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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Early In Annals Of Serial Killing


Follow Me Quietly (1949) Is A Quiet Trend-Setter

What with every movie or TV show today about serial killers, how's for nod to pioneering Follow Me Quietly, an RKO manhunt that got it done in brief (59 minutes) and for $259K in negative cost, yet still lost money (only $325K in worldwide rentals). Set-up was queasy, a killer called "The Judge" who throws victims out high windows or breaks into women's homes to strangle them from behind. I wonder if the Code kept most part embargo on psycho killer yarns, or were fewer of them submitted during the Classic Era? This one, for all of cheapness, has unease to spare. At one point, the killer seats himself at inner sanctum of police precinct, a cheeky and creepy affront to pursuers. Follow Me Quietly reminded me at times of Seven, being procedural that tickles the horror genre. Val Lewton could have done much here, content and killer bringing to mind his The Leopard Man. RKO merchandising saw chiller ties, Terry Turner as head of publicity selling Follow Me Quietly as Eerie!, Creepy!, and Weird! Inspiration for bent killer narratives had to begin somewhere, and writers who'd later take up the concept may well have gotten start seeing Follow Me Quietly on late night TV.




Follow Me Quietly was distinctly a B. All majors increased low-budget output after the war, service for dual bills as necessary as before WWII boom that briefly made cheaper films less a priority. RKO, like Columbia and Universal, had kept with humbler fare for most of release schedules since beginnings --- by late 40's you could count yearly specials from these on one hand. Follow Me Quietly came on heels of Howard Hughes as fresh owner of RKO, being the first, said Variety (8-5-48), "to tee off ... (a) program of 10 to 11 pictures which will be made between now and the end of the year." Hughes left small product alone, recalled Richard Fleischer, who wrote colorfully of B directing days for the beeping tower (Just Tell Me When To Cry, published 1993). Fleischer did a string of what we applaud as noir, lower tier it's true, but up-and-up progress culminated in The Narrow Margin, which made his reputation and was eventual route out of quickies. Follow Me Quietly falls in latter category (20 days shooting, said 7-11-49 Variety), Fleischer's concern was that most such pics would not be seen by a meaningful audience, let alone by critics who could pull him out of a budget hole. RKO salary that Fleischer drew peaked at around $750, which gave little cushion against unemployment later on (a family to support, so how much from paychecks could he save?). Fleischer was glad to be associated with sleeper hits like The Narrow Margin and other noirs, but they weren't route to wealth. He got stung too by Howard Hughes dithering once pictures were finished. Hughes liked to inspect work at leisure, and that in some cases left product a year on shelves while "anal erotic" HH (Fleischer's term) tended distractions elsewhere. Follow Me Quietly wrapped in 1948, but wouldn't see release until summer '49, where it backed RKO likes of She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, Mighty Joe Young, or loaded vaudeville (Chicago's Palace used Quietly behind eight stage acts).

2 Comments:

Blogger Rick said...

I first caught FOLLOW ME QUIETLY on a late night TV broadcast in the mid-sixties. Took me completely unawares. I tuned in just to pass the time and found myself getting a couple of the best shock-scare moments I'd ever experienced. The scene in the police office which you mention was one of them.

You're also right about the horror vibe. As a longtime Monster Kid, I found myself tussling with myself after that viewing...was it really a horror film? Was it not? Well, it had scared me and that's certainly a primary criterion. Eventually I decided 'yes' and filled out an index card to enter in my horror film files.

I'm still not sure I was wrong. Terrific little movie.

4:05 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Craig Reardon on some of personnel behind FOLLOW ME QUIETLY:


In your (excellent, they all are) piece on the RKO thriller about the psycho stalker, and you have me interested just by that description, I saw that the thing had been produced by one Herman or Herbert Schlom. I remembered that Robert Mitchum had mentioned him as figuring into his own earlier career (mostly at RKO), and that the always interesting 'Mitch' had mentioned that Schlom's son went into the family biz as a script supervisor. Well, here I go again! That son, Marshall Schlom, had the usual calico career most Hollywood pros do, if they keep working and taking what comes, but he also worked some films which I will forever treasure for my own personal reasons. One of them was "Psycho", 'nuff said. Another was "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World". Can you imagine having been on the set of THAT picture? If a person were to say to me, "Yeah? So?", I'd just have to walk away. But, Schlom was also the script guy for a real turnip I worked on in the '90s called "Child's Play 3". I was tempted to go pester him about the (much) more exciting and interesting films he'd been involved with, but there was something kind of hermetic about him that discouraged approaching him, and so I never did. But, this doesn't mean that there isn't, or wasn't for me, a kind of invisible aura around certain people I met during my own working career which was of course generated by what I knew they had been connected to, once upon a time. I suppose that kind of thing carries on, although in my opinion any auras generated in the past few decades are losing their charge considerably due to the rapidly declining mystique, quality, and originality in commercial filmmaking. Then again, as you've often stated in your columns, this kind of evaluation is rather typical when originating from those of us who are able to remember seeing Hollywood product in the 1950s and '60s which still reflected many of the values of the earlier sound film decades, and featured many of the people in front of and behind the cameras from those earlier decades. We were permanently starstruck by those people and the style of moviemaking they were adroit at creating. It's been difficult for me to reconcile the newer mode(s) of feature film entertainment with the ones which were still being cranked out in ever-declining number during my childhood and early adolescence.

12:31 PM  

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