This week’s mystery movie was the 1956 Warner Bros. film “A Cry in the Night,” with Edmond O’Brien, Brian Donlevy, Natalie Wood, Raymond Burr, Richard Anderson, Irene Hervey, Carol Vezzie, Mary Lawrence, Anthony Caruso, George J. Lewis, Peter Hanson, Tina Carver and Herb Vigran.
Screenplay by David Dortort based on a novel by Whit Masterson, photography by John Seitz (“Double Indemnity!”), art direction by Malcolm Bert, editing by Folmar Blangsted, sound by M.A. Merrick, set decorations by Frank M. Miller, costumes by Moss Mabry, makeup by Gordon Bau, orchestrations by Maurice de Packh, assistant director Robert Farfan, music by David Buttolph, associate producer George C. Bertholon.
Directed by Frank Tuttle. A Jaguar production. (This was Alan Ladd’s production company).
“A Cry in the Night” is available on DVD from Warner Archive.
Yes, we have a theme going: “Somewhere in the Night” last week and “A Cry in the Night” this week. And that’s about all this movie has going for it. Edmond O’Brien is terribly hammy, Brian Donlevy sleepwalks through his scenes and Natalie Wood spends much of the time in a faint.
The major problem with “A Cry in the Night” isn’t the cast or Tuttle’s iffy direction (he directed “This Gun for Hire”). The problem – and it’s a large one – is David Dortort’s ghastly script, which has a number of unessential characters and attempts to contrast amusing little scenes with the tense drama of Wood’s kidnapping. The problem is that comedy relief isn’t comic and the drama isn’t all that tense. (Dortort is much better known as the producer on “Bonanza,” which, for the youngsters in the crowd, was one of the most successful TV series of all time.)
If it weren’t for Raymond Burr, “A Cry in the Night” would be a total loss. But Burr is damn creepy and as such saves the film.
Writing in the New York Times (Sept. 1, 1956), RWN said:
Natalie Wood, Warner Bros’ seemingly ubiquitous teenager, who so far this year has endured quivering captivity in “The Searchers” and “The Burning Hills,” again plays the vulnerable feminine hostage in “A Cry in the Night,” which came to the palace yesterday.
This time, Miss Wood’s abductor is a sex-crazed maniac, played by Raymond Burr. He snatches poor Natalie from the arms of her boyfriend at a place called Lover’s Loop and holds her under duress at an abandoned brick factory throughout the length of this rather tasteless and makeshift melodrama.
Theatres that cater to morbid tastes should get by with “A Cry in the Night” on the lower half of a double bill, but as an entertainment it is not well done and leaves much to be desired…. The story lacks conviction and the characters do not impress one as being real people. Despite the ordinary script, Natalie Wood is effective as the distressed teenager and Raymond Burr as the psychopath… The photography is good, but much of it is in a low key.
This low-budget Jaguar production for Warner Bros. release is an off-beat melodrama about a psychopath who kidnaps a teenage girl. Suited strictly for lower-half billing in action and ballyhoo houses, it might be exploited as a “where are your children?” shocker. Performances by a better than average cast are better than story material.
For Monday, we have a mystery woman savoring a mysterious cup of coffee. Note: This mystery movie is unusually heavy on Friday people at five, though one of them is on the edge of being an “Aha Thursday.” I will have to go way down the cast list for the early part of the week.
Update: This is Carol Veazie, who insists her little boy (Raymond Burr) is a good son and brings her apricot pie.
For Tuesday, we have a mystery woman. And let me tell you, she does NOT approve of such goings-on.
Update: This is Mary Lawrence. Her character has no real function except to scold daddy Edmond O’Brien that if he weren’t such an overbearing grump, sweet Natalie Wood could entertain gentleman callers at home and not necking in a car.
Brain Trust roll call: Norman Desmond (Monday’s mystery woman), Jenny M. (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery woman) and L.C. (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery woman and mystery cast).
For Wednesday, we have a mystery gent. Back of the Head Guy will make his appearance Friday.
Update: This is Charles Cane, who as the police psychologist, explains everything in a brief monologue.
We also have this mystery woman of rather dubious character.
Update: This is Tina Carver in a moment of comedy relief.
And finally, this mystery woman, who could be Harriet Nelson but isn’t.
Update: This is Irene Hervey as grumpy Edmond O’Brien’s long-suffering wife.
For “Aha Thursday,” we have these somewhat mysterious gents.
Update: More comedy relief. The pickpocket (Syd Saylor) and his mark (Hal K. Dawson).
Also this police officer, who does not approve of such goings-on.
Update: This is Herb Vigran as the “now I’ve seen everything” desk sergeant.
Update: This is Richard Anderson.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (mystery movie, all the mystery women and Back of the Head Guy), Chrisbo (Back of the Head Guy), Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie, all the mystery women and Back of the Head Guy), Sheila (mystery movie and Monday’s mystery woman, and Wednesday’s mystery woman No. 2) and B.J. Merholz (Back of the Head Guy).
For Friday, here is non-mysterious guest No. 1.
Update: This is the sleepwalking Brian Donlevy.
Friday’s unmysterious guest No. 2 wonders if the potato salad has gone bad.
Update: This is the hammy, overacting Edmond O’Brien.
Friday’s less than mysterious guest No. 3 means business.
Update: This is Natalie Wood in one of the few scenes in which she hasn’t fainted.
Friday’s totally non-mystery guest No. 4 is probably the best thing about our mystery movie.
Update: This is Raymond Burr in full-on creep mode.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (mystery police sergeant and mystery man with bandaged forehead), Tucson Barbara (mystery movie, Monday’s, Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s mystery guests, Thursday’s mystery pickpocket, mysterious police sergeant and mysterious man with bandaged forehead), Howard Mandelbaum (Thursday’s mystery guests), David Inman (Thursday’s mystery police sergeant) and Benito (Thursday’s mysterious man with bandaged forehead).