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20th Century Fox presents
Somewhere in the Night (1946)

"I can't make up my mind if this is a pitch, or if you're a nut."
- Christy (Nancy Guild)

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: September 06, 2005

Stars: John Hodiak, Nancy Guild, Lloyd Nolan
Other Stars: Richard Conte, Josephine Hutchinson
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Manufacturer: Deluxe Digital Studios
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:48m:05s
Release Date: September 06, 2005
UPC: 024543191131
Genre: film noir


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ BBB+ B-

DVD Review

O, if only the whole world could be like a film noir—all the men would be world weary, throwing back shots of rye in nattily tailored suits, all the women would have brassy exteriors with soft spots for the big lugs, all the right people (or, depending on your perspective, the wrong people) would keep turning up dead, and suitcases full of cash would rain from the skies. Somewhere in the Night is a saucily titled, moodily rendered paragon of the genre; you probably have to love this stuff to love this movie, but if you do, it's a great pleasure to welcome this title with the third wave of Fox's terrific noir releases.

What serial killers are to today's films, amnesia seems to have been to the movies of the 1940s—that is, a phenomenon of extreme rarity in real life, but popping up on screen seemingly at every turn. Our hero is George W. Taylor, an American G.I. who fell on a grenade in the last days of World War II; it necessitated reconstructive surgery, and left him almost entirely without memory. Taylor has little to go on other than the contents of his wallet, and soon returns to Los Angeles from the Hawaii military hospital; there the clues lead him in pursuit of an old buddy named Larry Cravat. Taylor soon discovers, though, that Cravat seems not to have been the most honorable character, and that there's a whole score of people not too happy to have the onetime doughboy hot on Cravat's tail.

There's a temptation, especially when comparing this to other noir pictures, to read Taylor's amnesia as the ultimate expression of post-traumatic stress disorder, the conventions of noir having so much to do with the anxieties of soldiers returning home from the war; but in truth, director Joseph L. Mankiewicz doesn't take it all seriously enough to allow for that sort of metaphorical reading, and it's probably just as well. What we're left with instead is some terrific, high-contrast black-and-white photography, and a gallery of characters that are just a delight. Taylor of course meets the good girl and the bad girl; the former, Christy Smith, is played by Nancy Guild, part sweet, part saucy; the latter, Phyllis, is a delightful little tart played by Margo Woode. John Hodiak as Taylor can be a little stiff, but the part sort of lends itself to that, too; he's asked to carry the movie on his broad and well-padded shoulders, and he does so with panache.

There are some familiar faces, too, including Richard Conte as a nightclub owner who knows the score on both sides of the tracks, and Lloyd Nolan in a terrifically straightforward performance as the police lieutenant doggedly following clues, and with the keen intuition so endemic to movie cops. Among those sharing screen credit for the film's script is the great Lee Strasberg, known primarily as one of the foremost teachers of the Stanislavski method, who became still more famous later in life for his portrait of Hyman Roth. This was one of Mankiewicz's very first efforts behind the camera, and he shows himself to be a quick study; it's too much to say that you can see the clear line from here to the movies of his own high style, like All About Eve, but there's no doubting that he knows a crackling line of dialogue when he hears, sees or writes one, and can get his actors to sell it with inimitable style.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Generally a very strong transfer, with lots of contrast, which is just how you want your noir; there are more than few noticeable imperfections in the source print, though, and their appearance can be jarring.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Pretty sharp stuff, on both the mono and stereo tracks, though with the limited dynamics and frequent buzz and hiss typical of films from this period.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Street With No Name, Where the Sidewalk Ends, No Way Out
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Eddie Muller
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Film historian Eddie Muller provides a wry if occasionally sparse commentary track. He gives a very thorough history of the genre, and obviously has a tremendous amount of knowledge; he even talks us through the use of amnesia in previous movies, and gives good information on the actors' backstories and on a couple of Mankiewicz's inside jokes. His sense of humor is evident when, for instance, he mourns the decline of the cocktail lounge in America; and though the track has more than its share of blank patches, listening to it is an opportunity to review just how all the clues are planted long before they're put together in the final reel.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Moody and stinging, Somewhere in the Night is full of genre conventions that may have become clichéd over the decades, but that are pulled off here with all kinds of style.

 


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