Still of the Night / Stab (1982)

“We’re probably dealing with a woman who on the surface seems childlike and innocent, but underneath is capable of extreme violence.”

Synopsis:
When one of his patients (Josef Sommer) is murdered, a psychiatrist (Roy Scheider) suspects that Sommer’s nervous mistress (Meryl Streep) — with whom he is gradually falling in love — may have something to do with it.

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Review:
Robert Benton’s atmospheric homage to noir thrillers of the ’40s and ’50s is a welcome, enjoyable effort. While not entirely successful — Scheider’s use of dream analysis as a legitimate method of deduction is particularly suspect — there’s enough suspense and creativity sprinkled throughout to keep most viewers happy. Meryl Streep gives yet another knockout performance as the “icy blonde” who may or may not know something about Sommers’ death; every moment she’s on-screen, we watch with bated breath, and she alone makes this film “must see” viewing.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Meryl Streep as “icy blonde” Brooke Reynolds
    SON Streep
  • Josef Sommer as the philandering murdered man (seen in flashbacks)
    SON Sommer
  • Nestor Almendros’ atmospheric cinematography
    SON Cinematography
  • A fun homage to several Hitchcock classics, including Rear Window and North by Northwest
    SON Homage2
    SON Homage1
  • The unexpected final plot twist

Must See?
Yes, simply for Streep’s wonderful performance. Listed as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Still of the Night / Stab (1982)”

  1. Yes, a must – but, as noted, for two specific reasons:

    a) Its worth as homage. Spotting the references (‘Rear Window’, ‘North by Northwest’, ‘Vertigo’, ‘Spellbound’, ‘Rebecca’…more?) is as much fun as trying to find Hitchcock’s cameos in his own films. Taken on its own merits, ‘SOTN’ is cold, oddly uninvolving and only sporadically interesting (the creepy dream sequence may be its most memorable element – and even that could have been better). Without the Hitchcock nods, there would be much less of a film here. (I don’t think this is among DP Almendros’ best work; as well, top-notch Broadway composer John Kander’s score starts off well but becomes disappointing and repetitive.)

    b) La Streep! Is this woman EVER bad?! (Well, I seem to recall her being miscast in ‘The House of the Spirits’, but I doubt I’d ever go back to that one to check.) The ‘worst’ thing I can say about her here is…well, maybe because it’s a ‘cherchez la femme’ tale, she’s occasionally guilty of using a style I call ‘acting with your hair’. But I want to believe that’s her character. So don’t tell me otherwise. Streep brings l-a-y-e-r-s to what here seems material leaning toward the weak side. Her long speech near the end alone is reason to watch – she’s mesmerizing.

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