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"Nightmare" is Maxwell Shane's 1956 remake of his own "Fear in the Night"
(1947). According to various commentators, the 1956 version is the better,
partly because of the music, the cast and the locales used.
Never having viewed "Fear in the Night" I can only judge "Nightmare" on its
own merits, which are modest, but definite.
First off, this is a faithful adaptation of Cornell Woolrich, based on a story (not a 'novel', as the movie's credits indicate) that has a true Woolrich feeling when it is read. In fact it is highly recommendable, if you want to try some Woolrich and have not yet done so. You can read the story ('Nightmare') in less than one hour.
The film has a good cast to say the least--Edward G. Robinson, Kevin McCarthy, Virginia Christine, Gage Clark, Rhys Williams, Marian Carr, and Connie Russell, along with several of those highly recognizable character/supporters.
Kevin McCarthy is SUPERB in this film. He must have been at the top his game. "Nightmare" is contemporary with "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"(Don Siegel), which is itself one hell of a well-realized nightmare. Poor Kevin must have had a heavy-duty 1956. The handsome actor conveys a palpable combination of obsession and stark fear--he MUST find his way out of his horrible situation: framed for a murder that he dreams he committed, evidence mounting against him. Worst of all is his detective brother-in-law Rene (Robinson) who relentlessly dogs him about his involvement in the crime.
There are a few memorable visual touches: the opening credit/nightmare sequence, hallucinatory and disturbing, with intoxicating jazz-inflected score by Hershel Burke Gilbert; a strange episode in which a rain-soaked picnic party 'happens' upon an empty house: McCarthy seems to know the house as if it were his own! How can this be?! It's quite unnerving for several minutes; another good sequence concerns a character on the ledge of a tall building. "Nightmare" benefits from a LOT of New Orleans locales. The locations add a good deal of welcome visual variety and a slightly exotic flavor
Most interesting of all about "Nightmare"--the music. Bandleader Billy May and legendary New Orleans pianist Meade Lux Lewis make noteworthy appearances. May, in fact, plays a character in the drama and leads his orchestra in some very jumping numbers. Also on hand is Connie Russell, a fair actress and fine singer who seems not to have made records, but comes across very well in her three vocal performances. All the above is tied together very nicely by Gilbert's score. Based on a brief motif that saxophonist McCarthy hears in his opening nightmare, the music is heard in varying instrumental combinations and is molded to support the drama at every turn. This may be the only film, or film noir, in which a character desperately tries to discover the origin of a tune, as if his life depended upon it (it does).
Give this one a shot.
In the late 1940s, director Maxwell Shane made a very low budget psychological thriller called Fear in the Dark -- about a man waking from a nightmare that he's murdered a stranger, only to find it to be true. In 1956, Shane decided to remake it as Nightmare, with a name cast (Kevin McCarthy -- Mary's brother, for the record -- as the luckless dreamer, Edward G. Robinson as his brother-in-law the homicide cop). It's a very close remake, not as pointlessly literal as Gus Van Sant's cloning of Psycho, but with little changed except a better and more integrated jazz score. In sum, Nightmare boasts better acting and better production values, all of which serve to point up the basic cheesiness of the plot. The earlier version, looking a lot like a nightmare itself, lends its own low-rent integrity to Cornell Woolrich's bizarre vision.
