So Dark the Night (1946)

“Every pretty girl would like to go to Paris.”

So Dark the Night Poster

Synopsis:
A renowned Parisian detective (Steven Geray) vacationing in a small town falls in love with a beautiful local girl (Micheline Cheirel) — but when her jealous fiance (Paul Marion) threatens to harm her if she leaves him, Detective Cassin (Geray) finds himself unexpectedly embroiled in a serial murder case.

Genres:

Review:
Director Joseph H. Lewis is best known for transforming mundane B-level scripts into stylishly atmospheric cinematic treats — as with his “breakthrough” film My Name is Julia Ross (1945), and his later cult hit Gun Crazy (1949). This follow-up to MNIJR isn’t nearly as compelling, suffering primarily from a less-than-charismatic performance by Hungarian character actor Geray — but it remains of interest simply as further evidence of Lewis’s directorial genius. Every scene is filmed strategically, with plenty of atmosphere (thanks in part to DP Burnett Guffey) and excellent use of low-budget locales; check out TCM’s article for back story on how Lewis managed to transform studio sets into a small French town, despite never having been to one himself. The narrative itself generates some tension, and goes in unexpected directions, but eventually devolves into a silly, unsatisfying denouement; with that said, one remains glued to the screen simply out of curiosity and admiration for how Lewis and Guffey will frame and light each shot. It’s worth a look for that reason alone.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Impressive direction by Lewis
    So Dark the Night Direction1
    So Dark the Night Direction2
  • Atmospheric cinematography (by Burnett Guffey)
    So Dark the Night Cinematography
    So Dark the Night Cinematography2

Must See?
No, though it’s recommended for one-time viewing.

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One Response to “So Dark the Night (1946)”

  1. First viewing – not must-see.

    I’m in full agreement with the way director Lewis and DP Guffey almost completely succeed in the handling of the storytelling here. Up until near the end, it’s a compact little tale told in an economic and fairly compelling manner.

    Alas, the 70-minute film is rather undone in its last 10 minutes by way of an improbable turn.

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