So Dark the Night (1946) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
31 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Le Cheval Noir.
hitchcockthelegend5 April 2014
So Dark the Night is directed by Joseph H. Lewis and written by Dwight V. Babcock, Martin Berkeley and Aubrey Wisberg. It stars Steven Geray, Micheline Cheirel, Eugene Borden, Ann Codee and Egon Brecher. Music is by Hugo Friedhofer and cinematography by Burnett Guffey.

Henri Cassin (Geray) is a well regarded Parisian detective who while on a much earned vacation falls in love with innkeeper's daughter Nanette Michaud. However, with Nanette already having a boyfriend, and a tempestuous one at that, true love does not run smooth, especially when murder enters the fray and Cassin has to start investigating the tricky case.

It all begins so perky, with jolly music, smiling faces and brightly lighted compositions, so much so I had actually thought I had loaded the wrong film to watch! Once Henri Cassin arrives at Le Cheval Noir (The Black Horse) in the rural town of St. Margot, however, the whole tone of the film shifts into darker territory. The apple cart is well and truly turned upside down and various character traits start to come into play - with the various main players suddenly becoming an interesting bunch. Enter hunchbacked man, jealous guy, love sick chamber maid, weak parents et al...

Joseph Lewis (My Name Is Julia Ross - Gun Crazy - The Big Combo) does a top job in recreating a French town with what no doubt was a small budget, yet his greatest strengths here are his visual ticks, in how he manages to fill the picture with the requisite psychological discord that craftily haunts the edges of the frames until they be ready for maximum impact. In partnership with ace photographer Guffey, Lewis brings tilted angles and black shadowy shadings to this French hot- bed of lust and character disintegration. He also has a nifty bent for filming scenes through windows and bars, while his filming of a rippled water reflection cast onto a character's face is as significant a metaphor as can be. Also note scenes involving a rocking chair, a dripping tap and a deft window splice sequence that signifies that the psychological walls are tumbling down.

Something of a rare picture given that who the director is, this definitely is of interest to the film noir loving crowd. The finale will not surprise too many, but it doesn't cop out by soft soaping the topic to hand. It also serves to show that the great Joseph H. Lewis could make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. 7/10

Now available as part of the Columbia Film Noir Classics IV Collection.
21 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Noir on the French Countryside
Mike-76414 December 2007
The famous French detective Henri Cassin takes his first vacation in 11 years in St. Margot where he meets Nanette, the daughter of the vacation spot proprietors. Despite Nanette being promised to childhood sweetheart Leon, Henri and Nanette fall in love and decide to marry, despite Nanette's father objecting due to Henri's age. On the day of their wedding, Leon returns and Nanette runs after him. Nothing is heard of the two until both are found dead, and Henri swears he won't rest until he can find the killer. The only clue Henri has to work with is a footprint found by Leon, but he is also getting written warnings that others will die soon. Soon Nanette's mother is found dead and Henri has no idea as to the identity of the killer. Thinking himself a failure he returns to Paris, then he realizes (and fears) that the killer can be only one person, even though none of his colleagues can believe his explanation. Out of the ordinary murder mystery that doesn't really follow the formula in other of the genre by Columbia or other B studios. Credit to that certainly goes to director Lewis who does manage to turn this into a noirish film despite the setting of the film, also aided by the use of good camera-work and lighting. Geray turns in a very good performance in probably his only lead and the rest of the cast is able to carry their performance. Rating, 8.
28 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
No, No Nanette!
bsmith555225 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I just discovered "So Dark the Night" in the recently released "Film Noir Classics 4" set from Turner Classic Movies. Although it is presented as a border line "noir" it is really a complex little murder mystery with a few surprises thrown in. Filmed on a modest budget on studio bound sets in good old Black and White, it runs a scant 71 minutes.

Director Joseph H. Lewis has assembled a cast of largely unknown actors which adds to the mystery elements of the film. Steven Geary plays Parisian detective Henri Cassin who is burned out and ordered to take a vacation by his boss Commissioner Grande (Gregory Gaye). Cassin goes to a country inn and there meets the proprietor's young daughter Nannette Michaud (Micheline Chierel)whereupon a May-December romance begins. Nanette hopes to escape her small village to the lights and glamour of Paris.

The girl's father Pierre Michaud opposes the relationship because Nanette is already betrothed to local farmer Antoine (Frank Arnold) and he feels that the age difference between Cassin and Nanette is too great. Antoine is also opposed to the union and promises to continue to pursue Nanette even after her planned marriage to the detective. Mama Michaud (Ann Codee) is pushing Nanette into the relationship to help her to a better life.

Nanette and her fiancé are found murdered causing Cssin's vacation to be cut short. He soon begins to investigate the murders with surprising results. The suspects include Nanette's parents, a sinister looking widow (Helen Freeman) and a hunchback (Brother Theodore)

Cassin's resolution of the murders comes after he gives a description of the murderer from the clues he has gathered to the police artist back in Paris. The murderer then turns out to be................................................................

