Saturday, February 3, 2007

ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT (Warner Bros. 1942) Warner Home Video

Vincent Sherman’s directorial debut All Through the Night (1942) is a rather eccentric mishmash of clichés from the gangster genre run amuck and with the added infusion of topical wartime propaganda nonsense thrown in, though arguably not for good measure. It's a screwball comedy without the laughs, a gangster film without the guts, and a Nazi thriller without the thrills. In fact, the Nazis are treated as bunglers and boobs, diffusing the 'fear factor' that ought to have made All Through the Night a harrowing roller coaster ride.

The film stars Humphrey Bogart as loveable racketeer and hood, Gloves Donahue. This isn't Bogart in 'High Sierra' mode - as the poster art suggests, but presented to us as a very Damon Runyon-esque good time Charlie who just happens to whack bad guys and cheat at poker now and then. But all Glove's really wants is a piece of cheesecake - his favorite dessert. Gloves’ ma (Jane Darwell) is worried about her friend, the baker Herman Miller (Ludwig Stossel); and with good reason. Shortly thereafter, Herman turns up cold and stiff inside his own freezer. But why would anyone want to kill a baker?

Together with his cronies, Barney (Frank McHugh) and Sunshine (William Demarest), Gloves is determined to find the answers. His one lead is sultry chanteuse, Leda Hamilton (Kaaren Verne) and her not-too-friendly piano accompanist, Pepi (Peter Lorre) who is clearly hiding a much bigger secret.

All Through the Night trundles along with its rather loose premise of gangsters and ghouls that suddenly and quite uncharacteristically translates into a subplot involving Franz Ebbing (Conrad Veidt) a Nazi sympathizer who runs a swank art gallery as a front for mobilizing a fourth Reich in the United States.

In a sort of ‘the Nazis are coming’ ambush, Gloves discovers the layout, attempts to clear his good name of a murder wrap, then finds himself practically bound and gagged and on a speed boat full of explosives sailing directly toward the starboard side of a military vessel docked in New York Harbor.

Neither the film nor the actors take anything that happens throughout the plot seriously. There is no hint of imminent danger or disaster – perhaps a telling and comforting premise for American audiences of their day who would rather not believe in the genuine atrocities occurring a mere continent away.

Warner Home Video’s DVD is a smooth and welcome edition to their commitment to quality. The B&W gray scale has been impeccably rendered. Fine details are detectible even during the darkest scenes. Contrast is accurately maintained. Occasionally, film grain is noticeable but not distracting. The audio is mono but nicely represented. Extras include a commentary track by Sherman and Eric Lax, Warner Night At The Movies, short subjects and blooper reels and the film’s theatrical trailer. Recommended – for fluff.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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