DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
A CRY IN THE NIGHT (director: Frank Tuttle; screenwriters: from the novel All Through the Night by Whit Masterson/David Dortort; cinematographer: John F. Seitz; editor: Folmar Blangsted; music: David Buttolph; cast: Edmond O'Brien (Dan Taggart), Brian Donlevy (Capt. Ed Bates), Natalie Wood (Liz Taggart), Raymond Burr (Harold Loftus), Richard Anderson (Owen Clark), Irene Hervey (Helen Taggart), Carol Veazie (Mabel Loftus), Mary Lawrence (Madge Taggart), Anthony Caruso (Tony Chavez), Herb Vigran (Jensen - Sergeant at Police Desk), Peter Hansen (Dr. Frazee); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: George C. Bertholon/Alan Ladd; Warner Bros.; 1956)
"It's a lively, but unpleasant, unconvincing and overwrought B-film crime drama."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

The 18-year-old Natalie Wood appears in her first "grown up" role. It's a lively, but unpleasant, unconvincing and overwrought B-film crime drama. The 38-year-old Raymond Burr makes his role a campy one, as the creepy mentally unbalanced kidnapper with mommy issues. Though in the pic Burr kidnaps and torments Wood with nutty talk, in real-life these two vastly different personalities, with a big age gap, had a well-publicized romance going during the shoot. A year later Wood married actor Robert Wagner.

Veteran director Frank Tuttle ("Roman Scandals"/"Dr. Rhythm"/"This Gun For Hire") does his usual uninspiring job, as this low-budget baby hums along at high speed but without getting any place worthwhile. It's based on the novel All Through the Night by Whit Masterson and is written by David Dortort, that's very loosely based on the serial rapist Caryl Chessman case.

Liz Taggart (Natalie Wood), the overprotected daughter of a gruff California police captain, Dan Taggart (Edmond O'Brien), is kidnapped by a sexually repressed mama's boy named Harold Loftus (Raymond Burr). The 32-year-old deranged sexual predator who snoops around a secluded area in the woods, a lover's lane spot called "Lover's Loop," where the local kids go to make-out, yearns for the pretty Liz after watching her kiss her date. When spotted snooping in the bushes by Liz's secret boyfriend Owen Clark (Richard Anderson), Harold conks the car salesman on the head and rides away with Liz in her date's convertible. She was afraid to introduce Owen to her dad because he browbeats all her dates and chases them away, which adds some melodramatics at home with the captain's wife (Irene Hervey) when she learns her girl was snatched. It also reminds Liz's frustrated older spinster sister Madge (Mary Lawrence) how her dad chased away the boy she loved.

The captain on night duty, Ed Bates (Brian Donlevy), informs the day shift captain, Dan, of the snatch, and they lead the manhunt for the kidnapper. There's tension, as Owen is brought along and there's an ongoing quarrel between the two as the captain blames Owen for the predicament his daughter is in. The pervert takes Liz to an abandoned brickyard, where he has set up a hideout in an old shack, and there pleads with her to be his girlfriend. Liz senses this guy isn't right in the head, but feels some sympathy for him as she forms an uneasy bond while still hoping to escape.

The police get their big clue when Harold's distraught mother (Carol Veazie) calls the police station because her son is missing, and the domineering mother keeps calling her grown son "Baby." The suspicious cops are sure her "Baby" is their man after visiting the fruitcake mom. When a patrol car spots the shack hideout, the climactic scene of the pinch leaves us wondering if they can nab the unstable sicko before he harms Liz.

It's basically a routine police procedural crime drama, with Anderson uninteresting as the bland boyfriend, O'Brien just plain annoying as the bullying father and hot-headed lawman, and Burr not real as the blubbering loner peeping tom with a dark side. Everything looked artificial, from the scenes in the shack between the frightened vic and the lost soul predator to the attempt to make the melodrama expand into one over a generation gap. Anderson seemed more like a middle-aged man than a teenager, while Wood's part never developed her character and she seemed used as merely a plot device. Warner's tried selling it as an updated film noir, but that's a hard sell since the pic despite its hot-button subject-matter looks like tired stuff from older and weaker crime films.

REVIEWED ON 6/15/2010       GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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