|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;
Blangsted; music: David Buttolph;
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),
Vigran (Jensen - Sergeant at Police Desk), Peter Hansen
(Dr. Frazee); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR;
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
overprotected daughter of a gruff California police
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
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
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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