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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 10 January 2017
The film overplays its hand. It starts with an intriguingly mysterious proposition, but unfortunately then proceeds to pile on (with a trowel) a succession of blind alleys which lead nowhere. The plot constantly meanders this way and that, but there's little or no sense of forward progression. Like our hero the movie itself seems to be just groping in the dark. This way the plot ends up choking itself. From about halfway I simply lost interest. By then I really couldn't care less who Larry Cravat was. That makes the second half seem very long. I did watch it through till the end though, just in case the movie redeemed itself, but even after it was all explained in the final reel I still didn't care.

The acting is fine enough, especially from studio reliables Lloyd Nolan and Richard Conté, but there is some toe-curling overacting from Fritz Kortner as the mysterious Anzelmo a.k.a. Dr. Oracle. The problem for some of the cast is that their characters don't really make sense or convince as real people. One minute Nancy Guild's hardboiled nightclub performer is threatening to have our hero beaten to a pulp by a bouncer, then in the blink of an eye she becomes John Hodiak's nurse/guardian angel à la Veronica Lake (Blue Dahlia). This transformation is completely at odds with her being the moll of Richard Conté's ruthlessly opportunist crooked businessman, a relationship which is as unconvincing as it is unlikely.

All in all, this is a indigestible sticky pudding of a movie, which mistakes confusion for intrigue. For most of its length it is little more than a procession of diversions. This makes it hard to become involved. Excellent as the atmospheric lighting and cinematography are, they are not enough to make a movie interesting.
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Somewhere in the Night is a neat all but forgotten noir with some delicious dialogue courtesy of Howard Dimdsdale and Joseph L. Mankiewicz, the latter doubling as director. John Hodiak is the G.I. who wakes up after throwing himself on a grenade to find he has no memory and a letter in his wallet from a woman who wishes he were dead. Going to LA to find out who he is, he discovers that he’s been left a gun and a bank account with $5000 deposited by his friend Larry Cravat – but when he tries to find out just who Larry Cravat is he finds himself being used as a punchbag and dumped at nightclub singer Nancy Guild’s apartment. With some help from her enamoured employer Richard Conte and a bit of backstory from Lloyd Nolan’s cop about the $2m Cravat may have killed for, he soon finds himself wondering if he was Cravat’s accomplice – or possibly Cravat himself.

The opening scenes set the nightmarish tone, seen almost entirely from Hodiak’s bedside point of view as his mind races through anger, confusion and paranoia, the latter more than justified as he soon finds himself the centre of attention from people who know more than he’s told them. When we do see him, Hodiak makes for an unusual leading man for the 40s, a less good-looking hybrid of Vincent Price and Martin Landau, but that just adds to the sense of his not quite fitting in back home. There are some nice moments – Hodiak unexpectedly coming face to face with the man who ordered his vicious beating and both instinctively fleeing to opposite doors - and the odd in-joke (during one bit of purple prose, Margo Wood tells Fritz Kortner’s small time chiseller and fortune teller to “Stop talking like Bela Lugosi” while one of the guests in the hotel register is screenwriter Howard Koch) as well as appearances by familiar faces like Sheldon Leonard and (uncredited) Whit Bissell, Harry Morgan and Jeff Corey. Chances are you won’t be surprised by how it turns out, but it’s surprisingly rewarding getting there.

Fox's UK DVD offers a nice black and white transfer with the original trailer, though their US release also offers an audio commentary by Eddie Muller.
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on 7 October 2014
Good taut story with the underrated John Hodiak starring
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on 24 March 2017
Fine
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 February 2013
Somewhere in the Night is directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz who also co-adapts the screenplay with Howard Dimsdale from a story by Marvin Browsky. It stars John Hodiak, Nancy Guild, Lloyd Nolan, Richard Conte, Josephine Hutchinson and Fritz Kortner. Music is by David Buttolph and cinematography by Norbert Brodine.

George Taylor (Hodiak) returns from the war suffering from amnesia and trying to track down his identity by following a trail started by a mysterious man named Larry Cravat. Pretty soon George finds himself thrust into a murder mystery where nothing is ever as it seems.

The amnesia sufferer is not in short supply in film noir, neither is the returning from the war veteran, but Somewhere in the Night may just be one of the most under appreciated to use these central themes. Amongst film noir writers it has a very mixed reputation, yet the trajectory it follows is quintessential film noir stuff.

George Taylor (Hodiak assured and rightly playing it as low-key confusion) is very much at the mercy of others, thus he finds himself wandering blindly into a labyrinthine murder mystery. His journey will see him get a beating (no matter he is one tough boy), pulled from one suspicious location to the next and introduce him to dames, a stoic copper, a shifty fortune teller and a "too good to be true?" club owner. The screenplay is deliberately convoluted, making paying attention essential, and the script blends tongue in cheek nonchalance with spicy oral stings.

The locations Taylor visits are suitably atmospheric, even macabre at times, which allows Mankiewicz and Brodine (Boomerang/Kiss of Death) to open up some noir visuals. Dr. Oracles's Crystal Ball parlour really kicks things off, fronted by Anzelmo (Kortner deliciously shady), it's a room adorned by face masks on the walls and lit eerily by the glow of a crystal ball. Then there's Lambeth Sanitorium, with low-lighted corridors, many doors that hide mentally troubled patients and the shadow inducing stairs. And finally the docks, with dark corners down by the lapping silver water, a solitary bar at the front, smoky and barely rising above dive status. These all form atmospheric backdrops to enhance the suspicion and confusion of the protagonist.

