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The Tattooed Stranger 1950
Description: Detectives investigate the Central Park murder of a young girl with a Marine Corps tattoo.
Released: 09 Feb 1950 Director: Edward Montagne Writers: Philip H. Reisman Jr. (original screenplay) Actors: John Miles, Patricia Barry, Walter Kinsella, Frank Tweddell Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
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The Tattooed Stranger Reviews:

Movie and camera technology developed during Globe Fight Two paved the method for easy, inexpensive zone shooting. So, in the late 40s, films -- in particular, low-budget B-pictures -- started to break away from studio-built sets and to shoot on the mean roads of American cities. These changes also freed production from cumbersome studio systems and place the means of moviemaking into the hands of small, independent producers.The Tattooed Stranger is a starvation-budget police procedural about the murder of an unknown victim; its cast and team are all unknowns as well. A woman's body turns up in Central Park; later, in the morgue, police shoot a skid-row veteran hired to carve an identifying tattoo from her corpse. They have to search out first who she was, then who killed her. Their investigation takes them from brownfields in the Bronx to the bars and beaneries of Brooklyn and the Bowery.This is the ratty old Fresh York, before Robert Moses cleaned everything up by tearing everything down. The characters who inhabit firetrap tenements and patronize grungy tattoo parlors look like shell-shocked urban survivors, not slumming bit-players. The story, sweetened up slightly by a love interest of tiny interest, gets said flatly, with several frills. The Tattooed Stranger affords a brief, quasi-documentary glimpse into a squalid underside without benefit of sentiment or prettification.


I picked up on this film on a dull afternoon. I was intrigued by the game and didn't realize I'd seen it before. I'm glad I took other look.I glanced at some of the reviews and, for the life of me, I can't understand why this film was almost universally panned. It's not Detective Story, or The Naked City, and it was never meant to be. This is a tiny forgotten gem, rescued from obscurity by TCM. We receive to see the cops processing evidence using ways that today seem primitive. The lab scenes take us back to pre-DNA days. It reminds us of a time when the police used logic instead of computers to work out a solution.I admit that the acting is less than outstanding, but gee what atmosphere. The lunch wagons, the shoe repair shops, the tattoo parlors, and the seedier side of life in Brooklyn when it was still interesting.My tip to some of my more critical mates would be: don't test to create a silk purse out of sow's ear. It is what it is.Note: The part of Johnny Marseilles, the tatoo artist, was played by Arthur Jarrett who was a popular tenor in the 30's and 40's. He once sang with some of the popular early bands such as Ted Weems. You can see him in his prime as the singer in other TCM classic named Dancing Lady, with Joan Crawford.


This police procedural is no worse than many others of its era and better than quite a few. Obviously it is following in the steps of "Dragnet" and "Naked City" but emerges as an enjoyable programmer. The greatest thing about it is the unadorned look it provides into a globe actually long gone...the lower class Fresh York of the late 40's/early 50's. Here it is in all its seedy glory, from the old-school tattoo parlors to the cheap hotels to the greasy spoons. These old police movies are like travelogues to a bygone era and very bittersweet to anybody who dislikes the sanitized, soulless cityscape of today.Also intriguing is the emphasis on the nuts-and-bolts scientific aspect of solving the crime...in this case, the murder of a tattooed girl found in an abandoned car. Our main heroes, Detectives Tobin and Corrigan, do the footwork, but without the tedious and painstaking efforts of the "lab boys", they'd receive nowhere. Although the technology is not in the same league, the cops here test the dogged persistence of a C.S.I. investigator to track down their man.The method some reviewers have written about this movie, you think it would have been directed by Ed Wood and acted by extras from his movies. What bosh! I enjoyed John Miles as the gangly ex-Marine turned cop Tobin...he had a happy-go-lucky, easy-going approach to the role that's a welcome change from the usual stone-faced histrionics of most film cops of the period. Patricia Barry is pretty and delicious as his perky girlfriend who supports solve the crime. Walter Kinsella is stuffy and droll as the older detective Corrigan. I rather liked the chemistry of these two and it made for something a bit various than the sort of robotic "Dragnet" approach.The mystery itself is not too deep and the final chase and shoot-out certainly won't rank amongst the classics of crime cinema, but during it's brief running time, "The Tattooed Stranger" more than held my interest.



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