A good movie.
12 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Great little suspenseful film.
Daniel-565 March 1999
Joseph H. lewis was a great director who could do wonderful films with little money. Maybe that was why Columbia's president Harry Cohn gave him so much freedom to work. So Dark is the Night is an almost noir entry about a French detective on vacation in a little town near Paris who investigates some murders which he was somehow involved. A short and objective cheap movie that does not hide the director's talent and gives Steve Geray a great role. People who want to make unexpensive movies should know this gem.
21 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A hidden piece of magic!
BandSAboutMovies28 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Joseph H. Lewis was known as "Wagon-Wheel Joe" by studio editors when he was cranking out B-movie westerns as he was in love with using the wheel itself as a visual motif. But he was about more than just one genre. He directed Bela Lugosi in The Invisible Ghost, the musical Minstrel Man and plenty of TV late in his career, but he's mostly known for his film noir work.

One of those films, Gun Crazy, is a romance about, well, loving guns. There's a ten-minute bank heist sequence in that film that's been celebrated for decades. No one but the principal actors and people inside the bank were informed that this one-take scene was real. It's audacious -- the action goes from inside the bank to the getaway car with no cut and then Lewis let his actors improv all of their dialogue.

But we're here today to speak of So Dark the Night.

Inspector Henri Cassin (Steven Geray, who was in tons of films in supporting roles, but fans of this site may know him as Dr. Frankenstein in Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter) has left Paris for a vacation he's waiting a long time for. He's a renowned expert who has solved all manner of the world's toughest cases, but he finally deserves some rest.

At a small country inn, he falls for the innkeeper's daughter Nanette. She's a simple country girl, but something speaks to the older Cassin and he hopes to marry her. Everyone informs him that he's too old, but his romantic heart beats for the possibility of a new life.

On the night of their engagement party, her ex-boyfriend Leon informs Cassin that he may have her now, but she will always think of her younger lover and eventually, he will have her. Nanette vanishes from her party with Leon as the main suspect, but he's soon found dead.

Nanette's mother is warned that she will be next to die and sure enough, she's soon strangled. Pierre, the patriarch of the family and owner of the inn, sells the inn as Henri returns to Paris

.The murders and disappearance haunt Henri, who sees the fact that he's solved hundreds of murders as meaning nothing when facing the one case that concerns the woman he truly loves. He comes up with a sketch of the killer and more information by studying the footprint found near Leon's body. That's when he comes up with an audacious hypothesis: he is the murderer. The sketch matches his face and his foot fits the print.

After confessing to the police commissioner, we learn that Henri is schizophrenic. Somehow, he escapes back to the inn where he attempts to kill Pierre. The police commissioner has followed him, however, and shoots our protagonist dead, putting him out of his misery (and mystery).

While this movie emerged from Columbia's b-movie factory, it's still fascinating and leagues beyond any movie that would be created today.

I'd never seen any of Lewis' work before, so this was a welcome change of pace. I'm looking forward to going deeper into his work.
7 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A little frustrating....
planktonrules12 February 2013
"So Dark the Night" is a frustrating film to watch. That's because it's such a high quality film and yet the finale is amazingly unsatisfying. In fact, up until near the end of the movie I might have give the film an 8 (a great score for a low-budget B-movie)--but because of the ridiculously improbable ending, I think it earns a 6.

As I mentioned above, this film is a low-budget B-movie. None of the stars of the film have household names, though if you adore old films, you will at least recognize the face of the leading man, Steven Geray. Geray has a very rare chance to star here--usually he's a supporting actor and is hardly the leading man type. However, he's wonderful in this role and shows he really was a fine actor. The other star of the film is the director--Joseph H. Lewis. He was able to make the movie look great--a lot better than a normal B-movie. And, you'd swear the project took more than just 16 to complete.

The story is about a famous French detective. He's highly respected but also a workaholic who desperately needs a vacation. So, he goes to a quite rural town where he is warmly welcomed. However, soon there are a pair of murders--and the detective's vacation is brought to an end. However, this killer is no ordinary murderer--this one has the detective totally stumped. At this point in the film, I was pretty impressed. What did NOT impress me was the weird psychological twist at the end of the film--it seemed a bit silly and just didn't work for me. It's a shame, as up until then it really was a pretty good film. Still, despite this silly twist, it's not a bad movie. See it yourself and let me know what you think about the ending.
17 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
So Dense the Nightmare
daniewhite-130 April 2020
Remarkable film which it is almost impossible to rate or review, unless I guess, you hate it and think that it is irredeemable rubbish of the 1-3/10 kind. I can definitely sympathise with anyone deciding that this film is unlikable.

But it is probably an even more exaggerated example of Joseph H. Lewis' overly crafted, utterly fake, and fantasy infused interpretations of an inane, insipid and indolent b-movie script mounted on a 12 day day b-movie production cycle, than his 'My Name is Julia Ross' from the proceeding year.

This film is therefore an even greater display of all style and no substance than that somewhat more widely known offering.

Indeed, for a long time I thought that this European set semi noir Gothic psychological crime thriller actually was a deliberate fantasy Film in the vein of a folk story or fairy tale: my opinion to this effect was at it's hight when a hunchback villager makes a vivid appearance around the half way mark!

Gradually though I changed my mind and I concluded that this is a film where the interpretation of the material it is founded upon is so wide that almost the only thing reaching the screen is the directors vision and the photographers cinematography.

I'm effect the sense of fantasy and fairy tale is because the director has filmed a second film directly over the top of the bare scripts bare story and bare characters so that it's almost a bifocal film.

If you are a fan of this director, or of film experimentation, or of b-movie "magic" then this MIGHT be for you and I would recommend accordingly.

Personally I had to watch it twice to make sure that it wasn't just a load of rubbish inventively photographed.

