15 May 2013 | krocheav
Europe com'a America
This fascinating title 'Night Unto Night' was perhaps an American film ahead of it's time. In the late 40's you might expect Europe and Britain would be more prone to produce works with the themes found in 'Night'. Maybe this explains why the film was better received outside the USA.
It's a serious story written by Philip Wylie, also known for 'Island of Lost Souls', 'When Worlds Collide', etc. Here we have a story that reaches into the darkness of the human condition, uncovering the vulnerable surfaces that either hold us together or tear us apart. Obviously, after producing this film Warner Brothers did not quite know what to do with it so, shelved it for over a year. It's more along the lines of the socially conscious stories that First National Pictures were unafraid to make in the 30's IE; 'Heroes For Sale' etc. The screenplay adaptation by Kathryn Scola, who had earlier worked on 'The Glass Key', 'A Modern Hero', etc, has a sharp edge to it, bringing to life Wylies' troubled characters quite nicely. The two European female imports do very well in vastly different character turns. Swedish Viveca Lindfors is near perfect as the haunted feminine lead, while Danish Osa Massen plays her superficial, vampish sister to the hilt.
American Producer Owen Crump, while not generally well known, was himself not unfamiliar with making films in Europe. He is also known to Write: "Zeppelin" 71, ~ and to Direct: "The Couch" 62. The weakest link in this production lies with his allocated Director, Don Siegel. This was only Siegel's 2nd feature and he was not up to the material. Siegel tended to be more suited to the simple 'shoot em up' Eastwood type films.
Visually the film is absolutely stunning. Cinematographer John Peveral Marley who's known for all time classics such as the original 'Count of Monte Cristo' - 'Suez' - 'Night and Day' etc, crafts a treat for the artistic eye with his eerie floating camera, spiraling along dark stairways and over glistening waters. Marley is ably supported by Art Director Hugh Reticker ('Humoresque' etc) who creates a darkly Gothic look and feel to the interiors of Lindfors' rambling beach front house. Also adding a strong sense of mystic mood is Franz Waxmans' music, conjuring up the building torment of the two suffering leads.
Acting honours should go to Broderick Crawford for his strong portrayal as Reagans newly found Artist friend, he's a man who shuns commercialism and offers sympathetic spiritual support to both leads. If it's action you want, you wont get it here. Thoughtful viewers should find rewards if they approach it as a soul searching character study. If this was not meant to be 'A grade', then in so many ways it certainly is. Watch for Craig Stevens, TV's Peter Gunn, who two decades latter would again work for Producer Owen Crump in the 1967 theatrical feature version of 'Gunn'. Recently, at two private film appreciation group screenings of Night Unto Night (with an audience mix of young and older viewers) when the film ended, there was a round of enthusiastic applause, and much discussion followed ~ ninety percent said the film was quality melodrama of the 'superior' kind. Most also said it's one of the best performances they'd seen from Reagan, I have to agree. This unfairly dismissed film is highly recommended for lovers of late 40's romantic noir. Ken Roche......