Nocturne review by Tom Blain

Starts off well enough; sleeping pill in the middle

Nocturne opens with a tremendous nighttime aerial shot outside of a modern home hanging off some L.A. hill. The camera rolls slowly closer to the wall-sized window of the home where a man is playing piano. Without cutting, the camera moves through the living room without cutting and focuses on the man playing piano, Keith Vincent (Edward Ashley). He is putting the final touches on a song that he is creating for a the woman in his company. The woman lays silently in a shadow on his couch a few feet a way. He talks endlessly about what he is writing and how it is for her song. But being a ladys man, he also mentions she isnt the first. He keeps talking and she keeps sitting there, listening. Just as he suggests she should leave, a gun shot rings and the piano player falls dead to the ground.

Such is film noir.

In the morning after the dust settles a hardboiled detective Joe Warne (George Raft) picks up the case. Warne is the type of guy you would expect to be a detective in this type of movie. He has a raspy voice, static mood, and acts tough only when he needs to be tough. Joes partner says its suicide but our hero suspects foul play. Considering the piano man played around with a list of models stretching the distance of his four walls (all of them he called Dolores), chances are a femme fatale had a hand in his death.

As he digs deeper into the case, the clues draw him closer to Frances Ransom (Lynn Bari). Frances has a sharp tongue and an alibi thats too perfect to be true. As the two exchange one-liners, images of Bogart and Bacall from Big Sleep may spring to mind but only for a second as the dialogue isnt nearly as memorable. Warne doesnt have enough evidence right away to pin the rap on her, but he isnt so convinced that he should let her go either. Was she the woman who Vincent wrote his unfinished song for? Did she kill the successful piano player?

Its too bad the rest of the movie wasnt shot with the same zeal as the first ten minutes. After the clever opening act, the rest of the movie takes a queue from Rafts single note dialogue and robotic voice (picture Stephen Hawking replying I liked your bathing suit. and you have George Raft). Its directing paint by numbers done with a detective story brush. The problem with that is that in order to play by the numbers and make a good film you need either colorful characters or a colorful story. The characters are simple and nothing special and the story has only short, sporadic moments of being something better than a B-Movie.

One of the bright spots in the movie is Joes mom played by Mabel Paige. She is a loving old grandma who enjoys getting involved in her sons work. There is a particularly funny scene where she is sipping tea with an elderly friend of her demonstrating with a live .38 how Vincents death had to have been a suicide. Unfortunately one sweet mother cant carry 87 minutes of mediocre film.

I was hoping for better from this flick. I have a sweet spot for old 40s film noir, but there wasnt too much going for this one aside from a few sparse moments. The director had one good idea and blew it in the first few minutes. The acting was bland, and couldnt carry what could have been a better story with a few re-writes. George Raft (as Turner Classic Movies tells us) was picked to play a number of roles eventually filled by Humphrey Bogart (Big Sleep, Maltese Falcon, and Casablanca) but turned them all down. After seeing Nocturne and being thoroughly disappointed, Im happy he did.




3 out of 10 Jackasses
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