In the grand scheme of father and son/daughter directors, Jacques Tourneur is the one clear case of offspring surpassing his parent. It may not have seemed so at the time, since father Maurice Tourneur had been in charge of big movies like The Last of the Mohicans (1920), while Jacques was "merely" the director of "B" horrors like Cat People (1942). But now it's fairly obvious that Jacques was much more than his "B" movie budgets. Of the major second-stringers, he was the only one who never seemed to be scrounging, digging to discover art within trash. Rather, he elevated his films to some kind of new level of ethereal, mysterious, shadowy beauty.

One of his many hard-to-find movies, Nightfall (1957), gets a released on DVD this week as part of Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics II. It has a particularly wretched little plot, from a David Goodis story: Aldo Ray stars as a commercial artist who is waiting for spring so that he can go back up into the mountains and retrieve a lost satchel full of money. He meets a girl (Anne Bancroft) and tells her his whole story in flashback. Unfortunately, the two thugs (Brian Keith and Rudy Bond) who stole the money and murdered Ray's pal are also looking for it. There's a lot of waiting in this movie, and some not-particularly smart moves, but Tourneur makes it live and breathe with his unique, sinister use of outdoor locations, notably an oilfield, a fashion show, and the snowy campsite that was the scene of the crime.
categories Cinematical