SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT(director/writer: Joseph L. Mankiewicz; screenwriters: from story “The Lonely Journey” by Marvin Borowsky/Howard Dimsdale/Lee Strasberg; cinematographer: Norbert F. Brodin; editor: James B. Clark; cast: Richard Conte (Mel Phillips), John Hodiak (George Taylor), Lloyd Nolan (Lt. Donald Kendall),Nancy Guild (Christy Smith), Fritz Kortner (Anzelmo), Margo Woode (Phyllis), Houseley Stevenson (Conroy), Lou Nova (Hubert), Josephine Hutchinson (Elizabeth Conroy), Charles Arnt (Little Man), Sheldon Leonard (Sam), Harry Morgan (Bath Attendant); Runtime: 110; 20th Century-Fox; 1946)
“A quintessential amnesiac story.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A dark moody noir tale about a marine who gets blown up by a grenade in the South Pacific during a skirmish in WW11 and survives, only to become an amnesia victim. He is released from military duty only knowing that his name is George Taylor (John Hodiak) and that he’s from Los Angeles, but goes without treatment and without the service knowing about his amnesia. The only thing we know about him is that he has earned the Purple Heart and seems like a tough hombre, who is willing to take chances.
George tries to piece together who he is with the only two leads he has to go on: his name and a letter found in his wallet from a girlfriend who is dead, telling him how much she hates him. In Los Angeles he finds another letter in a briefcase stored in a train station terminal that is signed: your friend, Larry Cravat. It tells him that $5,000 has been deposited in the name of George Taylor at the bank. There is also a gun in the briefcase. He realizes that he will probably find that he was not a very nice guy, but continues the search to find who he is.
At the bank, George arouses the teller’s suspicion when he tries to make a withdrawal and flees. He then goes to a Turkish bath because of the stationery heading on one of his letters and tracks down a nightclub his dead girlfriend worked in nearby. At the nightclub he is set-up by the bartender and has two thugs go after him. He escapes into the dressing room of one of the club singers, Christy Smith (Nancy), and sees the photo of his dead girlfriend signed by her. He steals the photo and leaves behind his current hotel address. It turns out Christy was best friends with her and tells him her heart was broken by Cravat, who stood her up at the altar. She was so depressed that she didn’t look up when crossing the street and a car ran her over.
When George returns to his place, he finds someone named Phyllis (Margo) waiting by the door who tries to get some information. After his visit with Phyllis, he is forced into a car by a strong-arm giant named Hubert (Nova) and a German accented man named Anzelmo (Fritz). They beat him silly while trying to pump him for information about Larry Cravat, but to no avail. When they are through, they dump him in Christy’s place. She patches him up and he tells her he can’t remember anything. It is love at second sight for her, as she decides she believes him and offers to help.
George gets help from Christy’s amiable tough-guy nightclub boss Mel Phillips (Conte) who introduces him at a Chinese restaurant, under a false name, to Lt. Donald Kendall (Lloyd Nolan). But the cop figures out his real name, and he leaves a note with Phyllis’ address on Christy’s car. Phyllis leads George to Anzelmo’s place who it turns out is a small time chiseler, who plies his trade as a fortune teller with Phyllis as his assistant. They all lay their cards on the table and George learns that Cravat got his hands on $2 million. That is money smuggled into this country by a Nazi, and that somehow the fortune teller knew about this even though he never met Cravat. The problem was that the Nazi died and a trail of bodies followed, as that money and Cravat are still missing. It is also learned by him that Cravat is wanted for murdering a man and the last one to see him with the money was the one Cravat supposedly murdered.
The chase will become even more suspenseful now as Taylor visits a man (Houseley) who witnessed the murder but who was immediately run over with a truck, only to survive and be placed in a private mental sanitarium where he is allowed no visitors and is left there as a veggie. Taylor’s chase will take him through the dark night: as he hits the sanitarium, the spooky dock area, the missionary shelter, and to the bar where he finally learns everything he needs to know by having a showdown with Cravat’s silent partner — the one who killed the other person on the dock and is now trying to cover his back.
Mankiewicz does a nice job of creating the dark noir mood. The film is spiced up with comedy, excellent performances, plenty of suspense, plus a tense voice-over by John Ireland, and it manages to keep the pot boiling with a quintessential amnesiac story.
REVIEWED ON 6/3/2000 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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