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  • Film and camera technology developed during World War Two paved the way for easy, inexpensive location shooting. So, in the late 40s, movies -- in particular, low-budget B-pictures -- started to break away from studio-built sets and to shoot on the mean streets of American cities. These changes also freed production from cumbersome studio systems and put 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 crew 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 find 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 New 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 little interest, gets told flatly, with few 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 movie on a dull afternoon. I was intrigued by the title and didn't realize I'd seen it before. I'm glad I took another look.

    I glanced at some of the reviews and, for the life of me, I can't understand why this movie was almost universally panned. It's not Detective Story, or The Naked City, and it was never meant to be. This is a little forgotten gem, rescued from obscurity by TCM. We get to see the cops processing evidence using methods 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 advice to some of my more critical friends would be: don't try to make 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 famous tenor in the 30's and 40's. He once sang with some of the famous early bands such as Ted Weems. You can see him in his prime as the singer in another TCM classic called 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 best thing about it is the unadorned look it provides into a world now long gone...the lower class New 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 films 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 woman 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 get nowhere. Although the technology is not in the same league, the cops here use the dogged persistence of a C.S.I. investigator to track down their man.

    The way 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 movie cops of the period. Patricia Barry is cute and delightful as his perky girlfriend who helps 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 different 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.
  • Although a grade B movie with the cast seldom seen elsewhere, this movie packs a punch. First it has good dialogue with a lot of quirky, almost hidden, humor. Best of all it gives the viewer a look at the seedy side of New York City in the early post-WWII era. The police methods may be dated but they are still of historical interest. It's also a good sociological perspective of the period and shows the viewer how times have changed, especially concerning the "art" of tattooing. It is also fast paced and though there's nothing new in the plotting, the story holds the viewer's interest. The acting may not be top notch, but it's also not Joe Namath. Forget its grade B status and just enjoy.
  • Director Edward Montagne does in a little more than one hour what other, more expensive and hyped films fail to do. Mr. Montagne shows us a police story written by Phillip H. Reisman Jr. that while, is not one of the best of the genre, it keeps the viewer involved in all that's going on.

    This is clearly a B type movie. In fact, the best thing going for "The Tattooed Stranger" is the opportunity to take a peek at the way New York looked in those years. The crystal clear cinematography by William O. Steiner, either has been kept that way through the years, or has been lovingly restored.

    There are great views of New York in the opening sequence. Later we are taken to Brooklyn to the Dumbo section and later on the film travels to the Bronx and the Gun Hill Road area with its many monument stores in the area.

    John Miles and Walter Kinsella made a great detective team. Patricia Barry is perfect as the plant expert from the Museum of Natural History. Jack Lord, who went to bigger things in his career, is seen in a non speaking role.

    It was great fun to watch a city, as it was, because it doesn't exist any more.
  • THE TATTOOED STRANGER was made two years after THE NAKED CITY and is obviously strongly influenced by it. Both films start with the murder of a woman and no clues. Both feature a team of a veteran and a neophyte detective. Both emphasize the legwork the young detective has to do, going from store to store throughout the city. In both the young detective tries to catch the killer alone. And both even feature a location with gravestones in the final chase. Yet, still, STRANGER is much more effective in capturing the real, everyday city, and is a memorable film in its own right. THE NAKED CITY rarely looks as though it were filmed with a hidden camera; in that bigger-budget production, the real locations look more like sets, with hired extras, studio camera-work and lighting, etc. (The exception, of course, is the breathtaking finale on the Williamsburg Bridge.) And the foreground action takes precedence; one doesn't get a strong sense of the texture of the city the way one does in STRANGER, where almost the entire film is made on various locations, including The Bowery.

    The detection and the crime are quite realistic, and the bit players--including two tattoo experts and various luncheonette owners--seem as though they were pulled off the street. The excellent pacing matches a good script and performances appropriate to the story. The dialogue is sharp: pointing the body out to morgue attendants arriving just after the shootout, "He's over here, just the way you like him." And the young clean-cut cop has a nice sense of what a cop can get away with. In one of those greasy luncheonettes he tells a customer who seems interested in his conversation, "Joe, your ice cream's melting." With its real sense of the seedy atmosphere of the city, its agreeable pacing and crisp dialogue, THE TATTOOED STRANGER is a top notch film in its genre, able to hold its own in comparison to bigger-budgeted films.
  • Cop says to a guy sitting at a lunch counter and who is showing to much interest in their interrogation of the owner,"Eat your ice cream before it gets cold." And to a tattoo artist who offers the cops a discount. "No thanks. A guy named Angelo does all my art work. Mike Angelo. Ever hear of him?" The lead cop refers to the rookie cop, who is a "college boy" who believes forensic science can solve crimes, as the test tube baby.