Kevin McCarthy, a jazzman from New Orleans, has a nightmare. He dreams he was in a strange room and committed a murder, only to find out the next morning that there are clues he actually did it. Terrified, he goes to his brother-in-law (Edward G Robinson) to ask for help. Edward G doesn't believe him at first, but soon the evidence begins to pile up. The rest is too good to reveal. Kevin McCarthy's performance right on the heels of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is flawless - the terrified victim - again. Eddie G's character as the cynical, hard boiled homicide dick is one of his best. The story riveted me from start to finish and director Maxwell Shane set just the right tone. Watch for the final scenes in the mirrored room. The atmosphere shots of New Orleans in the 50's transports us back to another time. It's a mystery - a drama - a thriller. Do not miss it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Cornell Woolrich was the source of many scripts from the time he was writing in the thirties (in the last century) up until now. His books themselves are hopelessly outdated in writing style, overwritten and florid - but the plots - he was a veritable Agatha Christie when it came to cooking up noir twists and turns. One of my favorites was his novella Nightmare, here (forgive me) hypnotically brought to the screen with moody settings, bayous drenched in rain, mirrored rooms, seedy hotel rooms in New Orleans, a weird strangulated score based on the songs in the movie and great performances by ALL involved, a suspicious Edward G. Robinson who's a hard boiled cop reprising his performance in Double Indemnity with his wife's brother Kevin McCarthy as the foil instead of Fred McMurray. Only in this picture McCarthy is innocent. McCarthy, hitting his stride in, in my opinion, the best sci-fi thriller of all time, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. did NIGHTMARE the same year and brings believability to his role as the skittish and floundering jazz musician living in a New Orleans seedy hotel while drifting through the Bourbon Street Bar scene. In one scene he picks up a prostitute (which you feel he's done before as their bar banter is done with the greatest of ease.) Even though, of course, he has a girlfriend, and only freaks and bolts from her apartment when, in a weird shot in the mirror, the prostitute reminds him of the woman in the mirrored room of his nightmare...in which he feels he's killed someone and though there's no proof, can't get it out of his mind. Turns out McCarthy was hypnotized into believing he killed someone and why not? The plot's half noir and half giallo anyway. What is the secret of the mirrored room? Does it exist? Of course. And the murder was all very real and executed with great aplomb by the extremely creepy Gage Clarke who in a dual role moves into McCarthy's seedy hotel as presumably just another transient but in a bizarre and disquieting scene actually comes into McCarthy's room with a candle and hypnotizes him further to keep him under his control. You have to check this villain's voice out and his hypnotic structured repetitions for a real spooked out treat. McCarthy is excellent - paranoid and losing it. His girlfriend Connie Russell is the penultimate pin-up babe of the fifties, going the length for 'her man' while decked out in tight sweaters and singing some low down numbers live and in the studio, such as 'It was the last I ever saw of that man' and ' What's Your Sad Story, it can't be sadder than mine' Virginia Christine, Mrs. Olson 'It's Mountain Grown', fresh from co-starring with McCarthy in INVASION, doesn't disappoint here and rounds out a great cast as the pregnant wife of Edward G. Robinson. Pretty much a controlling hysteric type, she goes bananas during thunderstorms with great aplomb! Maxwell Shane directed this material before in FEAR IN THE NIGHT which is fairly unremarkable with a few good moments. But NIGHTMARE is great! The plot is not at all dated and has no holes but is neatly devised and carried out. In the end everything makes sense. I think this movie is vastly underrated and a strange and strong entry in the noir canon. There's something haunting about it you can't shake off.
If you can get past the improbable key to the mystery, the rest of the
movie has some good, strong points. The first twenty minutes plunge us
into McCarthy's nightmarish events that may or may not have actually
happened. We don't know for sure and neither does he, but there are the
scratches on his arm. Did he kill those people or not. The surreal
effects are impressively done.
McCarthy delivers a gripping performance, as good as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (also 1956), and much better than expected for a B-movie. In short, he makes us believe that his dilemma, however improbable, is real and not just a story construct. Without that intensity drawing us in, the movie would, I think, amount to little more than a mildly interesting walk-through.
The New Orleans locations provide a clever anchor to the real world, and a good setting for the colorful jazz scenes. However, a 63-year old Robinson is at least 10 years too old for the brother-in-law part even though he manages the cop role well. And can we really believe the chance occurrence onto the scene-of-the-crime mansion in all that unfamiliar backcountry. Unfortunately, the script requires more than just an ordinary suspension of disbelief. Too bad the script couldn't work in more bayou scenes. Those coming at the end are really creepy and nightmarish in their own right. Too bad also that the excellent McCarthy made so few films, preferring, I gather, stage productions instead. All in all, an interesting if regrettably flawed little movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Yes, this was originally made in the 1940's and one of the cast was
none other than Deforest Kelly of Fear In The Night. After doing this
one, Dr. McCoy moved on out of this remake. Edward G. Robinson replaces
Paul Kelly as top billing and Kevin MCCarthy replaces Dr. McCoy. This
one features more music as there is an orchestra on hand.
