DIAL 1119. MGM, 1950. Marshall Thompson, Virginia Field, Andrea King, Sam Levene, Leon Ames, Keefe Brasselle, Richard Rober, James Bell, William Conrad. Director: Gerald Mayer.

   There are a few things about Dial 1119 that make it particularly unique. Most noticeably, the film is largely bereft of any music, background or otherwise, giving it a rather somber, claustrophobic atmosphere. Which is fitting given the film is about an escaped murderer named Gunther Wyckoff (Marshall Thompson) holding a ragtag group hostage at a neon-lit watering hole.

   The sensibility is pure noir, as one cannot help but feel the undercurrent of despair and hopelessness. Lurking in the background are the aftereffects of the Second World War and its impact on postwar American society.

   Also adding to the film’s uniqueness are two additional elements that, in my estimation, work in its favor.

   First, the cast largely consists of actors and actresses who weren’t top billed names in the business. Crime film fanatics will surely appreciate Sam Levene and William Conrad. But neither of them is present in the movie for very long. Instead, the focus is really front and center on Marshall Thompson, who you may recognize from the sci-fi classic, It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958). Trust me when I say that he’s very good in this and plays his part to the hilt. There’s something about his expressionless face that makes his character particularly memorable.

   Second, the film serves as a seething and prescient indictment of news media saturation in which tragic events are transformed into spectator sports designed for mass public consumption. Like many of the best crime films, Dial 1119 tells us as much about the society that produced the criminal as the criminal himself.

   Overall, Dial 1119 is worth a look. I didn’t know all that much about the movie going in, but after watching it, I can easily imagine myself returning for a second viewing sometime in the years ahead.