In the wake of My Name is Julia Ross, also released recently by Arrow Video, director Joseph H. Lewis continued to dabble in the film noir sub-genre with So Dark the Night, which edges deeper into the intentionally Hitchcockian, twisted narrative style. Lewis intentionally crafts a feature-length picture which turns the detective story on its head in an inventive and disturbing manner. Had it been made in the modern day, it could well be celebrated for its cold hearted slight of hand.
As his previous film took place in a Hollywood-inflected wartime London, Lewis here locates the action to Paris and the French countryside, as Parisian detective Inspector Cassin (Steven Geray) escapes to the countryside on vacation, only to become entangled in a love affair with the daughter of an innkeeper, embroiled in jealousy, and ultimately is forced to investigate an unexpected murder. What is unusual about So Dark the Night are certain of the choices made in Cassin’s journey.
The detective falling in love with the moll at the heart of the mystery is nothing new to noir—take 1944’s Laura, the Otto Preminger noir classic as a pure example—but Dana Andrews in that picture fit the mould of a conflicted romantic protagonist far more than Geray, who while only just over 40 when the picture was filmed looked significantly older. Cassin begins the picture as a respected French sleuth and becomes utterly compromised by the events out of his city comfort zone.
To say anything more about the plot would be to spoil an investigation which almost works ahead of its time in how it twists and turns to a dark, psychological conclusion, but So Dark the Night works hard to wrong foot you as a viewer and while Lewis’ pulp style, making the best of a contained budget, remains in evidence, he manages to craft more of a visual noir palette than his previous film. He also refuses to bring you into the narrative as comfortably, ensuring the film retains a cool distance.
So Dark the Night is not classic noir but it is an impressive slice from Lewis – perhaps not as engaging as his last picture, but without question retaining a deeper sense of craft. Arrow again do not disappoint with their extras for this release, including a fascinating commentary with Glenn Kenny & Farran Smith Nehme; ‘So Dark… Joseph H. Lewis at Columbia’, a documentary exploring the history behind the film; plus the original theatrical trailer.
Worth picking up for noir completists and film fans who want a classic mystery which does not compromise on a happy ending, So Dark the Night is cold, calculated noir.
So Dark the Night is now available on Arrow Video.