The premise behind The Killer That Stalked New York (shouldn’t it be Who?) is almost beyond goofy. The movie mixes one part film noir and one part medical thriller and… I mean, I don’t even know what to say about the story. It’s such a ludicrous idea (the fate of the city, under threat from a smallpox outbreak, hinges on a wronged woman on the run), it really does work to some degree. Some of it might have to do with Evelyn Keyes turning in a rather good performance as the hunted woman, but a lot of it also has to do with that wacky story.
While the movie has to take itself seriously (otherwise, it’d be a farce), it goes a little far, utilizing a voiceover narration (from someone who is not a character in the film), who hurries things along, particularly at the beginning. There’s also the problem of not defining the risks. The mayor orders the entire city vaccinated after five cases, damn the expense, but it’s never explained why they’re so worried if all the cases shown are directly related to Keyes. I know I’m asking quite a bit from a seventy-five minute Columbia B-movie, but some of it’s so obvious, someone must have noticed on set.
There are two main characters, one for each story (until Keyes disappears so she can provide some shock value later on). Keyes, like I said, is good as the carrier. The role’s terribly written, but she conveys a lot of emotion. William Bishop plays the doctor in charge; he’s after Keyes. Bishop’s real bad. Of the larger parts, Charles Korvin is best as the sleazy husband. Lots of good small performances–Art Smith, Whit Bissell, Jim Backus–offset the lousy smaller performances.
The movie shot on location in New York City and it’s great looking. McEvoy doesn’t get trapped in a noir mindset and a lot of his composition is, nicely, defined by the locations. The rest of it feels a lot like Meet John Doe Frank Capra, only with less light.
Killer is barely a diversion. Some good stuff about it, but the story’s not compelling and the major perk of watching it (besides the locations) is to catch the silly oversights.
Directed by Earl McEvoy; screenplay by Harry Essex, based on an article by Milton Lehman; director of photography, Joseph F. Biroc; edited by Jerome Thoms; music by Hans J. Salter; produced by Robert Cohn; released by Columbia Pictures.
Starring Evelyn Keyes (Sheila Bennet), Charles Korvin (Matt Krane), William Bishop (Dr. Ben Wood), Dorothy Malone (Alice Lorie), Lola Albright (Francie Bennet), Barry Kelley (Treasury Agent Johnson), Carl Benton Reid (Health Commissioner Ellis), Ludwig Donath (Dr. Cooper), Art Smith (Anthony Moss), Whit Bissell (Sid Bennet), Roy Roberts (Mayor of New York), Connie Gilchrist (Belle – the Landlady), Dan Riss (Skrip), Harry Shannon (Police Officer Houlihan) and Jim Backus (Willie Dennis).