At this stage I was still only minded to rate a 6/10 but in reflection I realised how nicely played the lead role is for a film where clearly the script must have been nearly pointless for the actors: for them it was the director and the cinematographer and the art director who mattered and not their character is written.

Secondly, after checking that this was indeed shot on a back lot of Columbia's in a matter of days; the conjuring up of the material impression of a French village (complete with bizarre characters.) is staggeringly efficiently and efficaciously done.

So I upped my rating to a 7/10. My qualified recommendation stands.
7 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The dark night
TheLittleSongbird24 May 2022
The premise is of the not particularly innovative but still very interesting and potentially suspenseful kind, there are plenty of good B-films and am somebody who has always liked this genre. Was very interested in seeing how an actor who usually did character supporting roles would fare in a gritty lead role, which is the case with Steven Geray. Joseph H Lewis doesn't get enough credit today in my view and many of his films are well worth watching and more.

'So Dark the Night' is not a great film or one of Lewis' best films, but it is a good one and worth watching. Not perfect, but it is another shamefully neglected film and like its director it doesn't get enough credit. Some may find the premise mundane on paper (not me), but somehow it is executed in a way that is more exciting and professional than it initially appears. So much more than a typical B movie. Which was a general strength actually of Lewis' films.

It is hindered a little by its budget, with moments where there is a rushed look and the sets are less than evocative.

Did also find the ending rather improbable and the film a bit of a slow starter.

However, a lot works in 'So Dark the Night's' favour. The acting is very good, Geray carries the lead role very well. Was worried that such a gritty lead role would be out of his depth but it was great to see a different side to him and pull it off. The rest of the cast are very little known but also come over well in types of role that are seen a lot in similar films but not written in too cliched a manner.

The film also has a good deal of atmosphere. It has a lot of suspense and truly genuine dread, nothing mundane or stagy here. The story is from the very beginning very absorbing and never stops being intriguing, predictability, over-simplicity and confusion are very low on the scale. Was not expecting the twist and it was memorable. Lewis directs imaginatively, clearly knowing what he was doing and making the film closer to near cinematic than mediocre B movie level.

Furthermore, the script is always entertaining, hard boiled and gritty, laden with tension. There is some nice moodiness and skill in the photography and the audio is suitably ominous when needed.

Concluding, well done. 7/10.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Something about it sticks with you.
friedlandea4 February 2019
I know, it's a strictly a B movie. Made on a shoe-string, no doubt. No critic calls it a masterpiece. So why give it a 9 of 10? I'm not even sure. My yardstick for films is more of a feeling or a sensation. Does it stick with me? Am I still recalling it when I go to bed? Is it still in my head when I wake up? This one passes the test. But why?

It certainly cannot be due to the plot. It's clever in the sense of cute. The denouement comes out of nowhere. Nothing prepares us for it, and it is not terribly believable. That leaves the acting, the direction, or the cinematography, or a combination of the above. In this case I think it is the combination, particularly the direction by Joseph Lewis. He concocts a film noir that is not noir, at least not on the surface. It is more of a fantasy or a dream, or maybe I should say a nightmare masquerading as a pleasant dream. We don't wake up screaming. We wake up in a sweat of unease. Everything in the dream is light and matter-of-fact, except the dead bodies scattered about. Even they are not scary. They don't belong. They are disturbing.

I have read the acting called "bland." Yes, in a way it is bland. I'm sure that is how Joseph Lewis wanted it. The characters slide past our vision without menace, amiable figures, no evil in sight. Even the jilted boyfriend who vows revenge is hardly upsetting. Steven Geray's middle-aged detective is comfortingly genial. We are told he is an overworked policeman in need of mental and physical rest. Compare his unruffled demeanor to that of Robert Ryan's overstressed cop sent for a week in the country in "On Dangerous Ground." Micheline Cheirel gives a marvelous performance, coy but sweetly disarming. She obviously sees the visitor only as a ticket out of rural boredom. But she is entirely sympathetic. Compare her to Bette Davis' hard, scheming character in "Beyond the Forest." All the characters that inhabit the film, even Helen Freeman's unhappy widow, walk past us serenely. It is not a noir world. Everything passes as in a dream. Even when the bodies start to pile up they do so in dreamlike serenity. Dark things happen but all is light, an edge of surreality. We don't even view the corpses. The first is indicated merely as an object under a sheet. The second we see only as a recumbent figure whose face is hidden. The third appears simply as a limp arm raised into view behind a whistling teapot and a dripping faucet. Compare that to Orson Welles' lurid vision, the upside-down leering corpse of Akim Tamiroff that fills the screen in "A Touch of Evil." I hate to say it, Orson, but it's more disturbing this way, a nightmare inside a pleasant dream that refuses to be a nightmare. There's no sense of menace. Death walks among us amid flowers and streams, nonchalantly, as if it's telling us that it belongs there and we had better know it. It brings to mind Rene Magritte's famous painting "L'Univers de la Lumiere," a dark street, ordinary houses in an ordinary night, but under a clear blue sky. Once we see it that way the ending ceases to be contrived. It becomes surreal, spooky, and shocking. The murderer (I won't give it away) is himself a walking nightmare, walking in a field of flowers. But he didn't know it. Are we he?
11 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Early noir from Columbia's B-factory with a strange twist...
Doylenf14 July 2010
STEVEN GERAY never got to play the leads in most of his films at Columbia, but he gets his chance here as a detective badly in need of a vacation in the French countryside. As in all such stories, he has no time to relax because he's soon involved in a double murder.

