A remake of Marcel Carnes French film Le Jour Se Leve this noir thriller keeps you on the edge of your seat with great performances from Henry Fonda, Vincent Price and the sexy Ann Dvorak and the film debut of Barbara Bel Geddes.
Waiting For The Sun
- The Long Night review by Count Otto Black
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This curiously-structured noir melodrama begins with the unexplained murder of Vincent Price by Henry Fonda, and spends the rest of its running time alternating between Fonda's rat-in-a-trap predicament, completely surrounded by cops attempting to get him out of his apartment alive or dead (they're not too fussy which), and flashbacks revealing how he got into this terrible situation.
In a way this is a pity, because since we already know Fonda will kill him, Price, despite not yet being typecast as "the Merchant of Menace", is obviously going to turn out to be such a despicable person that the hero of the film has no qualms about mercilessly gunning him down. And if we didn't know this, it would be very difficult to know quite what to make of Price's "Maximilian the Great", a B-list stage magician whose true motives are so hard to pin down that Fonda at one point not unreasonably compares him to a squirming eel. Price, whose greatest weakness was always a tendency to overact, is perfectly cast as a manipulative liar who is never for one second not putting on some kind of act, and inevitably overdoing it just a bit. He's by far the most complex and interesting character, a psychopath who achieves his ends through mental rather physical violence, and who, like all real psychopaths, greatly overestimates himself. I wish the whole film had been about him.
Fonda, though usually better when he was cast as somebody less squeaky-clean than the saintly authority figures he mostly ended up playing later in his career, is at times surprisingly bad. His "salt of the earth ordinary joe" (who is actually called Joe) horribly overdoes the not-too-bright aspect of being a nice but flawed guy, especially in some very early scenes, and later on, when we're supposed to accept that lots of other ordinary decent folk really like him, it's hard to understand why. Barbara Bel Geddes (who found true fame decades later as Miss Ellie in "Dallas") is simply not that good. She does her best, and she's quite cute in a vulnerable puppy kind of way (The Great Maximilian has a way with puppies - fortunately we're not actually shown this), but I could have done with less of her, and more of an underused Ann Dvorak, whose cynical floozy with a heart seems much more at home in this type of film. And it has to be said that some of the romantic interludes drag a bit, especially since Henry Fonda, a very charismatic man, plays Joe as a peculiarly unattractive manchild who women are drawn to because the script says so.
Although it does have its moments, it's somewhat uneven, and since this is an American remake of a French movie, its treatment of sexual jealousy is very coy, and it often struggles to convey to the viewer which characters have had sex with each other, a vital aspect of the plot, without actually admitting that any of them aren't virgins. But Vincent Price fans will enjoy one of his best performances, and, like me, wish he'd been the anti-hero instead of a supporting character. As this very particular type of movie goes, it's not bad, but "The Sweet Smell Of Success" does it far better.