A big-city reporter between jobs is traveling with his wife through a small Ozarks town and gets a lead on a bank robbery. He tracks down the brutal gang that committed the robbery, only to...
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A big-city reporter between jobs is traveling with his wife through a small Ozarks town and gets a lead on a bank robbery. He tracks down the brutal gang that committed the robbery, only to discover that they are something of a source of pride to the locals. His hopes of getting back into the big time with this story are dashed when his "interview" with the gang leader goes awry and he and his wife find themselves hostages. Written by
excellent!!--combines the best qualities of BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK and PETRIFIED FOREST
A very late entry in the film noir cycle--and a small-town noir at that!--HOT SUMMER NIGHT is well-done in just about every way. Except for a few awkward dialogue passages between Leslie Nielsen and Colleen Miller in the man-wife scenes (a small part of the film), the film combines the best qualities of BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (outsider comes into hostile, secretive small town and is rejected) and PETRIFIED FOREST ("regular" characters held hostage by philosophizing criminals delivering stage-like soliloquies). The film also has multiple levels of social commentary, is full of unexpected and even shocking brief spurts of violence that send the plot in unexpected directions, and is acted perfectly by virtually every supporting actor in the cast. Each character (except for the wife) is three-dimensional and complex and somewhat contradictory...just like real people! Younger viewers might be surprised to see Leslie Nielsen strutting around in a t-shirt and acting like a tough guy, but he does it convincingly and his character--a newspaperman specializing in crime stories--would need to be able to turn the tough-guy persona on when he dealt with criminals in his work. Among the supporting players, Paul Richards is fantastic as the psycho Elly, a role that may have gone to Montgomery Clift or James Dean in a bigger-budgeted film. Richards, who has a huge body of television work, passed away in 1974, but I'm anxious to seek out his work as he is a major talent. James Best also gives one of his finest-ever dramatic performances here as Kermit, the abrasive punk who is far more complex than he seems to be when we first meet him as he assaults Leslie Nielsen in a bar. The soundtrack by Andre Previn is so good, I wish I could buy a copy. There's lots of fine sax-driven rock'n'roll in the bar sequences, and the piano trio material (presumably played by Previn himself) is worthy of being released as a jazz album. The film goes in a completely unexpected direction at the mid-point, and even the climax, though not entirely unexpected, had me on the edge of my seat. As a study of the nature of crime and the nature of small-town society, or as an entertaining 1950s crime film, HOT SUMMER NIGHT is one of those studio b-movies that is so much better than it needed to be--everyone involved with it clearly wanted to make something special and memorable even though working in an assembly-line studio format, and they succeeded admirably. Don't miss it the next time it plays on TCM.
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