The trouble with the film, for the most part directed stylishly by Joseph H. Lewis, is that it takes too long to become absorbed in the plot involving a double murder. The bucolic country scenes never develop the characters fully and they don't really come alive until we're midway through the story. And then, as the detective begins to study the case, the plot takes a twist in another direction entirely.

It's a minor entry in the films that were taking on more psychological tones in the early '40s, but I can't say there's anything memorable about the characters or the script. But for a film produced on a shoestring budget, it's a lot better than you might expect.
13 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Poirot or not Poirot?
wynne-116 March 2019
The headline question is a legitimate one. Of course, being a renowned detective with a Continental accent goes a long way to establish this connection. If that's how it strikes you, so be it, but be prepared (as I wasn't) for some genuine surprises and unexpected twists. This brilliant little film manipulates the viewer like only a masterpiece can.

What is particularly satisfying to see is the opportunity this film affords of providing the great Hungarian character actor Steven Geray with a starring role. Geray has a startling 200 acting credits on IMDb. Yet most of his roles were small, supporting parts, sometime consisting of only a few lines. SO DARK THE NIGHT shows the world what an outstanding and under-appreciated talent Geray was. I'd never heard of him before watching this film. Now I'm a fan. And with 200 credits (at least--IMDb isn't infallible) I look forward to saying "Hey, there's Steven Geray!" during much of my future viewing.

The video essay and commentary will help you appreciate what a masterful film this is. Director Joseph H. Lewis really knew what he was doing and when given the time and resources he needed to construct a great suspenseful film, he could certainly deliver the goods. Bravo!
11 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
All the talent lavished on French-set noir can't quite disguise one-trick pony
bmacv1 February 2003
So Dark The Night poses a tough challenge: It's very hard to write about it in any detail without ruining it for those who haven't yet seen it. Since it remains quite obscure, that includes just about everybody. The movie will strike those familiar with its director Joseph H. Lewis' better known titles in the noir cycle – Gun Crazy, The Big Combo, even My Name Is Julia Ross, which in its brevity it resembles – as an odd choice.

For starters, the bucolic French countryside serves as its setting. Steven Geray, a middle-aged detective with the Surété in Paris, sets out for a vacation in the village of Ste. Margot (or maybe Margaux). Quite unexpectedly, he finds himself falling in love with the inkeepers' daughter (Micheline Cheirel), even though she's betrothed to a rough-hewn local farmer. But the siren song of life in Paris is hard to resist, so she agrees to marry him, despite the disparity in their ages, which inevitably becomes the talk of the town.

But on the night of their engagement party, she fails to return to the inn. Soon, a hunchback finds her body by the river. Her jealous, jilted lover is the logical suspect, but he, too, is found dead. Then anonymous notes threaten more deaths, which come to pass. For the first time in his career, the bereaved Geray finds himself stumped....

A particularly weak script all but does the movie in; it plays like bad Cornell Woolrich crossed with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. But Lewis does this creaky vehicle proud. He takes his time near the beginning, but then the story – and the storytelling – gain momentum (alas, just about the time the script breaks an axle). Burnett Guffey lighted and photographed the film, with an intriguing leitmotif of peering out of and peeping into windows; there's also an effective score by Hugo Friedhofer, who supplied aural menace to many noirs. A good deal of talent has been lavished on So Dark The Night, but at the end it boils down to not much more than a gimmick – and not a very good gimmick at that. It's a one-trick pony of a movie.
22 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
So Dark the Night
Scarecrow-8814 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
French detective, Henri Cassin(Steven Geray) finally gets a vacation after eleven years, heads out into the countryside for some much deserved rest and relaxation. His reputation known outside of Paris, even in a small village it seems Cassin can not escape murder and investigation.

This little movie was a nice surprise because I'm not familiar with the director, Joseph H Lewis, but his camera is quite arresting and fluid. The ensemble cast is spirited, with a delightful lead performance from Geray as the chipper, celebrated detective, a bachelor with eyes for Nanette(Micheline Cheirel) , whose parents run the inn for which he's staying in the village. Nanette is engaged, though, to a handsome, young farmer, Leon(Paul Marion), while dreaming of a life in Paris, away from the mundane life of the country. Monsieur Cassin is in love for the first time, life as a detective has aged him and so this moment is quite rewarding for someone so associated with crime and murder, during an entire career.

I particularly love how Geray gazes lovingly at Micheline Cheirel when she appears, his face emanates. But, this feeling of sudden joy is only temporary as Nanette's body is found in a nearby river, having run after Leon who didn't respond well to the news that, while he was gone, she had agreed to marry Cassin. When Leon is found in his barn strangled like Nanette(bottle of acid in his hand to supposedly assume he had took his own life after strangling Nanette), Monsieur Cassin's sleuthing turns up a double homicide, a footprint implicating someone. A note is presented to Cassin as a word of warning from the murderer that another would die. No motive befuddles the detective and when the next target turns up being Nanette's mother, he becomes consumed with solving this puzzling case. Even Cassin's credibility is in question as he tirelessly(mind, body and soul) pursues the killer.

