Sunday, April 27, 2014

Tonight's Movie: So Dark the Night (1946)

SO DARK THE NIGHT is a rather unique "B" movie about a French detective who goes on vacation, falls in love, and then must solve a series of murders.

SO DARK THE NIGHT was shown last year at the Noir City Hollywood festival, and I was disappointed I was unable to see it. Fortunately it turned up a few months later in the Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics, Vol. 4 collection from TCM, and I finally caught up with it this evening.

The cast of lesser-known actors is led by Steven Geray, a busy working actor of the '40s. Geray usually played character roles, but here he has the lead as the fragile but talented Detective Henri Cassin.

Cassin, a famous homicide detective, has been overworked, and his doctor insists he take a nice vacation in the French countryside.

Cassin falls for the innkeeper's daughter Nanette (Micheline Cheirel of CORNERED), and despite their age difference she seems to love him too. Or does she love the idea of living in Paris and financial security? Nanette seems genuinely torn between Henri and Leon (Paul Marion), a farmer who was her childhood sweetheart.

Nanette agrees to marry Henri, which infuriates Leon. And then suddenly both Nanette and Leon turn up dead. The devastated Henri sets out to solve the case.

The movie has a remarkable visual style, filmed by Burnett Guffey, with France recreated on the studio lot as well as Canoga Park. I loved the use of windows and the tilted angles when the detective walks from one building to another in the local village.

The score by Hugo Friedhofer is also quite good. SO DARK THE NIGHT is worth seeing in order to admire how creatively a low-budget film could be shot and scored.

I wish I were as enthused about the rest of the movie. The cast is bland, and I had trouble becoming very involved in the story; I also saw the "surprise" ending coming from a mile away. The movie's look was memorable, but the cast was not.

The film also stars Ann Codee, Eugene Borden, Egon Brecher, and Helen Freeman.

This 71-minute film was directed by Joseph H. Lewis, director of MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS (1945) and GUN CRAZY (1950).

There's more on the film at the TCM website.

February 2019 Update: SO DARK THE NIGHT is being released this month on Blu-ray by Arrow Academy. Extras include a commentary track by Farran Smith Nehme and Glenn Kenny.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A rare little picture, worth watching just to see Steven Geray in a leading role.

12:08 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

It was so unusual having him play the lead, wasn't it? I will certainly notice him more when he turns up in supporting roles in the future, remembering this movie.

Best wishes,

10:37 PM  

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