Saturday, September 15, 2007

Night Unto Night (1949)

The description for Night Unto Night (1949) on Turner Classic Movies : "Epileptic surgeon meets haunted widow." That epileptic surgeon? Ronald Reagan. The director? Don Siegel. Sold! It's a curiosity - a grand gothic melodrama about epilepsy and ghosts, and both are treated as equally frightening. Reagan plays a biochemist (the surgeon bit was false advertising) who relocates to the eastern Florida coast in order to deal with his illness. The house he wants to rent is owned by Ann (Viveca Lindfors), a freaked out widow still obsessed with her late husband Bill. She tends to be framed in extreme close-up, her thousand-yard stare giving her the air of the walking dead. The movie's all atmosphere, with an impressive use of miniatures for the coastal house, while the rest of the film is bathed in darkness, likely to hide the lack of expansive sets, but it creates a dreamlike mood - mostly nightmarish. The other characters on the coast are equally bizarre: Ann's sister Lisa is freewheeling boozehound, forever ragging on the monogamous lifestyle, while the neighbor C.L. paints romance novel covers and is always bemusedly attacking the scientific, rational attitude in favor of the spiritual. Ghosts and scientists battle it out, with the ghosts taking a minor victory.


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