What positively stuns me is what Cassin turns up, and I wouldn't dare give this development up. Not in a million years. The evidence points to one man, only one could match the description, the footprint, the handwriting of the death notes..the revelation throws this genre, the murder mystery, for a loop, with schizophrenia/split personality disorder even tossed in the mix for extra oomph. Definitely recommended to fans of Hitchcockian kind of fare. I dig Lewis' style, he has an affinity for arranging big open shots(his shot of the bridge, an object of symbolic importance throughout as it is where a lot of the drama transpires, including the discovery of Nanette's body, especially striking), and tightly confined close-ups(it is said that Lewis had to shoot so much up close due to budgetary and time constraints). Consider me a Joseph H Lewis fan..why is it always these guys who are used by studios to churn out little movies to accompany supposedly great ones that wind up standing the test of time?
8 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Endless night.
ulicknormanowen23 June 2020
Warning: Spoilers
France has no famous detective ;the Commissaire Maigret is Belgian .But it has rural thrillers ; the American thriller is par excellence urban ;in France many movies of the genre take place in villages (Chabrol's "le boucher" ) ,small towns (Clouzot's "le corbeau" )or even in the country (Becker's "goupi mains rouges" ) .So it was only natural to locate "so dark the night" out in the sticks in France .

The French language is often used-with accents :the priest- ,and the actress who plays Nanette is French :Micheline Cheirel was married to Paul Meurisse ("les diaboliques"),but she is completely unknown in her native country and it seems that it's the same for the rest of the cast ,either in America or in France.

It was called a "sleeper " by Maltin quite rightly so ; its screenplay is incredibly original ,perhaps influenced by Agatha Christie's 'the murder of Roger Acroyd",its conclusion leaves the viewer speechless.

A commissaire , some kind of French Hercule Poirot ,can solve any murder mystery.But now,he's getting old and tired and heads for a vacation in the country .A bachelor, he falls in love with young Nanette who has a crush on this prestigious detective whose reputation has spread all over the land .He considers marriage .But her fiancé ,Leon,is not prepared to accept it:since they were born,their union was taken for granted , which was often the case in the rural French . Nanette and Leon elope ,much to the mature man's chagrin .But shortly after ,both are found dead,strangled by "a strong man" .

Overcoming his pain,the cop begins to investigate : in the grand tradition of Agatha Christie ,a new murder is announced ;who will be the new victim : Nanette's mom or dad ? a sinister-looking hunchback -a recurrent character in French rural dramas-?

The solution is revealed relatively early (about 20 minutes before the ending ,in a 70 min film),and the viewer is so taken aback he does not believe his eyes .And he says to himself :"that cannot be true ,there's something else ".

The river and the little bridge are a peaceful place , a good recreation of the French country ;only the music which is heard during the celebration does not sound French: where is the accordion?

A true sleeper ; it's amazing a remake has never been considered.It was never released in France.
7 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Sherlock Holmes meets Angel Heart as narrative takes a not so convincing turn
Turfseer3 April 2022
Warning: Spoilers
Steven Geray is one of my favorite character actors so if I give this film a slightly higher rating it's strictly because of him. Geray plays a workaholic French detective, Henri Cassin, who takes an overdue vacation to the French countryside some distance from Paris where he is employed.

At the inn he's staying at he falls for a younger woman Nanette (Micheline Cheirel), daughter of innkeepers Pierre Michaud (Eugene Borden) and his wife Mama (Ann Codee). Cheirel was almost thirty at the time she was cast as Nanette but it would have been better if Director Joseph H. Lewis had cast a twenty year old!

A red herring is introduced with the character of Leon Archard (Paul Marion), the jealous boyfriend who turns up murdered along with Nanette. It looked for sure that Leon had killed Nanette because he caught her kissing Henri but the veteran detective concludes after going over the crime scene that he was not the perpetrator.

This irks Henri quite a bit because we learn that he's had over 100 cases and apparently solved all of them (supposedly he's a veritable Sherlock Holmes). When Pierre's wife turns up dead and it appears there's a serial killer loose, Henri uses all his powers to solve the crime but comes up empty.

The only real clue he has is a shoeprint left at the scene of the first two murders. That brings us to the big twist toward the beginning of the third act. And that of course (in true "Angel Heart" fashion), Henri concludes that he's the killer!

Did I buy it? Not really. First off there's Henri's attraction to Nanette-when he's mocked by Pierre for his interest in a younger woman (chastised by the innkeeper that he has no chance with her), this apparently is his "trigger" for going on a rampage. Where did this come from?

I thought this was the guy who solved over 100 cases and certainly when he was investigating the case, he looked like the "real thing" (the intrepid detective who took "control" of the crime scene and drew conclusions that that the local police investigator could not possibly have drawn).

The film scenarists' explanation for Henri's sudden change in personality was due (in the parlance of the times) "split personality." Today this would be referred to as dissociative identity disorder. You don't really hear too many of these types of cases anymore and one wonders if it's real at all-or simply the figment of screenwriters' imaginations over the course of cinematic history.

Of course, Henri's comeuppance is a fait accompli which takes place at the hands of the police commissioner who finally accepts Henri's theory that he himself is the killer.

Geray reminds me of Peter Lorre and it's refreshing to see him in a rare leading role. I also liked how some real French language is interspersed with the English dialogue, convincingly delivered with both French (and other) foreign accents.

Some say that So Dark the Night is an example of film noir but I'm not sure of that as many of the scenes take place in daylight (although it can be conversely argued that many of the interior scenes are darkly lit!).

