The Long Night [DVD] [1947]

This is one first-rate DVD, and a surprising one in a way -- Anatole Litvack's The Long Night has always stood in the shadow of its French original, Marcel Carné's Le Jour Se Lève, American critics holding special resentment for the Hollywood attempt to remake one of the defining examples of poetic realism. The truth is that once one gets past the fact that the filmmakers were using Carné's movie as a jumping-off point, The Long Night stands as a beautifully made and acted film in its own right, with virtues -- including a very complex and quietly dazzling production design by Eugène Lourié -- that make it worth owning and watching many times over. The story is close to the French original in most respects, although John Wexley's screenplay has moved it uniquely into a post-World War II small-town American setting, with elements of discontent and pessimism that make The Long Night seem even more daring today; this is not Frank Capra's or Leo McCarey's benign view of reality for Americans, but something closer to the vision of Earl Robinson or Pete Seeger, in terms of the brutalities of life, the pettiness of public officials, and the sheer hopelessness and unhappiness of the workers. The DVD offers a beautiful transfer of the film, bringing out in crystal clarity the richness of Sol Polito's photography and the brilliance of Lourié's set designs, which totally achieve their desired goal in establishing a mood as well as a locale -- the staircase set, in particular, is a wonder to behold, and the designs and camera work alone are worth the price of the disc, and multiple viewings to go with it. All of these virtues also bring out the full value of the best of the performances which, in addition to Henry Fonda, Barbara Bel Geddes, and Ann Dvorak, include a brace of far lesser known character players in supporting parts that are well worth seeing in this format, absent a full theatrical re-release. The supplements include a series of relevant clips from Le Jour Se Lève for comparison, scene by scene, and a nicely structured visual essay on the production design of the film -- a full accompanying narration would have been ideal, but this is the next best thing. The menu is straightforward and easy to use.
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The Long Night
Based upon the French film Le Jour Se Lève, The Long Night opens in the in the midst of a dire situation: ex-serviceman Joe Adams (Henry Fonda) finds himself holed up in his apartment, surrounded by policemen who soon open fire in a relentless and determined manner. Adams has been accused of murder, and as his apartment is riddled with bullets, he flashes back to how this all came about. It began when Adams met Jo Ann (Barbara Bel Geddes), who, it turns out, grew up in the same orphanage at the same time as he. They soon fall in love, but things are complicated when a magician named Maximilian (Vincent Price) enters the picture. He tells Adams that he is Jo Ann's father, but that he doesn't want her to know this. Maximilian begins spending a lot of time with Jo Ann, which makes Adams feel vaguely unsettled. He discovers that Maximilian lied -- that he is not her father but is someone who has been trying to seduce her for a long time. Maximilian goes to Adams' apartment to taunt him, with the result that Adams shoots him, thus bringing about the current state of affairs. As Adams has been recalling all of this, a crowd has gathered, including Jo Ann. She leads the crowd in protesting the police's actions, and a riot brews. With tension continuing to rise, Jo Ann desperately tries to find a way to rescue the man she loves. ~ Craig Butler, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Henry Fonda
    Henry Fonda - Joe Adams
  • Barbara Bel Geddes
    Barbara Bel Geddes - Jo Ann
  • Vincent Price
    Vincent Price - Maximilian
  • Ann Dvorak
    Ann Dvorak - Charlene
  • Elisha Cook, Jr.
    Elisha Cook, Jr. - Frank
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