Nancy Guild (apparently pronounced as Guyled) didn't have much of a career, and much of the criticism for the acting in the film landed at her door, but unfairly so. It's true that she's more friendly side-kick than sultry femme fatale, but she has a good delivery style that compliments the doubling up with Hodiak. She's pretty as well, a sort of Bacall/Tierney cross that's most appealing. Elsewhere Conte and Nolan offer up the expected enjoyable noirish performances while a host of noir icons flit in and out of the story, making it fun to see who will pop up next? There is undeniably daft coincidences and credulity stretching moments within the plotting, and in true Mankiewicz style the film is often very talky, but it's never dull and quite often surprising, even having a trick up its sleeve in the finale. Great stuff. 8/10
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on 26 April 2010
although this seems understated, this is a brilliant film.

Much in the vein of the later Bullitt from 1968, this film will have you puzzling out who is what and how they are connected.

A wounded US Marine returns to California after WW2 with no memory and a mysterious letter from a 'Larry Cravat'

When the US Marine starts asking about Larry Cravat, the action starts, just like when you lift up a stone, all the bugs start crawling out!

There are many twists, turns and dead ends for the lead charachter George Taylor the US Marine as he tries to find Larry Caravat and unravel the story of what happened in 1942 some three years previously.

I won't spoli it for you but he gets the runaround and people go to an awful lot of trouble to try and find out what George Taylor knows about Larry Cravat!

A great understated performance from Lloyd Nolan as the Police Detective too!

Great 1940's style film noir!
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on 1 February 2015
Excellent little-known thriller with tons of twists and turns and compelling set-pieces and a gallery of great characters: Phyllis the glamorous tramp; Anselmo the fortune-telling crook; Hubert the heavy; the wise-cracking laid-back looey; Elizabeth and Conroy a very strange father and daughter; and John Hodiak our mysterious hero who resembles a big dog crossed with Johnny Depp. Ripe for a Mankiewicz revival season somewhere, it has a great script with some very amusing wise-cracks. A great scene (among many) in a Chinese restaurant; in fact that would feature in a list of top 20 film lunches I reckon!
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George Taylor (John Hodiak) wakes up in a Marine field hospital in the Pacific. His jaw is wired shut, his face has been rearranged by a grenade, he has no memory. He finds in his wallet an old note from a friend, Larry Cravat. He's finally discharged and goes to Los Angeles, where Cravat's letter said he'd put $5,000 in a bank account for Taylor. He still has no memory. Suddenly, he finds himself up to his neck in a three-year-old murder supposedly committed by Cravat, a missing suitcase containing $2 million of Nazi money, a nightclub songstress named Christy Smith (Nancy Guild), her boss, Mel Phillips (Richard Conte), and an assortment of bruisers, low lifes and mental cases. Off to the side, watching and waiting, is police lieutenant Don Kendall (Lloyd Nolan), who has a hunch Taylor may lead him to Cravat.

This was one of Joseph Mankiewicz's first director jobs. He'd made his reputation writing screenplays and he wrote this one. As a director, he was still learning his way. The movie is interesting, but is not in the league of the films he would start making in two or three years. Once the plot really kicks in, however, about a third of the way, the movie starts getting better and better.

Although as a noir, the film has all the nighttime scenes and tough dialogue you might want, it still is very much a B-movie, and this is, I think, because of two flaws you need to accept if you're going to enjoy it. The two leads, John Hodiak and Nancy Guild, aren't very effective. Hodiak was a sincere, somewhat stolid middle-of-the-road actor. At his best, as in A Bell for Adano and Sunday Dinner for a Soldier, he could be effective. I don't think tough-guy roles played to his strengths. He was only 41 when he died of a heart attack. This was Nancy Guild's first film. She had no acting experience and it shows. Her lack of snap and her slow line readings drain interest from the character.

On the other hand, the movie features two first-rate actors in major roles, Richard Conte and Lloyd Nolan. Fritz Kortner, who plays a bad guy with humor and ham, is fun to watch. In small parts you can get a glimpse of Sheldon Leonard, Whit Bissell and Harry Morgan.

There's also the pleasure of hearing some vivid Mankiewicz dialogue: At one point a woman kisses Taylor flat out. He's unresponsive. "Did you have fun?" he asks her. She looks at him. "I've had more fun drinking a Bromo-Seltzer," she says.

One night Taylor arrives late at Chris' apartment. She'd waited up for him and had fixed food. "There are some sandwiches over there," she tells him, "with their toes curled up."

"Memories have a way of getting stuck together like pages in a book," one character says.

Enjoy the film for what it is, a B-noir with some good lines and, even if Hodiak and especially Guild can't pull it off, some good performances by the other actors. The black and white DVD transfer is first rate, clear and sharp. There are a lot of nighttime scenes and they look great.
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on 18 October 2013
I'm not the most perceptive of people but even I could see the plot twist, gallomping down the road like a herd of elephants, just by reading the back cover. But I've seen Angel Heart.

Not a bad little film, though I don't quite understand the lauding of Hodiak's performance and trashing of Guild's that I've read elsewhere. He was pretty hammy in places, and she coped quite well with what she was given. Some of the dialogue was risibly cliche-ridden, but what do you expect for a B-movie?

Overall, petty good fun, and I'd watch it again sometime (which is what makes a DVD worth buying, after all).
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on 28 March 2016
A great film of finding the truth. John Hodiak, suffered from amnesia returned from the war and involved in a grave crime. A woman he meets tried to help him and brought in a friend to help as well as a detective. Only not her good friend she brought in is all he seems. Suspence, action and mystery all the way.
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