It took me 60 years, but I finally found “The Judge” this week.
I have had nightmares about “The Judge” ever since I was 10 years old and saw a movie about a faceless killer who stalked Los Angeles when it rained. All right, it wasn’t a great movie, maybe not even a good one, but it sure scared the hell out of me, especially when it rained.
I didn’t see it again for about 15 years, until I was living on Commonwealth Ave. in Boston. I considered myself a sophisticated man-about-town until I saw the damned thing again. Once again, it raised the hair on the back of my neck and I was forced to start a very rare conversation with my roommate at the time. He must have thought I lost my mind.
I did, for a while.
In the climactic scene, an LA detective created a faceless dummy of the killer in the police station, based on various witness reports. The dick, Harry Grant (Bill Lundigan) was frustrated at the mounting death toll. When it started raining, he talked to the dummy, promising that this was the last night that “The Judge” would stalk the city streets.
Grant went off to find the murderer as the camera slowly slid up to the dummy. It was a preview of the damned scene in Psycho. The dummy blinked, then got up and walked away. It was “The Judge” himself — in the police station.
Compared to the calamitous events in “Independence Day” and “Star Wars” where entire planets die in a flash, it might have been small potatoes, but it scared the bejeesus out of this 10-year-old.
I have been boring people about this movie ever since, at various parties and watering holes across the country. But no one ever heard of “The Judge.” I checked every website known to man, trying to find out the name of this haunting movie.
Maybe I dreamed the whole thing.
Then, last week, I did one more web search and up popped “Follow Me, Quietly,” 1949 an RKO production.
That was it! Finally!
“Police baffled by faceless killer,” the ad read. All right, it wasn’t an all-star cast. But still.
In the plot synopsis, Grant was “further hampered by attractive tabloid reporter Ann Gorman.” I must admit, I never remember the “attractive reporter” but I was only 10, for heaven’s sake. Gorman was played by the immortal Dorothy Patrick, once referred to as “Queen of the B Movies.” She was also referred to as “Miss Air Force Recruiting 1951,” made dozens of Saturday serials and dozens of full length films including “Singing in the Rain.”
Bill Lundigan made a million movies and was lucky enough to star with Marilyn Monroe in “Love Nest” two years after “Follow Me, Quietly.” I wonder which one he liked better. In World War II, he took to the other side of the camera as a Marine combat photographer in Okinawa and Peleliu.
The fabulous (at the time) murderer was played by Edwin Max. The only other actor in the film I ever heard of was Jeff Corey, who had a face you would recognize. He was the villain in the original “True Grit” and appeared in more than 100 movies, including “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” He played Wild Bill Hickok in “Little Big Man.”
“Follow Me, Quietly” was directed by Richard Fleischer, who went on to direct “The Boston Strangler,” “Tora! Tora! Tora!” and “Conan, the Destroyer.”
The estimable New York Times was not impressed with “Follow Me, Quietly,” stating “There is no intelligent reason why anyone should heed the proposal of ‘Follow Me, Quietly’ … for this utterly senseless little thriller is patently nothing more than a convenient one-hour time-killer between performances of the eight-act vaudeville bill. In it, William Lundigan, playing a blue-print detective role, takes forever, it seems, to uncover a mystery murderer labeled ‘The Judge.’ When he finally does encounter this conspicuously unattractive gent, he chases him into a refinery and destroys him. That’s the end of ‘The Judge’ and the film.”
What do they know?
Naturally, I went straight to Netflix to order a copy of my personal favorite.
They never heard of it.
Now what? It took me 60 years to find this movie. I must find a copy, to see “The Judge” once more. I wonder if he will scare the hell out of me once more… especially if it’s raining.
Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at firstname.lastname@example.org.