save for the sequences with the professor (Finlay Currie) who is being forced to hand over his scientific formulas to Communist agents because they are holding his son hostage behind the Iron Curtain. Dialog between the FBI agents is mostly stiff and stilted, except for the occasional laugh they share when discussing attractive female sleeper agents, confirming that 1950s sexism was alive and well, even in serious films about the threat of Communism.  Quite frankly, the most interesting aspect of this film are the many location shots throughout the streets of 1950s Boston.  Overall, Walk East on Beacon feels like an anti-Communist/pro-FBI propaganda film, which was no doubt part of its original intent.  Audiences may have been fascinated at the time, but because the technology depicted is so outdated and the story is presented in such an antiseptic manner, the film’s value today is primarily as a nostalgic time capsule about America’s Communist fears in the early 1950s.  We give Walk East on Beacon 2 out of 5 fedoras.

2 Fedoras

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