SO DARK THE NIGHT (director: Joseph H. Lewis; screenwriters: Dwight Babcock/Martin Berkeley /story by Aubrey Wisberg; cinematographer: Burnett Guffey; editor: Jerome Thomas; music: Hugo Friedhofer; cast: Steven Geray (Henri Cassin), Micheline Cheirel (Nanette Michaud), Eugene Borden (Pierre Michaud), Ann Codee (Mama Michaud), Egon Brecher (Dr. Boncourt), Helen Freeman (Widow Bridelle), Paul Marion (Leon Archard), Gregory Gaye (Commissioner Grande), Louis Mercier (Jean Duval, Village Police Chief); Runtime: 71; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ted Richmond; Columbia Pictures; 1946)
“So Dark the Night is a rarely shown obscure film, and it is a beauty.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Henri Cassin (Geray) is the best detective in Paris. He has not had a vacation in eleven years and the police commissioner arranges for him a quiet holiday in the country village of St. Margot. The middle-aged detective and well-mannered gentleman of plain looks is attracted to the innkeeper’s young and pretty daughter Nanette Michaud, sighing that he has found happiness at last after working so hard without concern for pleasure. Mama Michaud (Codee) encourages the romance because the detective is wealthy and has status. Nanette (Cheirel) is impressed by his wealth and with the prospect of living in the Big City. But her father (Borden) says Henri is too old and that she’s been promised since childhood to marry a poor farmer named Leon Archard (Paul Marion). The jealous Leon tries to break up the romance by telling her how much he loves her, but while away from the village the detective and Nanette announce their plans to marry. At that announcement, Leon returns and warns Henri that if he marries his girl, he will follow her everywhere and win her back any way he can.
After that scene in the inn, Nanette disappeared and is found a few days later dead in the river. The distraught Henri says she wasn’t drowned but strangled at Leon’s farm and dumped in the river. At the farm, Leon is found dead from an apparent suicide. But Henri deduced he was also murdered by strangulation. The only clue is the footprint of a shoe found by Leon’s side. This case has the great detective baffled and worried, as he doesn’t understand the motive. Things get scarier when the housekeeper widow (Freeman) finds a note under the detective’s door threatening “There will be another murder.”
This is Joseph H. Lewis’s second feature and one that has the same intense energy as his Big Combo (55) and My Name is Julia Ross (45). The Freudian story is wacky and strains credibility, but the elegant style Lewis uses is mesmerizing. The film noir’s light touches are magnificently caught in the rich depiction of rural life and the character study of a psychological breakdown due to a pressured psyche that induces schizophrenia. This makes for a fascinating watch. So Dark the Night is a rarely shown obscure film, and it is a beauty. Burnett Guffey used his camera effectively in many strange angled shots while his dark black shadings express the contrasting somber mood to the airy country landscape.
REVIEWED ON 8/21/2003 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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