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United Kingdom/USA 1968
Directed by
Hubert Cornfield
94 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Night Of The Following Day

It’s not easy to follow what is going on in this low-budget thriller by Hubert Cornfield who directed a number of now-forgotten films between the 50s and the 70s.

Adapted from the book, "The Snatchers", by Lionel White by the director with Robert Phippeny it tells of the kidnapping of a young heiress (Pamela Franklin) (in the book it was a child) by an ill-assorted group of ne’er-do-wells: a junkie, Vi (Rita Moreno), and her brother, a petty criminal (Jess Hahn) and boyfriend (Marlon Brando in a dodgy wig) along with Leer, a sadist (Richard Boone).

This is classic pulp fiction stuff but the realization is more reminiscent of the French manner à la Melville than the standard American approach (the film was shot on the Brittany coast). The plot, which involves a complicated series of moves whereby the perps try to collect the ransom money without being caught, is far from easy to follow with most of the attention being put on the estranged relations between members of the gang.  Even this however is handled episodically and without much dramatic coherence although perhaps much of the shortcoming in this respect was due to budgetary constraints with the film being considerably shaped in the editing process. .

The principal issue in this respect is Boone’s Leer, who is hell-bent on double-crossing the rest of the gang but why he goes about it in the way he does is never clear. Perhaps it’s just that he’s a psychopath and that’s just how psychopaths behave.  Cornfield’s restrained treatment of his sadism is also dated by today's standards, as is his representation of Vi's drug use, but this is not a bad thing.  

The cold, rain-swept Brittany coastline and the barely furnished beachside hideaway and empty small nearby town bind proceedings in a cheerless wintry atmosphere that is very effective (the photography was by Willi Kurant) and a jazzy score by Stanley Myers adds to the styling  It is commendable that Cornfield is attempting a more oblique approach to his material It’s just a pity that Melville didn’t direct in order to give it more savoir faire.

FYI: Richard Boone was originally cast in the lead role but when Brando came on board switched to a support role. Whilst Brando’s name is probably the main reason the film has survived he was (not unusually) a problem on set, hi-jacked the script and, having fallen out with Cornfield, insisted that Boone shoot some of the late scenes. Stanley Kubrick originally optioned Lionel White's book for his first US film however, due to a ban on the subject of kidnapping in films in the 1950s (in the book the victim was a child), Kubrick swapped it for another, Clean Break, which became The Killing (1956).

DVD Extras: Cornfield, speaking through a voice-box, provides an informative commentary; Original theatrical trailer

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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