Jacques Tourneur directs a taut little noirish thriller!
US / 26 minutes / bw / Revue, MCA, CBS Dir: Jacques Tourneur Pr: Leon Gordon Scr: Mel Dinelli Story: Charles Hoffman Cine: Ellsworth Fredricks (i.e., Ellsworth Fredericks) Cast: Eddie Albert, Ruth Roman, Dane Clark, Robert Armstrong, Jeanne Bates, Wallis Clark, Bill Fawcett, Nora Marlowe, Larry Blake, Bob Bice, Jerry Mathers.
An episode of the CBS drama series General Electric Theater (season 3, episode 32, for the benefit of completists), this Jacques Tourneur-directed outing manages to pack all the plot, characterization and suspense of an upper-drawer B-feature into half or less of the typical running time.
Helen Mattson (Roman) and husband Paul (Albert) are going away for a weekend’s vacation in Palm Springs, leaving little son Tommy (Mathers) and his baby sister in the care of Helen’s sister Eve (Bates). On the way out of town they pause to do some last-minutes shopping; when they get back to the car they find it has been invaded by a gun-wielding robber, Walt Bevans (Armstrong).
Paul (Eddie Albert), Helen (Ruth Roman) and Smiley (Dane Clark) make uneasy travel companions.
Walt and his younger, psychopathic confederate Smiley Sanson (Clark) are on the run after Smiley gunned down a drugstore clerk during a hold-up. The plan of the two crooks is to hijack the car and its occupants—because the cops will be hunting for two men, not three men and a woman—and escape over the border to Mexico. What’ll happen to Helen and Paul when they get there and become superfluous to requirements is anyone’s guess . . . or, rather, pretty obvious:
Smiley: “One wrong move from either of you and this pretty upholstery is going to get messed up!”
Helen and Paul use every stratagem they can think of to alert the world to their plight and get help, but each time their schemes are thwarted. Finally, when the group stops to beg for gas at a remote farmhouse, Helen explains in a low voice to the farmer, Tom (Fawcett), what’s going on, only for him to tell her that he forgot to put in his hearing aid before coming outside.
Helen (Ruth Roman) begs for something cold to drink — yet another cunning plan that comes to nothing.
Soon, at Smiley’s gunpoint, Paul is being forced to dig graves in the forest . . .
Jacques Tourneur was of course one of the giants of noirish and noir cinema, and all the skills he brought to classics like OUT OF THE PAST (1947) are present in smaller scale in this pint-sized suspenser, full as it is of twists and turns and volte faces. Other movies of his that I cover in the encyclopedia include:
- NICK CARTER, MASTER DETECTIVE (1939),
- PHANTOM RAIDERS (1940),
- CAT PEOPLE (1942),
- The LEOPARD MAN (1943),
- EXPERIMENT PERILOUS (1944),
- BERLIN EXPRESS (1948),
- CIRCLE OF DANGER (1951),
- NIGHTFALL (1957) and
- The FEARMAKERS (1958).
He also directed a fair amount of television, far more than I for one would have known before I checked; this was one of four episodes he did for the show General Electric Theater.
Helen’s sister Eve (Jeanne Bates) can’t think what all the fuss is about.
Charles Hoffman, who wrote the story upon which Into the Night is based, is another name not unknown to film noir aficionados. He has writing credits on, among many other movies (mainly TVMs) and TV episodes (including a bunch of episodes of Batman and of The Thin Man), The BLUE GARDENIA (1953) and HER KIND OF MAN (1946), and produced The UNSUSPECTED (1947).
You can find a copy of Into the Night on YouTube; as you can see from the screengrabs here, the picture quality is pretty lousy. So far as I can ascertain, there’s been no home video release of any sort.