Walk the Dark Street (1956)

Dan Lawton (Don Ross) is fighting in the Korean War and has been promoted to Lieutenant, angering Tommy Garrick (Eddie Kafafian), who thinks he was passed over for promotion in favor of Dan. There’s nothing Tommy can do about the promotion, though, so he lets his emotions out in a letter to his brother, Frank (Chuck Connors). Tommy tells Frank that he thinks Dan is incompetent, and that if he should be harmed in the war, the blame should be put on Dan.

The letter turns out to be prophetic. When a sniper soon attacks Dan’s platoon, Tommy is killed after jumping out of cover to fire at the sniper.

A few months later, Dan has returned to the States from Korea. He decides to pay a visit to Frank, to share his condolences for Tommy’s death and to share stories about the young man, who he describes as “a good sergeant.”

(Image via Movie Poster Shop)

(Image via Movie Poster Shop)

Frank is a trophy hunter, and their conversation later turns from Tommy to Frank’s numerous trophies, which are displayed prominently in his home. After years of hunting big game, Frank has completed many dangerous expeditions but has grown bored. Now he has a new idea: to hunt a man.

Walk the Dark Street was directed by Wyott Ordung, who also produced and wrote the film. This 1956 flick puts a twist on “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell, updating the story from a desolate island to the streets of Los Angeles.

I read the original story of “The Most Dangerous Game” for the first time last year and was absolutely floored by it. I have read few short stories as suspenseful or genuinely disturbing. The whole premise of man hunting man inevitably lends a dark tone to any work adapted from or inspired by Connell’s words.

Walk the Dark Street at first takes a somewhat lighter angle toward Connell’s original idea. Frank tells Dan that they should hunt each other, not with lethal guns but with “camera guns” that simply snap a picture when the “prey” is caught. Each man will try to lure the other into a trap, then aim the gun, and make a little photograph.

Dan treats it very much like a game, excited when he thinks he has a shot at Frank, and not at all worried about actually being harmed. This lessens the film’s suspense in comparison with more straightforward adaptations of Connell’s work, as well as in comparison with the short story itself.

In these moments of lower suspense, the film is still kept interesting by Chuck Connors’ performance as Frank. He has a certain air to him that makes his motives seem much more sinister than Dan realizes. Sure enough, he does bring higher suspense to the film later on as his true intentions become clear.

Walk the Dark Street doesn’t do as much as it could with its premise, and I wish it had delved further into Frank’s mind/motivation (beyond the simple wish to avenge his brother’s death). Still, it’s an interesting update on a familiar story, and for the most part it kept me glued despite its less-than-strong level of suspense. The score: 3/5

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