    Just seeing the lineup of old cars that were driven in 1950 makes the movie worth watching to a car buff. For those folks I also highly recommend Walter Matthau's "Gangster Story."
  • Warning: Spoilers
    THE TATTOOED STRANGER – 1950

    This is a low budget programmer from RKO that rises above its humble origins.

    The body of a woman is found murdered in a stolen car parked in Central Park. There is no identification on the woman so no way to trace the girl. From the fact the woman had been killed in a blast from a shotgun, suggests she was killed elsewhere and then loaded in the car for disposal.

    Detectives John Miles and Walter Kinsella draw the case. The lab boys are already at the site doing the fingerprint work and such. The body is then taken by the medical examiner for a closer look and an autopsy. Now things start hopping when a well-known skid row type hits the morgue, then starts to carve up the dead woman's arm. The Police shoot the man dead. The Detectives wonder why the man was going after the body. The medical examiner shows them a tattoo the woman had on her arm. They had taken the photo before the man had mangled the arm.

    OK, a clue, they search out all the local tattoo joints while wondering who had paid the bum to mutilate the arm. They show a photo of the dead woman and her tattoo around. This finally leads to the man who did the tattoos. He tells the detectives that he believes the woman works in a hash joint up the street. They soon track down the dead woman's apartment. They collect her mail for a look. There are a few G.I. insurance checks going to the address under several names. It seems the woman had a collection of dead husbands.

    The Detectives fail to notice that they are being followed by a large man with a paper covered package, and with his hat pulled low. The viewer sees that the man has the same tattoo as the dead woman. The boys at the lab have now come up with something odd in the car. There is a clump of non-local grass in the car. Miles makes a quick trip to a botany type, Patricia White to see if it can be identified. It seems it only grows in a small area in the Bronx. That helps to narrow down the area where the woman was most likely killed.

    From the letters etc found at the dead woman's apartment, they come up with a possible suspect. This soon leads the boys on a wild chase through the back lanes and rundown buildings of the area. Their man manages though to escape into the dark alleys etc.

    Next is a visit to the rock quarry the man works at. Miles and the shotgun armed suspect, end up exchanging rounds in a yard full of grave monuments. Miles catches a load of shot in his thigh but manages to put down the suspect.

    It turns out the man had been one of the so-called dead husbands the dead woman was collecting on. He had returned for a cut of the action. The "negotiations" had went south fast and the woman lost.

    While the acting of the mostly unknown types takes the odd stumble, the film is quite enjoyable. Seldom does one get to see the squalid tenements etc that populated NY at the time. This is great on location shooting. Great stuff.

    Look close and you will see in an unbilled bit, future television star, Jack Lord (Hawaii 5-0) as a forensics detective.

    The director here is Edward Montague. Montague was a long time TV man whose claim to big screen fame, was as a producer of a string of Don Knotts' staring vehicles like, HOW TO FRAME A FIGG, THE GHOST AND MR CHICKEN, THE RELUCTANT ASTRONAUT and THE LOVE GOD.
  • I caught this on TCM this morning, and I must agree with many of the previous comments about the colorless actors and the lackluster script. I watched the movie with a friend, and part of the enjoyment of watching it was finding unintentional humor in the film. However, as also mentioned in many other comments, the shots of Manhattan, the Bowery, the Bronx and other areas of New York were fabulous, both interiors and exteriors, and wow, what a gorgeous black & white print! And we did find the detective work in it to be of interest --identifying the grass in the dead woman's car, tracking down the tattoo artist who in turn was able to identify the work of another artist, etc. I don't agree with other reviewers who deem the film "worthless"; the outstanding cinematography alone makes it worth one viewing, and it was fun to see Patricia Barry (White) cast as a botanist, and a young Jack Lord in a non-speaking role in one of the group scenes. I think that with just a little more display of emotion from the actors, and/or a better script, this could've been a really good movie.
  • Its not sophisticated, and nobody in the credits had a great career, but taken as a whole, because there are no famous personalities; the film seems more realistic than some high budget, well cast films.

    A film made for a few bucks, that is worthy of watching should give hope to all those would be film makers and wantabee actors.

