Jules Dassin remains one of the key directors of film noir in America but also France. He left the States after he was blacklisted during shameful Hollywood blacklist of the 40’s/50’s. It was during the production of Night and the City that he was officially blacklisted even though he knew was going to be as early 1948. He cut out of the post-production process but has since endorsed the US cut as closer to his vision instead of the more upbeat British cut. Dassin would not make a film for five years but would make of the most influential heist films ever made Rififi in France and most of his later films were European productions.
Night and the City is one of the bleakest noirs of an already bleak genre. Richard Widmark who is noted for numerous noirs plays Harry Fabian who is an American hustler living in London. He tries to become the main host of wrestling in London if he can raise the right amount of money to pull it off. He also has an extremely complicated relationship Mary Bristol who is played by noir scarlet Gene Tierney. He tries his best to swindle his deal but as always with film noir it’s never that simple.
The depiction of London shows the dark underbelly of post-war London with its deeply unsympathetic characters. Dassin didn’t read the source novel by pulp writer Gerald Kersh but this wasn’t uncommon for noir directors to not read the source novel; Robert Aldrich didn’t read Kiss Me Deadly for example. The visual panache Dassin shows in the film with his typical expressionist cinematography, interesting angles but with a sense of location photography that is almost documentary in nature at times. Night and the City comes out in 1950 which is the year where the psychological torment of the characters in film noir starts to show with this film, Sunset Blvd. and In A Lonely Place amongst others. This was a statement of the questions of masculinity for the post-war man and also the frame of mind of many veterans coming back from the war.
Night and the City remains a cornerstone of film noir but also one of the best films made about Britain by an US director, it perfect captures the bombed out post-war London. Widmark shines as always and this remains of his most twisted roles in a career full of them and Gene Tierney oozes sex appeal. BFI disk includes both the US and UK cuts, the US cut is a 4K restoration and the British cut is 2K. The disc’s highlight is an interview with Richard Widmark at the National Film Theatre in 2002 where he talks about his career for over an hour in hilarious fashion. The disc includes commentaries on both cuts and a 52 minute audio Guardian Lecture with Jules Dassin.
Film-Noir, Drama, Crime | UK, 1946 | BFI DVD | 28th September 2015 (UK) |Dir.Jules Dassin | Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Googie Withers. Herbert Lom, Hugh Marlowe | Buy: (Limited Edition Blu-ray)