The Movie Waffler DVD Review - THE MIDNIGHT STORY (1957) | The Movie Waffler

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DVD Review - THE MIDNIGHT STORY (1957)

A cop quits the force to investigate the murder of a priest.





Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Joseph Pevney

Starring: Tony Curtis, Marisa Pavan, Gilbert Roland, Jay C Flippen



The 1950s saw the birth of a movement of socially conscious drama, and The Midnight Story would fit comfortably as the 'B' picture on a double bill with something like 12 Angry Men. Its final scene is remarkably progressive in its attitude to crime, punishment and forgiveness.



Tony Curtis had a curious career, having become an actor merely in order to sleep with Yvonne de Carlo, if his own anecdote is to be believed. His resistance to taking the acting profession seriously rubbed off on critics and audiences, who rarely gave him his due. As often as they laughed along with Curtis (Some Like it Hot), they found themselves laughing at him, thanks mainly to his heavy New York accent standing out in period epics like Spartacus. Curtis had a unique sensibility that arguably found its most natural home in the role of the suave playboy protagonist of British TV's The Persuaders. Yet every now and then Curtis would show signs that he had more to offer than his carefully cultivated offscreen persona suggested. 1957's largely forgotten The Midnight Story is one such example.


In director Joseph Pevney's crime drama, Curtis plays Joe Martini, a rookie San Francisco traffic cop who takes a personal interest when the priest who helped raise him as a child in a local orphanage is stabbed to death. Told to stay off the case by his Sergeant (the great character actor Jay C Flippen), Joe hands in his badge and vows to solve the case himself.

At the funeral he notices a man, Sylvio (Gilbert Roland), behaving suspiciously, clutching his crucifix so tightly his palms begin to bleed. Joe strikes up a friendly conversation with Sylvio at the restaurant he owns, and takes a job for Sylvio, who invites him to dinner. The two strike it off so well that Sylvio invites the young man to stay in his home. Joe develops a genuine friendship with Sylvio, and begins a romantic relationship with Sylvio's young Italian cousin Anna (Marisa Pavan), which complicates his investigation considerably.


Though neither actor is convincingly Italian, Curtis and Roland do a great job of investing us in the growing friendship between the two characters, and for a stretch in the middle of the movie it's easy to forget we're watching a crime drama, as we focus on Joe's relationship with the likeable Sylvio and his warm family. Think of the dynamic enjoyed between Johnny Depp and Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco and you'll get the picture.

The 1950s saw the birth of a movement of socially conscious drama, and The Midnight Story would fit comfortably as the 'B' picture on a double bill with something like 12 Angry Men. Its final scene is remarkably progressive in its attitude to crime, punishment and forgiveness, and is a sign of how western society has begun to regress by comparison in recent years.


I have to confess The Midnight Story is a movie that never so much as pinged my film buff radar before I received a screener from Screenbound, a British DVD label doing an admirable job of releasing forgotten studio offerings like this Universal production. It's impossible to even find a trailer for this movie online, so it's great to see it presented in a clean print in its original cinemascope ratio. While Joseph Pevney's direction is workmanlike (he would later become a staple of TV, helming 14 episodes of Star Trek), the film boasts some classy black and white cinematography from the great Russell Metty, better known for his outstanding colour work on the films of Douglas Sirk.

An overlooked gem, The Midnight Story now has a chance to be rediscovered by a new generation of lovers of classic Hollywood crime melodrama.

The Midnight Story is available on DVD May 16th from Screenbound.


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