Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Tonight's Movie: The Midnight Story (1957) at the Noir City Film Festival

Time for a look back at one of the last couple films I've not yet reviewed from this spring's 21st Annual Noir City Film Festival in Hollywood!

My last evening at this year's festival was a double bill of THE MIDNIGHT STORY (1957) and MONKEY ON MY BACK (1957).

THE MIDNIGHT STORY was one of my favorite films of the festival. It's not available on DVD in the U.S., but I very much hope that this Universal Pictures film will eventually be released for home viewing. We were fortunate to see it at the Egyptian Theatre in a beautiful 35mm print.

Tony Curtis plays Joe Martini, a young San Francisco motorcycle cop who is devastated by the murder of his mentor, Father Tomasino (David Leonard). When Joe is denied the chance to work on the investigation by Lt. Kilrain (Ted de Corsia), he quits the force to investigate on his own.

Joe suspects Sylvio Malatesta (Gilbert Roland), who sells fish on the wharf, may be involved in the killing based on Sylvio's unusually distraught behavior at the priest's funeral. Joe becomes friendly with Sylvio to further his investigation and soon rents a room from him.

Things quickly become complicated for Joe, who grew up as an orphan; he finds he's becoming close to Sylvio's entire family, especially Anna (Marisa Pavan). Consequently Joe is torn by his increasingly mixed and confused feelings toward Sylvio.

Joe is relieved when Sylvio seems to have a solid alibi for the night of the murder, and he proposes to Anna. At their engagement party, however, Joe's friend Sgt. Gillen (Jay C. Flippen) delivers bad news: Sylvio's alibi isn't as airtight as first thought. Joe's ensuing anguish and refusal to confide in Anna cause her to worry about their future.

This film was a wonderful melding of family drama, romance, and murder mystery. Curtis is excellent as Joe; it's quite moving watching him be enveloped into the love of a family for the first time in his life, only to suffer agonies wondering if the man to whom he's become so close killed the priest who was a significant father figure to him as he grew up in an orphanage. I like Curtis's '50s work a lot, and this performance was as good as anything he did in this stage of his career.

Roland likewise is excellent as a warm-hearted family man suffering such torment that he spends each night pacing his bedroom floor in agony. The close relationship which develops between Joe and Sylvio is quite moving, as are their final confrontations.

The movie has outstanding San Francisco locations, filmed in widescreen black and white by Russell Metty. I've seen many film noir and crime movies set in San Francisco but I was unfamiliar with this one before it turned up on the Noir City schedule. The physical setting adds a great deal to the story.

The movie was directed by Joseph Pevney. The supporting cast includes Argentina Brunetti, Richard Monda, Kathleen Freeman, Herb Vigran, Peggy Maley, Russ Conway, Tito Vuolo, and John Cliff. The running time is 90 minutes.

Although THE MIDNIGHT STORY has not been released in the U.S., it's available in Europe on a Region 2 DVD.

Keep an eye out for this one, I thought it was a special film and would love to see it again one day. Recommended.

June 19th Update: Marisa Pavan turns 87 today!


Blogger DKoren said...

I love Gilbert Roland and Tony Curtis, so I hope this one does come out so I can catch it someday. The story sounds right up my alley.

7:28 AM  
Blogger Stefano said...

Laura, I'm glad you enjoyed this one, it was a standout for me too. Every year the Noir festival unearths some gems; Marisa Pavan also figured effectively in "Down Three Dark Streets", which the festival screened a few years back.

The Italian community was very well conveyed in this picture, in details small and large (like the dance hall sequence). It is always a pleasure to see Gilbert Roland, who had such a long and distinguished career; he was sort of the Tony Curtis of the silent era -- just watch him smolder with Norma Talmadge in the 1927 "Camille". Roland is excellent in John Huston's "We Were Strangers", which could comfortably fit in with other noir screenings.

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked Gilbert Roland in THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. His main scenes were with KIRK DOUGLAS and the sultry GLORIA GRAHAME. I also remember him from CHEYENNE AUTUMN which starred RICHARD WIDMARK & CARROLL BAKER. He was once married to CONSTANCE BENNETT. She was considered a clotheshorse more than an actress. I think she was a good actress. The first movie I saw her in was MERRILY WE LIVE, a comedy in which the delightful BILLIE BURKE played her mother. Classic TV Fan

1:11 PM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Laura, that seems like a very good double bill on that evening. I have never seen either film but your review has provoked me to go and order a copy of "THE MIDNIGHT STORY". I should have it in just a few days. Thanks for bringing another Universal film to our attention.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Deb, if you love those actors (as do I!) I think I can guarantee you will enjoy this one. Would love to know if you see it.

Stefano, great to hear the movie hit you the same way. It really stands out in my memory looking back to the fest. Very much agree about what a nice job the film does portraying a community. (I also like DOWN THREE DARK STREETS although so far I haven't seen it in a theater.)

Classic TV Fan, Gilbert Roland is good in just about everything, I think! BULLFIGHTER AND THE LADY (1951) is another good one. The only time he's disappointed me was MEN OF THE NORTH (1930) which was a verrrrry creaky film.

Jerry, it really was a good double bill -- MONKEY ON MY BACK was not as memorable for me, but it's always good to see Dianne Foster and it was great that Kathy Garver, who played Foster's daughter, was on hand to introduce it! I hope to write it up in the near future to wrap up my Noir City coverage! I'm so glad you could order the movie and would very much like to know your opinion.

Best wishes,

10:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TONY CURTIS received the WORLD FILM FAVORITE award twice(the GOLDEN GLOBES). The second time ROCK HUDSON received one too. Tony was also a ACADEMY AWARD nominee. Classic TV Fan

8:25 PM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Hi again, Laura!
The DVD of this film arrived today and I watched it so that I could return to give my thoughts, albeit rather belatedly now.
Very grateful for your recommendation as I found it a most enjoyable movie, definitely my kinda film! One of the best things I have ever seen Tony Curtis in - excellently understated performance. As for Gilbert Roland. I don't believe he was ever less than fine and his performance here was very moving.
Lovely, and unusual, SF locations were caught very well by Russell Metty. The whole film was well-lit.

I could not manage without a multi-region player and I am amazed everyone doesn't have one so that Regions don't have to be an issue. My Region 2 disc is a very good Cinemascope transfer and I commend the film also.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jerry, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on the DVD and the movie itself. You received it quickly! I'm really delighted that you shared my enjoyment of the film and appreciation of the lead performances and locations. The whole thing was really so good.

I happily have an all-region player and the DVD is quite affordable from Amazon UK. Knowing it's a nice widescreen transfer I will probably be adding it to my collection before long. This is definitely a film I'll be wanting to watch again.

Best wishes,

11:06 PM  

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