Nightfall (1957)

Aldo Ray was an unusual but wonderfully appealing and layered actor, one of the most lovable hulks that appeared in noir. He was a whispery, gravel voiced giant with quite a range, considering he was believable in such a wide variety of roles: a softhearted, driven and idealistic soldier (Battle Cry, Men in War), dopey boxer (Pat and Mike) or lovable ex-con (We’re No Angels). In Nightfall he’s just a regular guy, a wrongly accused and bewildered artist who just wants to go camping with a buddy and gets sucked in to the aftermath of a heist. Brian Keith plays one of the bank robbers torturing Ray over the whereabouts of their money, which he knows nothing about. Anne Bancroft first helps trap Ray, then has the whole story explained to her, a tale which involves a mix-up with the doctor’s bag and Ray being suspected of murder. Directed by Jacques Tourneur from a David Goodis novel, this is a great noir, a must see, and one of my favorites; it’s the snowbound cousin of Tourneur’s Out of the Past and every bit as beautiful. It’s not just the wintery setting that makes Nightfall different and refreshing (though the snow leads to one of the most interesting death scenes ever filmed), it’s the neat mix of wisecracks, dark humor and morbid violence that makes the film seem thoroughly modern. Don’t miss it, 

NIGHTFALL  is on TCM tuesday 1pm

(a version of this article was previously published in Dark Pages Magazine)

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