A mental patient with a violent past is released from the institution, against the advice of his doctors, and sent back to his old neighborhood. Realizing that he can't handle the pressures...
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A mental patient with a violent past is released from the institution, against the advice of his doctors, and sent back to his old neighborhood. Realizing that he can't handle the pressures of big-city life, and not wanting to commit the kinds of crimes that got him put away in the first place, he hops a bus heading out of the city and winds up in a small coastal town. Taking a room in a small motel, he falls for the daughter of the motel's owner, and everything seems to be going well for him, until the girl's father starts to get suspicious about his past. Written by
Ray Danton tries to overcome his mental disturbance
"The Night Runner" is a decent b-noir put out by Universal and starring Ray Danton as a disturbed man prone to outbursts of violence. Ray Danton gives a convincing and really excellent performance. There are two ways to appreciate this. One is simply by looking closely at his acting on a stand-alone basis in this film. You will see that he does a tremendous job as a man whose moods vary greatly and can change rapidly. There are a few scenes where, without any makeup changes, he does almost a Jekyll-Hyde change. This is much aided by the lighting, camera angles and music, but it's still impressive. There are other scenes where he varies the way he walks that shows his inner insecurity and his distraction by inner demons. Then he sometimes is staring skyward to look at the seagulls, which goes back to a childhood incident. He's 27 years old but he often acts like an innocent. Sometimes he panics. Sometimes he's calculating. The other way to appreciate what he does here is to think of how he comes across in "The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond" (1960) where he is super-confident and pushy, or in his role in "The Beat Generation" (1959), where's he's a serial rapist. The contrast with those other roles is remarkable. Danton had the acting chops to do stage work and, in fact, had stage experience. He clearly comes across as a masterful user of body language. Danton scores in a number of other films, even putting across George Raft in "The George Raft Story". He had many television appearances.
"The Night Runner" is well-directed by Abner Biberman, a long-time actor who added directing to his portfolio several years earlier. The California seacoast and the seaside motel where Danton settles after being released prematurely from a state institution is captured are captured nicely. The instability of Danton comes through whether in bright sunshine or on dark and threatening heights overlooking the surf. His nervousness at job interviews or when being questioned by a local cop help complete what is mainly a character study.
The story itself, while nothing exceptional, holds one's attention. Danton has been released too early because of overcrowding. He has no job and no family, but he is a draftsman. He settles at a seaside motel where he finds a love interest in Colleen Miller but her father (Willis Bouchey) is both suspicious of Danton's apparent rootlessness and protective of his daughter. Danton attempts to develop normal relationships and find a job have a good deal of success, but Bouchey becomes the main obstacle and Danton's undeveloped maturity and violent impulses come into play.
"The Night Runner" is pretty mild stuff. It's not as elaborate a psychological noir as "The Sniper" or "Experiment in Terror". Danton is disturbed but not a serial killer. It's not as coldly cruel as "Without Warning". It's easy to overlook this one, given its rarity and relative moderation overall, but it does have its moments and one would be missing a fine portrayal by Ray Danton.
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