It is solid as Stan thinks he is dreaming he killed someone he actually did kill. While a bit thread bare as a plot, it does work. There is always so much doubt when a dream killer turns out to be a real killer.
Robinson and McCarthy are in top form here and definitely play off each other well. Being a film noir, this one keeps the real murderer loose until the end of the movie. The ending is a song, maybe a swan song though this one did get remade again on a 2012 television program.
If you like noir, it would be benefit to see both earlier films. It would satisfy your urge for this type of film for a while. This one is pretty good.
Maxwell Shane remakes his own 1947 film Fear in the Night but with a
better known cast and more money. Adapted from Cornell Woolrich's
novel, story has Stan Grayson (Kevin McCarthy) as a New Orleans
clarinetist who dreams he has committed a murder in a heavily mirrored
room. Upon waking he finds clues that suggest he actually may have
killed a man and frantically turns to his police detective
brother-in-law, Rene Bressard (Edward G. Robinson), for help. But it
doesn't look good for Stan...
Fear in the Night is a good film, and so is this, but if you have seen the earlier version then this feels very much perfunctory. The opening titles are superb, as melted candle wax plays host to the roll call shown in moody dissolves. We jump into Grayson's dream, again this is very well constructed on noirish terms, and from there on in it's a competently crafted visual film noir picture with good tension and splendid jazzy interludes.
However, nothing else makes it stand out, it just sort of exists as an exercise in late noir cycle film making, a pic that doesn't want to even try to push boundaries. The cast are dependable in performances, but nothing to really grab the attention, though Shane does work near wonders to cloak the characters in various levels of paranoia or suspicious machinations. New Orleans locales are a bonus, with cinematographer Joseph Biroc excelling at sweaty close-ups and the utilisation of shadows as foreboding presence's.
It all resolves itself in a haze of improbability, but as most film noir fans will tell you, that's actually OK. Yet this is still a film that's far from essential viewing for the like minded noir crowd. More so if you happened to have seen the 1947 version first. 6/10
In the role right before he made a comeback of sorts in The Ten
Commandments, Edward G. Robinson stars in Nightmare where he solves
both a crime and a particular nightmare that Kevin McCarthy is going
through. You see McCarthy thinks he killed and Robinson is a New
Orleans homicide detective.
Kevin plays a mean jazz clarinet in Billy May's Orchestra where girlfriend Connie Russell sings. McCarthy who scored with the same kind of role in Invasion Of The Body Snatchers thinks he's killed someone in an old mansion in a room with a lot of mirrors. There's a man and a woman in the same recurring dream.
Like his Body Snatchers part, McCarthy is trapped in a Nightmare and by circumstances he can't control. Of course the very cynical homicide detective Robinson doesn't really believe him, but he's going along for the sake of Virginia Christine, Robinson's wife and McCarthy's sister.
In the end it becomes clear enough though the manipulator of the events is a character introduced after Robinson really begins an investigation.
Nightmare is a decent enough noir thriller, but it really does look shot on the cheap with real New Orleans and country Louisiana locations. Not on the to 10 list of any of the principals.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Kevin McCarthy has a terrible nightmare one night, in which he finds
himself inside a room with walls and doors covered in mirrors. He sees
what looks like a burglary and tries to prevent it, but in the process
kills the burglar. Panicking, he hides the body in one of the mirrored
closets, before waking up in a cold sweat. When McCarthy finds a button
and a key from his nightmare in his pocket the next day, he fears it
might've been than a bad dream. Soon after, on a picnic with his girl
Connie Russell, his sister Virginia Christine and brother-in-law Edward
G. Robinson, they come across an abandoned house. In the house they
find the mirrored room from McCarthy's dream, including a burned safe.
