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NIGHTFALL (1957)

Nightfall - Cover'Arrow Video’ have recently released a digitally enhanced version of the film-noir classic, ‘Nightfall’. It was directed by Jacques Tourneur; it stars Aldo Ray, Anne Bancroft, Brian Keith, Rudy Bond, and James Gregory; and it’s 78-minutes long. Plus, as an extra added bonus, the Blu-ray edition comes with audio commentary provided by Bryan Reesman, the original theatrical trailer, an image gallery, as well as two visual essays narrated by Philip Kemp and Kat Ellinger. Please enjoy.


Nightfall [Blu-Ray]


THE STORY:
As I sit in the back-seat of this car that’s driving me towards my doom, I can’t help but wonder, why? Why is this happening to me, James Vanning (Aldo Ray)? When all I really wanted to do was to spend some time with my good friend, Doctor Edward Gurston (Frank Albertson).

You see, last winter, both Ed and I went to Moose, Wyoming, for a spot of saltwater fishing. When suddenly, out of nowhere, we were accosted by two vicious thieves, John and Red (Brian Keith and Rudy Bond), who savagely killed the Doc and almost left me for dead! 

Not completely dead, mind you, and not completely helpless either, because I eventually managed to dust myself down, pick myself up, and briskly run away, taking with me a bag of stolen cash previously owned by those two foul-fiends. Fiends, I hasten to add, that I avoided for a very long time, until they finally caught up with me tonight, all thanks to a lovely, lovely, lady named Marie Gardner (Anne Bancroft).

But then again, that’s most probably why what next transpires goes slap, punch, pow, when the car I’m sitting in suddenly stops. As an insurance man states his claim – a lovely model shies away from fame – two thieves go looking for someone to blame – and at the end of the day, please remember, being free is a lot better than being lame. 




THE REVIEW:
Now, depending on your perspective, a film-noir can be defined in either one of two ways. It’s either a stylized form of filmmaking which consistently emphasizes the numerous shades of grey (ranging from shadow to light); or alternatively, it’s a sad and tragic story which features a femme fatale, a devious scheme, and a corruptible man’s spirit. 

Nightfall - French Movie Poster
In this case, however, I’m not entirely sure if I could call this film-noir a full-on film-noir. Not totally, anyway, because the two main characters don’t behave, act, or look like surly people you normally see in a noir, whereas the visual style of this film doesn’t always stick to a dark and gloomy aesthetic. In fact, it can be quite bright at times! Too bright, some might say, and that kind of makes me think that this was done deliberately in order to transform ‘Nightfall’ into some sort of anti-film-noir. 

Well, without giving too much away, there were numerous times throughout this adventure where the usual noir conventions were completely flipped upside down. For instance, whenever the screen was bright and vivid, danger filled the air, and whenever the screen was dark and moody, a sense of safety seemed to linger. What’s more, the main female character, Marie (as played by the adorable Anne Bancroft), initially gave the impression that she was a femme fatale because she deceived the main hero, James (as played by the bulky Aldo Ray), but after a while we start to realize that she didn’t deceive him and is just as innocent. 

Now, structurally, the overall narrative was told using a series of flashbacks that were conveyed from James’s point of view. Meaning, scene, by scene, by scene, the plot went back-and-forth, back-and-forth, between the present day and the past in order to uncover the mystery behind James's plight. So, technically speaking, we don’t really know what’s fully going on for the first half of the film, not until ‘the logic’ behind ‘the chase’ was finally revealed. And even then, we don’t really get the ‘bigger picture’ until ten minutes before the end.


Nightfall - Aldo Ray and Anne Bancroft


Not that this was a bad thing, mind you. If anything, I found this 'novelistic technique' very suspenseful and very exciting to behold! Textually, at least, because unlike some of the other stories that play about with the nature of time, this one was smart enough to clearly signpost when another portion of the plot was going to be revealed. Primarily, this was done by James recounting his tragic tale to somebody else (either Marie or Ben), which in turn, established a tone for this adventure as well as a rapport with the audience! In addition to this, the story in itself was a good, solid, story, and even though there were a number of small little snags here and there (more on those later), by and large, everything made sense, everything looked good, and everything flowed in a fairly progressive fashion. 

Nightfall - Tall Movie Poster
Anyway, that’s enough of that for the time being, because now I think we should sit back, relax, and check out the following filmic facts: (1) ‘Columbia Pictures’ first released this production in the UK on the exact same day Aino Kallas tragically passed away. She was an author from Finland and the date was the 9th of November, 1956. (2) This movie was based on a novel of the same name written by David Goodis and published in 1947. Coincidentally, the director of this movie, Jacques Tourneur, is generally better known for directing another film-noir that was based on another David Goodis novel, ‘Dark Passage’. (3) Loosely translated, this project was entitled ‘Nightmare of the Night’ in Denmark; ‘Suspected of Robbery’ in Sweden; and ‘Dusk’ in Russia. (4) The majority of this movie was shot on location throughout the American state of California. This includes Hollywood Boulevard, Beverly Hills, MacArthur Park, as well as select parts of Los Angeles and downtown Hollywood. It has also been suggested that the scenes set in Wyoming were actually shot in Teton County, Wyoming, but this seems highly unlikely due to budgetary constraints. (5) One of the taglines used to promote this picture, states: ‘On a night made for lovers... and killers’. (6) According to Quentin Tarantino, Bruce Willis’s character in ‘Pulp Fiction’ was partly inspired by the roles Aldo Ray and Brian Keith played in this thriller. Similarly, the ending of ‘Fargo’ by the Coen Brothers was also inspired by the ending of this film. (7) This production stars Brando, but not Marlon Brando, rather, his sister, Jocelyn Brando, who plays the wife of James Gregory’s character, Ben Fraser. (8) After this adventure dunked a donut, Aldo Ray starred in the wartime melodrama, ‘Men in War’; Anne Bancroft starred in the popular TV series, ‘Playhouse 90’; and Brian Keith starred in another TV series, ‘Crusader’.


Nightfall - Aldo Ray, Brian Keith, and Rudy Bond


In closing my review of ‘Nightfall’, I would just like to say how much I enjoyed watching the performances given by all of the main players. Aldo Ray, for instance, may look like a weightlifter and sound like a frog, but if truth be told, his very natural style of acting kind of suited the type of 'outcast persona' he attempted to convey. Whereas Anne Bancroft, on the other hand, came across as a really elegant lady with an adventurous spirit, a lonely nature, and a beautiful smile. And as for the rest of the cast? Well, they were great as well, more or less, because James Gregory did a fine job at playing a down-to-earth investigator, whereas Brian Keith and Rudy Bond both added a sense of dread with their respective bad-guy roles. Although, to be fair, Brian was more of a smooth criminal, while Rudy stole the show by being a right nasty scumbag.

Actually, while I’m on the subject of scumbags, or to be more specific about it, bags, this brings me quite nicely onto the one thing about this film I wasn’t too keen on. Namely, why did Aldo’s character leave a bag full of money behind in the snow after he first took it? I mean, to me, personally, I would have held onto it for dear life, especially considering how much money was in it! Also, why did it take him so long to try to retrieve the bag? As it’s not like anyone knew where it was! But, that slight gripe aside, all in all, I thought this was a nicely staged movie and I enjoyed it for what it was. That being, a solid anti-film-noir with a touch of class.  

THE RATING: B

NIGHTFALL (1957) NIGHTFALL (1957) Reviewed by David Andrews on June 03, 2019 Rating: 5

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