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Tourneur's NIGHTFALL (finally) Wed Jan 23


Dewey1960
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This past September TCM scheduled the film NIGHTFALL for its premiere showing. Unexpectedly, Jane Wyman passed away the day before and a special tribute to her bumped NIGHTFALL out of the lineup. Now, happily enough, NIGHTFALL returns to the TCM schedule on WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 23rd. It's never too early to start oiling up those VCR and DVD recorders because this one is a keeper!

 

NIGHTFALL is a spellbinding 1957 noir film directed by the great Jacques Tourneur. Based on a novel by David Goodis ("Dark Passage," "Shoot The Piano Player," etc) the film stars Aldo Ray, Anne Bancroft, Brian Keith, James Gregory and Rudy Bond. Nearly a forgotten film, NIGHTFALL has never been available on home video. Its appearance on TCM next month provides ample reason for rejoicing among true noir completists.

 

NIGHTFALL tells of the plight of an innocent man plunged into a nightmarish scenario of fear and paranoia when he becomes the object of pursuit by both the cops and a pair of sadistic killers over the whereabouts of a cache of stolen money. Tourneur, through the clever weaving of flashbacks, unfolds the story in a most dazzling fashion, never letting the tension ease for a moment.

 

Anyone familiar with the dark and despairing novels of David Goodis will no doubt be drawn into the dire world of NIGHTFALL's protagonist, Jim Vanning---beautifully played by the vastly underappreciated Aldo Ray. Ray's compelling portrait of a tough man on the brink of utter desperation (a common thread in Goodis' fiction) is a revelation---as honest a depiction of a tortured hero as 1950s American pulp cinema has provided. The stunning Anne Bancroft (in an early starring role) adds considerable spice as a mysterious woman who unexpectedly stumbles into Jim Vanning's dangerous world.

 

Brian Keith and Rudy Bond score big as the heavies, etching incredibly memorable performances. Bond is especially impressive; a giggling sadist capable of unspeakable violence without the slightest provocation. James Gregory (the unctious and corrupt Senator Iselin from THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE) represents the right side of the law. The grounded contrast he provides lends an air of unusual realism to an otherwise (gloriously) far-fetched story. The wonderful rhythm and blues singer Al Hibbler croons the title tune; a haunting melody that drives the film along.

 

Tourneur directed only a handful of noir films (OUT OF THE PAST and THE LEOPARD MAN chief among them); NIGHTFALL, while not necessarily the equal of OUT OF THE PAST shares many of that film's virtues while carving it's own unique path. One of my personal all-time favorites, I can't recommend this film highly enough.

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  • 1 month later...

Among my favorite noirs are - in no special order:

 

Nightmare Alley,

The Big Sleep ( Hawks)

The Killers (Siodmak)

Brute Force

.Criss Cross ( Siodmak)

I Wake up Screaming

Stranger on the Third Floor

Murder, My Sweet,

Out of the Past

DOA (Mate)

The Killing

The Aspahlt Jungle

White Heat

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I haven't seen too many film noir movies but my curiosity has been piqued. Is Nightfall typical of what to expect?

 

*Nightfall* is film noir because of its theme and feel, but it is atypical in its look; i.e. it doesn't have the stereotypical dark urban claustrophobic chiaroscuro setting with Expressionistic camera angles.

 

10 Suggested Classics of Film Noir -- A Primer

 

*The Maltese Falcon*

*Double Indemnity*

*Murder, My Sweet*

*Detour*

*The Killers* (Siodmak)

*Out of the Past*

*The Big Heat*

*Kiss Me Deadly*

*The Killing*

*Touch of Evil*

 

Then you'll be hooked and constantly searching out the unknown B-movie from the '40s or '50s in hope of finding a gem that you can tell your friends about...as they look at you as if you are a loon.

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FORCE OF EVIL? For goodness sakes, I left out the greatest of all times -- GUN CRAZY -- just to show how objective I can be. Actually, only about three of the films I listed would make my Favorite 10 (or 15) list, but I probably wouldn't have gotten to those without these.

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  • 7 months later...

I finally watched NIGHTFALL today and thought it was a very well made, unpredictable noir.

The variety of locales kept things interesting, as did one of the most odd ball casts I've seen.

Odd because I have so many different associations for each individual, none of which has to do

with film noir. But, in a way, this adds to the believability because none of these people would

have any real connection to one another if it hadn't been for being in the wrong place at the wrong

time---or the right place at the right time. ;)

 

I truly enjoyed the score and wanted to share my observation that the music, which Dewey,

you say was by a rythm-and-blues artist? felt really "modern". I would have placed it as an

arrangement from the 1960s. I loved it, it really added to my enjoyment of the film.

 

I've always liked Aldo Ray. He has a whopping "sincerity" factor about him. A "mug" who

doesn't look as though he'd ever be able to successfully tell a lie. While I found myself

thinking he didn't look like my idea of a graphic artist (what should a graphic artist look like?

:P ) he is great playing a guy who has no business being that deep in anything as messy

as cops-and-robbers.

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> {quote:title=MissGoddess wrote:}{quote}

> I've always liked Aldo Ray. He has a whopping "sincerity" factor about him. A "mug" who

> doesn't look as though he'd ever be able to successfully tell a lie. While I found myself

> thinking he didn't look like my idea of a graphic artist (what should a graphic artist look like?

> :P ) he is great playing a guy who has no business being that deep in anything as messy

> as cops-and-robbers.

 

April, so glad you enjoyed *Nightfall* - and I'm also stoked you also like Aldo Ray. I've been admiring his work much more of late, I don't know what was the first thing that I saw him in, but he really made an impression of me in the RKO WW2 drama *The Naked and the Dead*, which is shown on TCM from time to time. He also has a certain je-ne-sais-quoi that makes it easy for me to forget that I'm watching an actor at work.

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*I truly enjoyed the score and wanted to share my observation that the music, which Dewey,*

*you say was by a rythm-and-blues artist? felt really "modern". I would have placed it as an*

*arrangement from the 1960s. I loved it, it really added to my enjoyment of the film*

 

Hello there Miss G and welcome to the world of *NIGHTFALL*. One of the most unjustly neglected films of the fifties, noir or otherwise. That haunting rendition of the title theme was by the great Al Hibbler, a blind rhythm and blues singer who was popular all through the decade. He had a hit with "Unchained Melody" a decade before the Righteous Brothers. Sadly, he's not all that remembered today. I have the "Nightfall Theme" on a Decca 45!! Here's a link to one of my favorite Hibler tracks, "September in the Rain."

 

 

*NIGHTFALL* holds up beautifully for many repeat screenings so you can look forward to a long and rewarding relationship with this film. Director Jacques Tourneur's other great noir, *OUT OF THE PAST* shares a number of visual themes and textures with *NIGHTFALL* making them an interesting evening's combo platter.

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