Movie Critique - Nightfall

Stars: 4 / 5

Recommendation: Anyways, we get to see a B-movie classic by Tourneur revolving around changes, coincidences, attached with bad luck and loads of money leading to murder and deceit. 

Nightfall is a 1957 American film noir starring Aldo Ray, James Gregory, Brian Keith and Anne Bancroft in the lead cast. Based on the 1947 novel of the same name by David Goodis, the film was directed by Jacques Tourneur and produced by Ted Richmond. Screenplay was written by Stirling Silliphant, the third film in his career as writer.

James "Jim" Vanning (portrayed by Aldo Ray) is pursued by an insurance investigator Ben Fraser (portrayed by James Gregory) for murder and the $350K stolen from his company. In the meanwhile Jim meets Marie Gardner (portrayed by Anne Bancroft) and they start to fall for each other. But past soon catches up and they go on the run in search of proof to help clear Jim. 

The cinematographer Burnett Guffey used flashbacks to tell the story, a concept that was completely different at that time. Having been made towards the end of the film noir era, this new technique tremendously helped the film. 

The theme song "Nightfall" was composed by Peter De Rose and Charles Harold with Lyrics by Sam M. Lewis and Sung by Al Hibbier. The songs plays on the opening credits which begin  few minutes after the film starts. 

The antagonists, John (portrayed by Brian Keith) and Red (portrayed by Rudy Bond), are actually more memorable than the others in the cast. Their collective sociopathic nature with the subtle thread of sarcastic humor gives shivers to your back. 

James Gregory plays the part of the insurance investigator, Ben Fraser in the film. I distinctly remember him for his roles of Coach Rizzo in the 1972 The Most Crucial Game and David L. Buckner in the 1972 Short Fuse, the TV movies part of the TV series Columbo.

Aldo Ray as Jim Vanning and Anne Bancroft as Marie Gardner are so different and apart in their character portrayal. I couldn’t find any romantic chemistry in them. But every element of film noir induces in them and their acting. That came as a mystery to me as how far apart they were and yet they tied their characters and the plot neatly. 

One thing Aldo Ray reminded me of though. The way he moved, spoke, his voice, his head tilts, in general reminded me of William R Moses, who is known for his role as Ken Malansky in the Perry Mason TV movies from 1989 thru 1993, and as Jack Davis in the nine TV movies of Jane Doe series from 2005 thru 2008. Wonder if they both are related or if Moses aped Ray. 

Anyways, we get to see a B-movie classic by Tourneur revolving around changes, coincidences, attached with bad luck and loads of money leading to murder and deceit. A forgotten hidden gem from the yesteryears that will keep you thrilled.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. The original book Nightfall was adapted for TV as Sure As Fate in 1950.

b. The film was influential in Quentin Tarantino creating Bruce Willis' character in the 1994 film Pulp Fiction.

c. The dress that Anne Bancroft's character Marie wears in the fashion show is introduced as being made by Jean Louis who happens to be the costume designer for this film in real and for Columbia Pictures in general. You can see him being credited in Opening Credits. 

d. The commentator of the fashion show, Winifred Waring, was at the time working as fashion director at the J. W. Robinson Department Store in Beverly Hills.

e. Jacque Tourneur also directed a film titled Out of the Past in 1947 which has a very similar story to it with Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas and Jane Greer in the lead cast.

f. Marlon Brando's sister Jocelyn Brando plays the part of Laura Fraser, Ben Fraser's wife.

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. When John and Red's car goes over the road there is no guardrail. However when Jim and Doc reach them you can see a broken wooden guardrail.

b. $350K stuffed inside a bag looking like a doctor's bag would have made it heavier than what a doctor would carry. So when Red picked up the wrong bag how could he not identify the weight difference?


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