And when they find out there's been a murder committed, the nightmare
has truly come to life... Robinson, a homicide detective, is convinced
McCarthy is guilty but after a failed suicide attempt by McCarthy and a
crucial piece of information that he remembers, Robinson decides to
look deeper into the matter.
This is the 2nd film noir based on the Cornell Woolrich story 'And So To Death'. The first one, 'Fear In The Night', was made in 1947 and was directed by Maxwell Shane. And lo and behold, so is this one! Both movies are very alike and both are well worth watching. This one's set in New Orleans, and has the appropriate 50s jazzy soundtrack. McCarthy ('Invasion Of The Body Snatchers') gives a good if not great performance as a man who's possibly guilty of murder while Robinson ('Double Indemnity') almost phones it in here, which still means he's better than anybody else in the movie, hah... Russell and Christine have very little to do besides being 'the women', neither portray particularly strong women, altho Russell does some nice singing in this movie (if that's her real voice, I have no idea).
Aside from fairly minor differences, the main ones being a difference in location and the climax in this one involves a lake and not a car chase, the movies are too alike really. I am not sure what Shane's idea was with this version, the original is a good noir as-is, and so is this one, but it doesn't improve or add anything really. He still does a decent job tho, but with the main story intact, it feels too much like a rehash. DoP Joseph Biroc ('Cry Danger', 'The Garment Jungle') does a good job, not just with the dream sequence but overall the movie is nicely shot. Unfortunately, and also like 'Fear...', this movie seems to be in public domain hell, the copy I saw is in better shape than the version I saw of 'Fear...' (which was really bad) but still washed out. I would love to see cleaned up copies of both, maybe on a 'double feature' DVD? Just don't watch them back-to-back. 7/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Pine-Thomas (the 2 Dollar Bills) certainly got their money's worth out
of the William Irish (Cornell Woolrich) story "Nightmare". Back in 1947
they made it as "Fear in the Night" with a young Deforest Kelly
("Bones" from the original "Star Trek" series) making an impressive
debut and veteran Paul Kelly as his brother in law. It was a case of
really there is nothing to separate these two fine films (unusually
Maxwell Shane wrote and directed both films) with "Nightmare" being
equally impressive and having the edge in production values and being
set in an interesting jazz environment "way down yonder in New
Orleans". In the earlier film Kelly was his usual edgy, angsty self
while Robinson rounded out his characterization by being a very
motivated cop (shades of "Double Indemnity").
Kevin McCarthy is just fantastic and I couldn't agree less with the reviewer that feels he just walked through his part. He is Stan Grayson, a jazz musician, who awakes from a ghastly nightmare which took place in a room full of mirrors, convinced he has killed a man. Being stressed with work and having, that same day, some of his arrangements rejected for being too "out there" is enough to have him doubting his own mind. He goes straight to his sister (Virginia Christine), and his brother in law, Rene (Robinson) a cynical cop tells Stan his mind is suffering from overwork - even when Stan produces a key and a button that he doesn't know how he got!!!
Of course things start to fall into place when, taking shelter from a fierce thunderstorm which wrecks their picnic, Stan somehow directs them to an unoccupied house in the middle of nowhere!! "I've been here before"!!! He knows where the spare key is and then shows Rene the "room of mirrors" at the top of the house. Rene then believes Stan is a cold blooded murderer who has deliberately involved his family only for sympathy but in the usual Robinson way he systematically sets about solving the case and leading to an ingenious conclusion involving Stan's meek and mild neighbour.
This movie was made when Robinson's career was at it's lowest ebb, he had had a run in with the H.U.A.A.C and felt after that a lot of the work he was given was mediocre. Viewing the movies now, a lot of them were better than the As (Cecil B. DeMille etc) of the time and Robinson's performances are among his best. Marian Carr who played the blonde vamp Stan encounters when he is trying to retrace his steps had a pretty uneventful career, considering the promise and the big things that were expected from her when she first went to Hollywood. She was voted "Miss Insomnia" as the starlet voted most likely to keep men from their sleep!!! but after "Nightmare" her career was over!!
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