An Anti-Romance

So Dark the Night takes its time. The first act churns a love triangle, bright, cheery, and oddly happy about the messy circumstances. It’s a windswept romance, Hollywood possible only. There’s a sense of resentment from an older generation, baffled as to why their young daughter (Micheline Cheirel) finds herself enamored with a balding detective (Steven Geray). The local farm boy (Brother Theodore) is best for her, they say.

With a dramatic shift, So Dark the Night finds itself within a noir. No longer sunlit, cinematography uses a small French town for its foreboding beauty. Dead bodies appear, framed as such to insinuate suicide. Then, ominous notes promising more kills show up under the door of a small chateau.

This is meant as a vacation, with Geray playing a jolly and world-renowned detective in need of a break. So Dark the Night doesn’t look kindly on time off. Taking a moment for yourself dooms one to misery. Love is worse still, a powerful, changing force that alters the way people think and see things.

So Dark the Night’s subversive nature tears down the Hollywood sheen of its period

There’s an element of jealousy running through the script, the perfect medium for murder. Theodore’s eyes as he realizes his potential wife is running off with this near elderly man is convincing. The script does well to create plausible killers too. Any number of characters have motive.

The memorable quality of So Dark the Night isn’t necessarily the construction or even the wild, arguably dated twist. Rather, the gloom and moodiness that seeps in. Usually, two people falling in love brightens everything. Here, it’s for the worse. Not only for the unapproved age difference, but for its thematic impact.

So Dark the Night’s dour turn is indicated in a multitude of ways. Geray’s well-dressed, even perfectionist nature is the first to go. Soon, cinematography uses a new weapon, carefully framing everyone in that noir tradition, through windows, in rain, or from tilted angles. The comfort is gone. Love in this time of war (1946) is the forbidden force, changing and activating some primal corners of the mind.

Not only a fine, b-tier mystery thriller, So Dark the Night’s subversive nature tears down the Hollywood sheen of its period. No one leaves this story happy (or in most cases, alive), not even those drawn together by love.

Video

Arrow’s treatment of this studio cheapie gives So Dark the Night a gloss it unlikely had even upon release. Stellar resolution brings out a delightfully pure grain structure, effortlessly resolved by the encode. Kudos to the compression team.

Behind that, a remarkable level of detail, unorthodox for the era as facial detail is among the dazzling definition of these sets. Sharpness never wavers as part of this transfer, only by way of chemical dissolves and ‘40s era glamour shots. Everything else is as precise as possible, from a clearly modern, high-res scan.

Forget about damage or dirt. So Dark the Night doesn’t show a single speck or scratch. Gray scale perfects the art, with heavy contrast, exhibiting dense blacks and flawlessly calibrated whites. The shift to darker cinematography brings out an even stronger density without sacrificing shadow detail. This one is marvelous.

Audio

Like the video, So Dark the Night’s audio presents with natural clarity. A small bit of static and popping near the final reel confirms limited (if any) digital clean-up, leaving the audio organic and pure. The score involves some heavy violins, held without falling to distortion.

Dialog precision keeps every line audible. It’s wonderfully aged, and in uncompressed PCM.

Extras

Writers Glenn Kenny and Farran Smith Nehme provide an active, knowledgeable commentary. A strong video essay titled A Dark Place follows the film as part of director Joseph H. Lewis’ career, running 20-minutes.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

So Dark the Night
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Movie

So Dark the Night turns from a happy, idyllic story into a gloomy noir, and the catalyst is, unusually, a seemingly perfect romance.

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