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STILL OF THE NIGHT (director/writer: Robert Benton; screenwriter: David Newman; cinematographer: Nestor Almendros; editors: Jerry Greenberg/Bill Pankow; music: John Kander; cast: Roy Scheider (Dr. Sam Rice), Meryl Streep (Brooke Reynolds), Jessica Tandy (Grace Rice), Sara Botsford (Gail Phillips), Joe Grifasi (Detective Joseph Vitucci), Josef Sommer (George Bynum), Larry Joshua (Mugger); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Arlene Donovan; MGM/UA Home Video; 1982)
“Slavishly imitative of all those B-film noir clichés.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer-director Robert Benton’s (“Twilight”/”The Late Show”/”Kramer vs. Kramer”) post-noir psychological drama Still of the Night feels like either a Hitchcock or Fritz Lang thriller that’s weighed down trying to live up to the standards of those film gods. Its best feature is the chilling atmosphere of the chic New York art world scene as photographed by the great Spanish-born cinematographer Nestor Almendros.

It follows a conscientious and introspective successful Manhattan psychiatrist Dr. Sam Rice (Roy Scheider) as he falls for an enigmatic murder suspect, Brooke Reynolds (Meryl Streep), who may have savagely murdered one of his patients named George Bynum (Josef Sommer). He’s found in a parked car in the city with his throat slashed. George was the curator of antiquities at Crispin’s auction house, a womanizer and Rice’s patient for the last two years. Rice knows that the married George was having an affair with Brooke and also knows she killed someone previously because George told him in their therapy sessions a lot about her.

Brooke, who also works as part of the auction team at Crispin’s along with George’s former girlfriend Gail Phillips (Sara Botsford), returns to the shrink a watch George left in her apartment (not wanting his wife to know about their affair) and mentions she was the last one to see George alive–that she had an argument over her wanting to leave him but he wouldn’t let her, holding her previous murder as blackmail to keep her as his mistress.

Rice’s mother Grace (Jessica Tandy) is also a shrink, and he consults her about his dead patient and the dream he has about the murder. As Rice falls for Brooke and the investigating Detective Joseph Vitucci (Joe Grifasi) begins crowding him for help, the shrink turns sleuth as he goes with his heart and his dream interpretation even though this puts him in great danger as a target of the killer and because he withholds criminal evidence he could possibly lose his medical license. That’s a lot of excitement for someone who has been leading up until that time such a dull conventional life.

The film’s problems are too many from saving it from jumping off a cliff by its end: Scheider and Streep have no chemistry as effete lovers. Thereby Scheider never convinces us that he’s the kind of daring guy to risk his career and comfortable lifestyle over such as an unlikely impulsive situation. The narrative is flat, it seems highly implausible and its trite resolution wasn’t very interesting. But, worse of all, it annoys by being so slavishly imitative of all those B-film noir clichés that seems made for films buffs at the expense of other viewers.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”