Monday, December 10, 2007

Clash by Night (Fritz Lang, 1952)

***½
USA



Fritz Lang transported this Clifford Odets Broadway-realist soap opera from Staten Island to an obscure fishing village. So as to undercut the staginess of the dialogue and situations, he shoots much of the opening act like a documentary - with natural light, on location and keeping his distance from the actors. The freshness and the detail are absorbing. But then the picture loses some interest as things turn hysterical and claustrophobic.

World-weary Barbara Stanwyck marries a good-natured oaf and tries very hard to resist animal attraction to cynical, overtly sexual Robert Ryan. Guess what happens after - bear in mind, the anti-heroine has the option to end up destitute or domesticated.

As soon as she strides into frame and downs a whisky Stanwyck dominates her scenes as well as everybody else's, which goes a long way towards making the film at least half-compelling. Another plus is an early supporting role for Marilyn Monroe. She's not yet giddy, glamourous or breathy, but she's already very lovely.

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