    The problem with this film is it was made in the worst possible time. TV was taking over the revenues of the film industry, and this film could have easily been shown on TV. In 1950, all the fare on TV would qualify for a "G" rating. The film industry began to make more "adult" films that could not be shown on TV during the days when TV wouldn't dare show the sex and skin of today's commercials.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The next time you take a trek around the Central Park reservoir, you're walking along a trail traveled by many, from Woody Allen in "Hannah and Her Sisters", to Dustin Hoffman stalking an evil dentist in "Marathon Man" and years before, the man who discovers a corpse in a parked car in this obscure film noir. The good Samaritan only wanted to return a glove he found near the parked vehicle (presumably on the south side of the reservoir where parking still takes place) and finds the strangely tattooed woman who obviously doesn't need it anymore-she's dead!

    Clues include fingerprints on the car, strange remnants of a rare blade of grass, to the corpse's tattoo, and this leads to an attempted attack on the corpse, more clues located in the Bronx (on Gun Hill Road) to a series of strange characters. This is filled with an extremely rare obscure cast, faces you may recognize from early TV anthology series, but no names you'll know. The film's short running time encompasses tight dialog and enough intrigue to fill up several film noirs. A rare glimpse of vintage New York location footage makes this a pleasing curio, a real sleeper.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a neat little crime drama which packs a lot into its 65 minute running time. It has all the right ingredients - a mystery corpse, a weary middle-aged cop Corrigan (Walter Kinsella) and his rookie sidekick Tobin (John Miles), a shadowy killer on the loose and even love interest for the Tobin in the shape of a female botanist Mary (Patricia Wright) who helps solve the crime. There's also a terrific shoot-out finale which takes place in a stone cutters yard.

    Watch out for a terrific goof near the start of this movie where Lt. Corrigan refers to the dead woman as 'Tatooed Tilly' BEFORE the coroner reveals that she had a tattoo (confusing huh?). Also later when Tobin is chasing the killer across the back yards he is suddenly shown going in the wrong direction at one point - no wonder he didn't catch him!
  • A short, low budget production.

    Most of the acting was a bit wooden,but the dialog had it's moments. A police procedural much like the first half of a "Law and Order" episode. NO hunches or lucky coincidences, just good old-fashioned police work - both forensics and leg work solves the case. A well-structured chain of evidence leads detectives to their murder suspect.

    Watch for brief appearances of a very young Jack Lord as a police lab assistant.

    All-in-all a pretty good movie.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The Tattooed Stranger is pretty much CSINY ala 1950. It's a police procedural shot gloriously on location in New York City about a woman who is found in car having been shot gunned in the face. The police then set about trying to solve the crime using both leg work and the latest scientific methods. This is a real lost treasure that is much more modern than many of its contemporary films of a similar bend. Actually it plays like a really good episode of CSI or NCIS. I can't recommend this film enough. If there is any flaw it's the introduction of romance between one of the cops and a female scientist he gets information from. Its naturally put into the story but its kept apart of the story a little to artificially.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The Tattooed Stranger was another of those rare B-movies that BBC2 screened over Christmas/New Year 2005-2006. See also They Live By Night and The Brighton Strangler.

    In this one, a man walking his dog in Central Park comes across an abandoned car and discovers a dead woman inside. She was shot and police then try to identify her with only a tattoo as the main clue. After being identified, the murderer is discovered and is shot in the shootout at the end.

    Most of this movie was shot on location in and around New York, so we get to see some areas of the city we don't normally see, especially the back streets.

    Mostly unknowns are in the cast, with John Miles getting top billing.

    The Tattooed Stranger is worth seeking out. Excellent but rather obscure.

    Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
  • This is a great B film from the 1950's, because it deals with forensics just like the present day CSI Series TV shows. The police take it step by step in the laboratory and look at all the evidence with a fine toothed comb! Howard Hughes produced this film for only $124,000 and most of the filming was done in NYC, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, Queens. John Miles,(Detective Frank Tobin),"Gunfighters",'47 was a ex-marine who was able to get a college education and met up with a gal named Patricia Barry,(Patricia White),"Dear Heart",'64, who was able to assist Frank Tobin in his investigation into a young woman who had a Tattoo and was found in Central Park. If you really like B&W Classic B Films, this is a very worth while to just sit back and enjoy from beginning to END!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A relatively unknown 'B' movie second feature,THE TATTOOED STRANGER is developing something of a cult following after being shown several times on late-night UK TV in recent years (the last being merely several days ago).The murder mystery plot and script are both rather mundane,the performances weak and direction routine,yet the location work around New York is interesting and well photographed,and something you would rarely see in American films at this time.