This is the type of film to take in on a rainy Saturday afternoon. See it mainly for Geray's performance and not for the twist in the final act which doesn't hold that much water.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
okay noir in the wrong hands
blanche-215 July 2010
A French cast is featured in "So Dark the Night," a 1946 B noir directed by Joseph Lewis. Steven Geray is Henri Cassin, a burnt-out detective who goes on holiday. He falls in love with Nanette Michaud (Micheline Cheirel), who kind of plays both ends against the middle. Nanette is already engaged to someone she's known from childhood, and she tells him that she loves him. Meanwhile, she's attracted to the older detective's perceived money and Paris residence. One day, they both end up dead - and there's more tragedy to come.

I would have loved to see this plot directed by someone like Hitchcock, who could build the suspense. As it is, it's a good story, but the film is on the lifeless side. Only 29 at the time of filming, Micheline Cheirel comes off as a bit too mature for some reason. Since the movie was low budget, however, there wasn't any attention paid to lighting or soft lenses to give her a more ingénue look. Geray is very good and underplays his role.

"So Dark the Night" plays about an 1:15 minutes. It's intriguing, but it could have been so much more.
13 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
kirbylee70-599-52617927 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Arrow Academy is releasing two films by director Joseph H. Lewis with MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS and this film, SO DARK THE NIGHT. Both are classics of the noir genre and both tell an original story in an interesting and entertaining way. But of the two this one twists things more than the other.

French detective Henri Cassin (Steven Geray) is taking a long overdue vacation from the police force. Escaping the confines of the city he heads to a small country location where he stays in an inn run by Pierre Michaud (Eugene Borden) and his wife Mama (Ann Codee). Once he arrives he meets their daughter Nannette (Micheline Cheirel) and is immediately smitten by her.

For Mama this is a good thing as she wants her daughter to find someone who will take her away from this small village life. Cassin has all the markings of a perfect beau for Nannette even if he is much older than her. The only problem is that Nannette is already unofficially betrothed to Leon (Paul Marion). In spite of Leon things move forward and the two become engaged.

But the night of the engagement party Nannette goes missing. Her body is soon discovered and Cassin is determined to find her killer. The most obvious suspect is Leon but when he turns up murdered as well the discovery of the killer becomes more complicated. Then Mama receives a note telling her she is next and she is found strangled.

Unable to find out who the killer is Cassin returns to Paris, pondering what it was that he missed that would have provided him with the clues he needed to solve these murders. Feeling that he is past his prime and unable to fulfill the duties of being a police detective he decides to quit the force. It is only then that he realizes who the killer was.

The movie is a gem with subtle performances played out by actors who were often used in bit and side character parts but rarely in lead roles. Geray is a joy to watch and the rest of the cast matches him in ability. But it is the story that makes this movie worth watching.

Any good mystery provides enough clues that the viewer can help determine the villain while those attempting to solve the puzzle onscreen do so. This one is no different with small clues placed throughout that will have you guessing. But my guess is you won't be able to figure it out until near the end of the film.

As with MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS director Lewis shows once more his distinct ability to tell a story effectively was amazing and overlooked by those in charge at the studios. One can only imagine what he would have achieved if they had had more faith in him.

Arrow Academy is releasing the film in their usual fashion with a glorious looking hi-def presentation on blu-ray. They're also including a number of extras as well including an audio commentary track by critics Glenn Kenny and Farran Smith Nehme, "So Dark...Joseph Lewis At Columbia" with critic Imogen Sara Smith providing background and analysis of the film, the theatrical trailer, a reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Tonci Zonjic and for the first pressing only an illustrated collector's booklet with new writings on the film by critic David Cairns.

I was surprised by this film and delighted as well. My guess is that most film lovers will feel the same. My advice is to make a point of adding this gem to your collection.
7 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Double Lapses of a Genius Detective
jcappy15 January 2021
Warning: Spoilers
The only question that "So Dark thee Night" asks is: does the ending have a point or is it no more than a trick? I think it's both. But, nevertheless, one can say that the mature, astute detective's romantic obsession with the innkeeper's daughter does indeed shape the deep psychological turn which determines the shock ending.

But Lewis' direction of part one seems to weaken this scenario because by showing the detective's response to the young woman as light, carefree, insignificant, and as no one's business, the effect of his falling for her seems diminished. And yet there are signs of near psychosis in this breezy affair in that the detective not only seems vacant-minded at times, but also outwardly provocative and reckless as if his falling in love is not merely a figure of speech. Nor is it one-dimensional but is tied to his male pride and hubris--he's certain he's not "too old" "too old" as the father and fiancee claim, and that he's still compelling to young females. This is the old detective's self-deception that sets up the mystery, its investigation, and its resolution in part two.

The thoughtlessness of the mad genius is perhaps what we're observing, one whose deductive skills are so concentrated and potent that he can go without sleep, without vacations, (ironically this is his first in years) without food for as long as a case remains open. Which is probably the point--he has lost contact with reality, his body, his intentions, and his own movements (amnesia).

Whether this is a moral failing, a personal failing, or a mental condition is left up to the viewer, but the murders of the two youthful lovers and the terrorizing of a family speak for themselves. My guess is that all three of these vectors were operative in the detective's automatonlike crimes.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
This was an interesting French psychological thriller
cgvsluis15 May 2022
Famous Paris police detective Henri Cassini suffering from a bad case of burnout and as recommended by his doctor seeks a quite vacation in the countryside. There he stays in a rural in where the owners have a beautiful daughter who shows interest in much so that the two plan to marry, until her young, handsome former fiancé shows up...sitting if he can't have her no one can. The young lovely goes back to her old fiancé and they marry...only on their wedding night they both are murdered. Big city police detective Henri is on the case when more murders occur. Who could be committing these crimes? It seems our detective is stumped!

