CSI Noir: The Tattooed Stranger

Posted by : | July 19, 2015

The Tattooed Stranger, an instant classic with a name like that, is like an extra long episode of CSI. And you’ll be amazed how little forensic techniques have changed! They were well on their way in 1950.


Si exported to Mexico!

Now who’s the tattooed stranger? Surely not ace cub detective Frank Tobin! I watched the affable performance of John Miles with his jovial charm for an hour and a half, just dying to get my tweezers on his likable face’s unibrow.

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Noir camera angle! Ok you can’t see the unibrow here but I guarantee…

But I’m serious about the CSI episode. Like our modern day procedurals, sure enough The Tattooed Stranger opens on a funny man walking a happy dog through Central Park. The dog goes crazy over an abandoned car, and wouldn’t you know it, dead body inside! Thus step one, a little intro scene, a mystery amuse bouche if you will, to activate the plot.

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A little NYC atmosphere: Laundry day!

And we proceed in the normal way we’re still accustomed to 60 years later: We don’t know who the killer is. We must follow the investigation as it unfolds through the eyes of our sympathetic law enforcement character. Our fella, though a green new transfer from the police lab, is ahead of the pack what with his cutting edge investigative techniques. Off he goes through the cinematographically rhapsodized NYC streets running down leads for his superiors, as well as his own.

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Awesome classic noir shot! This is the cub’s boss gumshoe-ing it…

Though he ain’t got computers, Tobin is methodical and highly detail oriented. He runs down plant samples, fingerprints, ballistics, autopsy results and particulate samples from the crime scene, and yes, Jane Doe’s anchor tattoo. Oh speaking of plant samples, love blossoms as he requires the expertise of a pretty young botanist. Because no Google/ digitized database of plants except for paper files! Soon the two team up tracking the killer. Because he needs her to match this one unusual crime scene weed to any specimen from one of the many abandoned lots they scour. Her character, incidentally, is treated with respect. She’s his equal, highly educated, and a real asset to the investigation. Awesome!


I’m pretty! Pretty damn smart, that is!

So as our CSI plot thickens, we do get a glimpse of our killer. The back of his head. He’s thick-necked and ruthless. And he’s keeping tabs on the police’s progress.

Well what film noir is complete without a femme fatale? We get her in the form of our own dear murder victim, the not so innocent Jane Doe. In fact she’s a dastardly opportunist who marries all kinds of high-risk-of-death soldiers in every branch at every turn, like four at a time! They go off to war and she hopes for the best… I mean the worst, at least for them. Then presto bango she collects all their military pension money. You go, Typhoid Mary! Thus her unique tattoo, an inky scarlet letter: She’s added a Marines insignia to her Navy hubbie’s anchor! To keep all her service men happy! Aren’t you loving it?


Teasing you! This ain’t THE tattooed stranger…

The final scene where our cub man and his jungle Jane confront the killer (oops that one hubbie lost at sea wasn’t so lost!) is a gorgeous thing set in the back lot of a tombstone maker. Lots of great shots and shadows there. But no shadow on our ending! Though our noirs so often dovetail into despair and death, this optimistic flick sees the guy get his man and the girl. And we digeratti should be wildly impressed by all the clever things humans could do before the Intrawebs were invented!

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More NYC cinematographic love…

The End. So tell me, how’d I do with this here analysis? Cuz I was on my own without Eddie Muller! He doesn’t introduce every film in our fabulous Tuner Classic Movies #SummerofDarkness Friday film noir marathons. So I deduced what I deduced! What the deuce?

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