    The very reason for it's cult following is the obscurity of it's cast and crew,unheralded even by normal American 'B' movie standards.The only well-known face here is Jack Lord,but at this stage of his career he was as unrenowned as virtually everybody else involved in this project,and his is a wordless,uncredited role which lasts barely a minute.The only other slightly well-known performers on board are Patricia Barry (billed here as Patricia White) and Lewis Charles (who like Lord is uncredited),and the director Edward Montagne later worked more prolifically on TV as a producer,not surprising as his direction is mostly nondescript and awkward (as is nominal lead actor John Miles) during the exchanges of flat,uninspired dialogue,though he redeems himself partially with the location work of scarcely seen side streets,tenements and backyards in New York.This certainly saves the film from total mediocrity,and although he probably didn't realise it at the time,Montagne's decision to film in such run-down neighbourhoods provide an engaging,even mildly fascinating social document of one of the World's great cities of the time shortly after the end of the Second World War.

    Had THE TATTOOED STRANGER been wholly studio-bound,it would have been a totally forgotten and ignored routine 'B' murder mystery (among scores of others),with insipid acting,writing and direction,but thanks to it's real outdoor New York settings,is certainly a mark up on the usual fare from this particular genre.

    RATING:5 and a half out of 10.
  • Michael_Elliott28 February 2008
    Tattooed Stranger, The (1950)

    ** (out of 4)

    A mysterious woman is found dead in Central Park but the police don't know who she is. Two detectives jump on the case and try to identify her but the only thing they have on her is a strange tattoo on her arm. Here's another RKO thriller that gets a few points for trying to tell the story differently than what we're use to but in the end the performances just can't carry the picture. Technically speaking this film is pretty impressive with some very good editing but the story itself is rather dull. The film really tries to capture how the police would go by solving this case, which means we get a lot of footwork and stuff dealing with science. This stuff works nicely but I only wish the story was stronger. It was rather funny that people with tattoos were looked at as evil people and tattoo parlors are looked at as "bad people" hangouts.
  • Although the storyline is meager and the detective work is old-fashioned, this little "B" rates interest as a look at the seedier side of New York City in the '50s--a la THE NAKED CITY--but without the tight suspense of that "A" film. It's a strictly by-the-numbers police story with nothing more than a flat effect by the time it finishes.

    The low budget look is sometimes overcome by some excellent photography of New York sites but the storyline and the actors keep reminding you it's strictly an assembly line detective story. Leading man John Miles is too bland and laid back to be even mildly interesting and the same can be said for the lady botanist who helps him. None of the supporting characters come to life.

    As for Jack Lord--I must have blinked more than once. I didn't even spot him.
  • AlsExGal14 July 2019
    This was last week's entry of "Noir Alley" on Turner Classic Movies. Without host Eddie Muller's detailed wrap around comments, I might have given it a six. But his comments on what is bad about this film as well as about what is good about it raised my rating to a seven.

    The producer was given only 125K with which to make this little crime film. The title comes from the victim - a girl is found in the passenger seat of a stolen car left in Central Park with her face blasted off. Her only identifying mark is a tattoo that indicates either she or a significant other was in the Navy. The police are shown going through their crime scene investigation, as it existed in 1950 - dusting for prints, taking photos, etc. The girl has never been fingerprinted, so they don't know who the victim is, much less anything about suspects. They find some samples of grass in the car that did not come from the park, and the medical examiner says the girl's arches have almost completely given way, which indicates she may have spent lots of time standing. Her fingers are stained with cheap purple ink which is often used on menus. So perhaps the girl is a waitress. And from this the detectives have to find not only who the killer is, but who is this victim.

    So what is good or interesting about this film? The cast is almost completely anonymous in the world of feature films. For many it was the only feature film role that they ever had. However, many of the cast had lengthy careers on television, and this film feels like an episode of whodunnit TV 50s or 60s style, so that is no surprise. Also, the film was shot on location in New York City, so it is "practically a travelogue of mid century New York", to quote Eddie. You see the beaneries, the boarding houses, and the Bowery as they existed in 1950, when New York was home to lots of working class people and not a tony address affordable to just a few.

    What is bad about it? I'd say the rather contrived romance between a botanist, brought in to identify the unique foliage found in the stolen car, and the "college boy" detective, as his partner keeps calling him. When you first meet the botanist she is in a lab coat and glasses, suitable for her profession. But after that, in spite of the fact that she is wading through high grass in empty lots, she has on pumps, some stylish dress, and is awkwardly carrying a purse! Plus background music that sounds like it is from "Leave it To Beaver" plays as opposed to the more "Dragnet" style score that accompanies the rest of the film. It is all so nauseatingly endearing.