On the one hand I thought the mystery was good...but on the other, I figured out who the murderer was right from the beginning. This definitely colored my view of what is billed as a film noir mystery.

I thought the cinematography was great and I can't complain about the acting (or the setting), but due to how easy it was to solve...I can't recommend this film.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A great little Noir extremely underrated !!!
elo-equipamentos9 February 2020
Watching this movie last Saturday night, I realize that it was a little and modest Noir, however with an extensive mystery, seems at first sight unsolved case, a clever screenplay was the key success of the whole story, the plot is about a mid-age honest cop detective from Paris Henri Cassin (Steven Geray) a single guy who was put on forced holyday on French countryside at Saint Margot's small village, there he falling in love by a young Nanette (Micheline Cheirel) who was promised to marry with a farmer Antoine (Frank Arnold), they has the same age, instead Cassin is old by her, at engagement party Antoine appears angry promising a revenge, willing makes everything to spoils the upcoming marriage, he leaves the house with Nanette behind him trying explaining, in next day Nanette and Antoine were found death, then the local police asking to Cassin solve the murders, although all your efforts he doesn't able to reach in the killer, some conclusions going fast, Nanette was a dubious character, even loving Antoine she saw on Cassin the possibility to leaves the small boring town to live on the bright Paris, even to marry an older man, fabulous mystery Noir, without forget this picture is forerunner "Sean Connery's The Offence" and "The Eyes of Laura Mars", not too bad at all, highly underrated!!


First watch: 2020 / How many: 1 / Source: DVD / Rating: 8
7 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Be careful when you say "If I can't have you, nobody can!"
mark.waltz4 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
When a life-long bachelor police investigator from Paris takes a much needed vacation to the country, he finds more than he bargained for when a much younger pretty local maiden, excited by his glamorous city life, takes an interest in him. He's savvy as far as catching criminals and keeping law and order, but probably a bit too naive in the ways of understanding the female mind, especially one who longs more exciting things than what her provincial life has in store for her. They begin to spend romantic evenings together, but a young local farmer who has been away turns up to claim her, having been promised to her since they were children. This leads to the farmer becoming violently jealous, threatening both of them and resulting in murder, but not of who the audience suspects it will be.

Steven Geray, a gentle European character actor, is perfectly cast as the seemingly mild mannered investigator who doesn't plan on falling in love but is obviously too lonely not to respond to the attentions of the pretty Micheline Cheirel. Her parents (Eugene Borden and Ann Codee) have differing opinions on her attentions towards Geray with the socially ambitious Codee pushing her daughter towards Geray and away from the handsome but brooding Paul Marion who makes threats both towards Geray and Cheirel, to whom he says, "I'd rather see you dead than in the arms of anybody else!". It's obvious that Cheirel is not in love with Geray but definitely infatuated with him, and her sexual desires towards Marion make it clear that a marriage with Geray would be doomed.

The build-up to the murders makes the audience believe that somebody else is going to get knocked off first, not the actual initial victim. This gives the story some unexpected twists and turns that you don't see coming. It also builds up into great suspense. Beautifully moody photography and a gorgeous countryside setting make this lovely to look at, although certain physical elements give the impression that this was set some twenty years before it actually was. The twist of the plot as it reaches its conclusion, added with the performance of Helen Freeman as the hotel maid who realizes the truth, makes this a riveting melodrama, even if a few elements of its plot are somewhat unbelievable.
7 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Suspense in the French Countryside
romanorum124 August 2015
Famed middle-aged Parisian detective Henri Cassin (Steven Geray) takes his first vacation in eleven years. He needs it badly. While Henri is relaxing at a small village inn known as The Black Horse (Le Cheval Noir), he meets the innkeepers' daughter, Nanette (Micheline Cheirel), who is thrilled to make the acquaintance of such a famous person.

Before long Henri and Nanette fall in love. A complication is that Nanette is supposed to be betrothed to a local farmer, Leon, a jealous man (Paul Marion). Although Nanette is much younger than Henri, the two become engaged as Nanette is excited to be moving to the glamor of Paris. Although her mother strongly approves of the relationship, the father deeply objects and favors Leon. Leon becomes more vocal and threatens Henri; then the bodies begin to pile up. First a hunchback sees Nanette found dead in a river (strangled). Then the hunchback finds the main suspect, Leon, deceased in a shed. Shortly after, the body of Nanette's mother is discovered in the kitchen. The only clues are a footprint and notes written by the killer. So the detective has more work instead of a vacation, and tries to obtain some help from Paris. Before the end there will be another casualty. Although the culprit's name is not provided in this review, note that the suspect list is rather short and the psychological ending is a little surprising.

The photography and mood are fine, although the budget is very low. The unknown French cast is about average, while the script is a little weak. Actress Micheline Cheirel appears far too old for her part as Nanette while the stars are not particularly appealing. This is a "B" movie all the way.
13 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Rare sighting of G.W.R. steam locomotive on French branch line !
kalbimassey30 January 2021
Without a vacation in eleven years, eminent police detective Henri Cassin (Steven Geray) welcomes the opportunity for a well earned rest in the village of St. Margot, staying at Le Cherval Noir guest house. He quickly draws the attention of the owner's attractive daughter, Nanette (Micheline Cheirel). Apart from a significant difference in their ages, another slight problem exists.....she is engaged to imposingly handsome agricultural worker, Leon (Paul Marion). Having been childhood sweethearts their relationship is well entrenched, to the extent that the small community is eagerly anticipating the big day.

