Nightfall (1957)

Screen cap from Nightfall‘The film opens in Los Angeles, a nocturnal strip of blinking neon, cocktail lounges and cheap rooming-houses. Carefully parceled-out flashbacks reveal why Jim Vanning (Aldo Ray), has become a hunted and haunted drifter, moving from city to city and name to name, trying to escape the aftermath of something terrible that happened in the desolate, snowy mountains of Wyoming.’

— Imogen Smith, “Nightfall, a rare film noir by Jacques Tourneur at Film Forum

Screen cap from Nightfall‘Ray’s character, like that of Bancroft, both loners, is attuned to possibility of the unease, discontent, and unpredictable fate lines in the modern world around them … . For the sensitive souls, there’s no joy to be found at the end of the day, only momentary respite with a kindred spirit of sensitivity, and the awareness that after the sun sets, the darkness comes.’

— Daniel Kasman, “Jun10 article At the Cinematheque: “Nightfall” (Jacques Tourneur, 1957)

Screen cap from Nightfall‘Even more distracting are a couple of crucial plot-points involving the stolen cash which strain credulity to an unsatisfactory degree — it’s therefore no surprise that, when loosely updating the story into Fargo, Ethan and Joel Coen brothers took only certain key details and images from the original and reconfigured them into a quite different sort of tale. Fans of that movie’s grisly “wood-chipper” incident will, however, certainly get a kick out of Tourneur’s startlingly violent climax.’

— Neil Young, “NIGHTFALL (1956) : J.Tourneur : 6/10

Screen cap from Nightfall‘Despite Tourneur’s directorial elan, excellent noir photography from Burnett Guffey, and a script based on a David Goodis novel, the movie clearly attests to the decline of the film noir cycle. The story of the innocent man entrapped by fate and on the run from both the cops and hoods has been played out many times before, and Tourneur does not manage to invest the scenario with any real tension. Even at 78 minutes the screenplay takes too long to reach its rather pat resolution.’

— Tony D’Ambra, “Nightfall (1957): Final curtain call for classic noir

Screen cap from Nightfall‘In short, what identifies a Tourneur picture isn’t strictly speaking a style, a manner, or a group of themes, but rather a way of perceiving the world -– one that perpetually finds ambiguities and leaves troubled impressions.’

— Jonathan Rosenbaum, “Art of Darkness

Screen cap from Nightfall‘Her character becomes less interesting as the story goes along, but Bancroft’s dark, warm-cool beauty contributes to the film’s ravishing allure (it has the special, elegiac richness of late black-and-white cinematography), and she must be one of the first women to sleep without make-up in a Hollywood movie. She also gets the film’s most memorable line, when she tells Ray, “You’re the most wanted man I know.”’

— Imogen Smith

Screen cap from NightfallNightfall beautifully evokes the world of bus station lockers, casual pick-ups in bars, newsstands hawking out-of-town papers to the homesick: a lonely, transient America. Aldo Ray has the looks of a college football star thickened with age and hardened into wariness. He sounds like a man who gargles with cheap Scotch, or who has choked on an exceptionally bitter pill. Living with your back to the wall, Vanning says, “you change inside.” He takes to the role of victim, of doomed and almost passive prey, with peculiar ease.’

— Imogen Smith

Screen cap from Nightfall‘By contrast, Nightfall looks more open, more blank, and allows for more projection; for a film named after night, there’s a lot of day, a lot of white. And yet, it’s another source of indetermination. The threat in Nightfall is precisely the chance that those empty spaces will be filled by guns and violence, that the wide white blanket at the close has buried things is untenable.’

— Ryland Walker Knight, “Thatches and blankets. Out of the Past and Nightfall.

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