    What is funny about this film? Originally the script called for the girl's face - which you never see - to be blown off by a sawed off shotgun. But the censors objected and the weapon had to be changed, only because it was illegal to modify a shotgun in such a way. Like murder was not illegal? Head censor Joe Breen's warped logic just slays me.
  • This is one I really glad I stumbled onto on TCM. Despite the chorus of mediocre reviews, I loved the fact that there were no thrills. To me, it was a genuine slice of life out a homicide case in the B&W era. Put color into it, substitute Briscoe & Logan in there, and you've got a typical Law & Order episode, complete with forensics, which besides fingerprints or ballistics, is simply not found in your typical '50's movie. The acting and dialogue was good, in that it wasn't "moving" (read melodramatic or brooding characters), but normal, that is, believable, but not dull, with humorous banter, especially between the partners. There were no questionable leaps of deduction, but good old fashioned police work. There are even scenes where you find what you would realistically expect in real life, like a guy asking for a warrant to release records and not getting physically threatened before doing it, a cop intending to patiently wait for backup to arrive before foolishly risking his life, and a supervisor chastising him for ultimately acting alone. I found it all quite refreshing and not the standard overly witty dialogue and, truthfully, unrealistic scenarios that are a staple of B&W noir movies, even the classics. While I do love those flicks, this is a film one can buy into wholly. At least I didn't feel I had to suspend any disbelief here.
  • No familiar names at all to movie fans appear in The Tattooed Stranger as this New York based film was shot there with players who more or less made Broadway their beat.

    A woman is found dead stripped of all her identity and all they had to go on was a couple of tattoos side by side done at different times.

    Forensic detective John Miles is teamed up with beat cop Walter Kinsella to solve this crime, but first they have to find out who before why.. Patricia Barry consulting botanist is on the hunt as well.

    The deceased I will say had quite a racket going on and there is someone not happy with it or her.

    Nicely done like a CSI episode.
  • This movie was not a bad movie as there were lots of location shots of NYC, and I do not think anything was filmed in a backlot. What made it boring for me were 2 things: 1) There was absolutely no chemistry between the 2 leading actors who could not act, and 2) with the exception of a very brief scene with Jack Lord, I did not recognize anyone in the movie. This felt strange since I have been a movie buff for almost 60 years and a lover of "B" movies. It was like it had been filmed on another planet. I recommend it for that reason if you want to see something different.
  • I watched this the day after NO ORCHIDS FOR MISS BLANDISH (1948) because it has a similar reputation for seediness; the result, however, is even more modest and, frankly, negligible (while included among the 250 Quintessential Noirs, several titles that did not make the list were obviously more deserving of a place). Though RKO made some of the best noirs, this is a cut-rate production with a totally unfamiliar cast and crew!

    The title could allude to either the female victim (a bigamist for the purposes of insurance fraud) or her murderer (who, however, remains a cipher to the very end, thus ineffective). The protagonists are a seasoned cop and his rookie partner which, typically, emerges a bumpy but ultimately mutually affectionate partnership; also on hand is an attractive female botanist who obviously catches the young man's attention. Incidentally, the film's most noteworthy elements – apart from adopting hilarious nick-names such as "Billy Alcohol" and "The Electric Rembrandt" for its more colorful characters! – are the rarity (for this time in American cinema) of watching a meticulous scene-of-the crime investigation, as well as tattoo-painting and gravestone-carving!
  • Very low-budget police procedural film about homicide detectives trying to solve the murder of a woman whose body turns up in a stolen car in Central Park, and their only clue is a tattoo on her arm. Although released by RKO, this has the look of an independent production that was picked up by the studio for distribution. The cast and crew, with a few exceptions--among them a young and uncredited Jack Lord, director Edward Montagne and cameraman William Steiner--are comprised of complete unknowns, and it shows. The performances are universally sub-par and wouldn't pass muster in a high school training film, the direction is stodgy and choppy and, as mentioned previously, there's no chemistry whatsoever between the lead actors. However, despite the film's many shortcomings, it does have a few good points. The location shooting in New York City, and the film's ultra-low budget, gives it a gritty authenticity much like that of the far superior "The Naked City", a shootout in a dark basement is decently handled, and some of the investigating procedures are clever. Otherwise, it's not much to write home about. It is worth a look, however, for a glimpse at the seamier sections of New York City in the early 1950s, and old-car buffs will be ecstatic to see the legions of '30s and '40s cars in the streets.

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