This is a really good movie. It works on three levels: 1. The TV, 2. The debate, and 3. The music. The film starts with a man on the radio announcing the time is about 7:30 PM. Then another man named Gunther Wyckoff, pictured above, gets on a bus. He gets a hold of a gun and kills the driver, then goes to the home of a doctor. The doctor isn’t there so he goes to a bar. The bartender has a sizable TV for the small space considering it was 1950. The bartender sees a warning broadcast about Wyckoff who as it turns out has escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane. The bartender makes an attempt to subdue him and is shot and killed. Wyckoff takes the five patrons hostage and demands to see the doctor.

One Of Several TV Crews Setup Outside The Bar

In 1950 television was still pretty new, but really catching on. It drove audiences away from the theaters since people could get at home what they would otherwise have to go to the movies to see. As as result, movies began to try gimmicks like 3D and widescreen. They also started to incorporate the TV into the movies. Elia Kazan’s A Face In The Crowd is a great example. This film makes great use of the television as an even more sensationalist and ubiquitous medium than the newspapers. The way the TV is handled in this film laid the groundwork for a lot of films to come.

The Doctor (Left) With The Police Chief (Right)

Throughout the film there are conversations between the doctor and the police chief about whether it was right for them to hospitalize Wyckoff rather then execute him three years ago when he first killed. The concept of when it’s right and ok to kill comes up again when the doctor confronts Wyckoff. Wyckoff justifies his killings by thinking that he is a soldier and therefore permitted to kill without committing a crime. The film doesn’t dance around this material, but doesn’t come across like some sort of a public service announcement. It strikes the right balance for the material.

The rest of the film is what really caught my eye, but particularly the music. There is music in the opening credits and the closing credits, but not a single note in between. Somebody gets shot, nothing. Somebody screams, nothing. Somebody yells, nothing. No dramatic music, no background music, and no ambient noise. This is rare for a movie in general, but especially for one from 1950 and it works really well. It keeps us firmly on the edge of our seats throughout the film. It also makes everything feel much more realistic. When there is drama, it isn’t punctuated by music. It just happens. We take it for granted that there will always be music or ambient noise. Even silent movies were never really silent. So when it’s gone, it’s very jarring and in this film it creates a suspense that holds us till the end.

There are other things that can be discussed, but just see it for yourself. I highly recommend it.

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