Atmospheric early Goodis adaptation.
- Nightfall review by Steve Mason
Nightfall is an adaptation of a novel by one of hardboiled fiction's most downbeat writers, David Goodis, a poet of threadbare lives ruined by dumb bad luck. The story is glamourised a little for the screen, but is still very subdued. It is like a mournful ballad.
Relating its narrative is Aldo Ray (as James Vanning) who is like a vocalist, murmuring huskily way down low with a catch in his voice. He is being tracked by a pair of killers who are convinced Vanning has the loot from their bank raid. Vanning acquires help from Anne Bancroft, a model he picks up in a bar, and James Gregory, the insurance detective chasing up the stolen loot.
This is another richly atmospheric mood piece from Jacques Tourneur and one of the great LA noirs. Ray is another of those hulking leading men that appeared after WWII. He plays a sentimental guy with no luck at all. Rudy Bond and Brian Keith are a fine double act as the relentless killers. Stirling Silliphant's screenplay conveys the weariness of Goodis' writing and milieu.
The film is mostly set in LA and also very effectively around the oil fields of California, but concludes in the winter snowdrifts of Wyoming. Like On Dangerous Ground the film contrasts the big dirty city with the white rural snowscape. The death of a character by snowplough must be a first for film noir!
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