As Cheiriel and Geray grow ever more passionate and Marion is pushed to the margins of her life, he makes no secret of his jealousy, anger and an explosive temper, like a cork off a champagne bottle....not that he could afford a bottle of champagne. Aah, there's the rub, he is poor in stark contrast to the wealthy, dapper detective. Quizzically, Cheiriel and Marion promptly disappear for several days, amidst rumours that they have eloped. When a local yokel has a hunch that Cheiriel's corpse is floating in the river, a horrified Geray confirms that she has been murdered prior to her body being dumped in the water. The volatile Marion immediately becomes the main suspect, but on arrival at his farm, he is found dead too. An apparent suicide, the perceptive detective concludes that this is another murder. Soon, disconcerting, anonymous notes begin appearing, penned in unidentifiable handwriting, threatening further murders.

At length, with no more insight into the mystifying case than any of the hicks from the sticks, the defeated, deflated detective decides to return to Paris by train, (via Bristol apparently), compelled to question both his ability and state of mind.

Not a mega, must see movie, but a curiously off beat entry in an unusual setting. Seldom seen and worthy of further investigation for noir junkies. Bonne chance !
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Yen for Windows
dougdoepke20 July 2010
A Paris detective encounters mysterious murders while on vacation in the French countryside.

Some day when I have absolutely nothing to do I'm going to count the number of window shots in this film. I hope I can count that high. Actually, all that imagery pays off with a richly symbolic final shot. The movie itself has a rather sumptuous look for a cheap second feature, a credit to the art department and director Lewis' visual imagination, I suppose. Anyway, it's an interesting little noir with an ironical ending, even if it doesn't reach the suspenseful heights of My Name Is Julia Ross, Lewis' previous movie.

I wasn't sure where So Dark was going since it begins in rather leisurely fashion. However, once the apparently motiveless murders occur, the plot thickens into a mystery. Still, the screenplay doesn't really play up the whodunit potential, which it could have. Then too, stronger lead performers, I think, would have helped. Steven Geray made a notable career as a waiter or maitre'd in upscale night spots, but as a detective, his presence is a little thin. Also, I agree with the reviewer who thinks Cheirel a shade too old for the ingénue role.

Anyway, Lewis' visual talent is on vivid display, making this a very watchable 70 minutes, even though I'm canceling my next visit to the French countryside.
7 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
It's not your fault! It's your Mudder's!
sol-kay16 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS*** Burnt out famous Paris police inspector Henri Cassin, Steven Geray, decides to take a trip out to the country to chill out and get his head back together. That's after solving a string of unsolvable crimes that almost put him in the hospital suffering from exhaustion.

At the small town of Saint Margot Henri stays at the Le Cheval Noir Inn where he plans to catch up with his long needed sleep and spend his free time out fishing at the local river. It's when the inns owner Pierre Michaud's, Edger Borden, daughter Nanette, Micheline Cheirel, laid her eyes on Henri, who's exploits as a crime solver preceded him, she went completely gaga over the meek middle aged police inspector. In fact it was Mama Michaud, Ann Codee, who tried to get Nanette and Henri matched up against the objections of her husband Pierre who thought that he, being some 20 years Nannete's senior, was a bit too old for her.

Things got a little sticky when Nanette's boyfriend, who was also engaged to her, Leon Achard, Paul Marion, got wind of her attraction to Henri and didn't like it one damn bit! Not being able to hold back his dislike for Henri Leon felt that Nanette's mother was the cause of her being so involved with Henri. Leon realized that Henri being the big man in crime solving that he is compared to himself a dirt poor farmer was more of a catch, in Mama Michaud opinion, then he was for her daughter Nanette.

It's when Leon caught both Henri and Nanette smooching at the riverbank that he completely flipped out. Telling Nanette that he's not going to stand for her to leave him for Henri and that he'll kill her if she did didn't makes thing any better for Henri who was not really that interested, in him being a life long bachelor, in marrying her in the first place. It's later when Nanette was found dead and dumped off a bridge into the river that Leon became the prime suspect in her murder! That's until Leon himself was found murdered like Nanette, strangled to death, outside his farm!

***SPOILERS*** With Henri being put on the murder investigation by the local constable he after examining all the evidence comes up with absolutely nothing in who murdered both Leon and Nanette! Becoming obsessed in cracking the murder case Henri slowly, due to the pressure of the job, starts to crack up himself! It's almost by accident that Henri uncovers the person who murdered both Nanette and Leon in a plaster cast he made at one of, Leon's, the murder scenes. But the person that Henri came up with is so unconnected to Leon and Nanette's murder that his boss back at the Paris Police Department thinks that Henri has finally lost it and even goes so far as recommending that he spend some time in a sanitarium for a long needed rest.

Little did anyone know at the time that Henri, crazy as he was, was right on target in whom he suspected in Leon and Nanette's murders! With no one believing him Henri on his own went out to prove his murder theories by going back to Saint Margot where the murders were committed! And by him bringing the murderer to justice Henri could finally get the much needed rest that he so badly needed. Even if in the end it ended up killing him!
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed