This is Part 2 of the Night and the City review. It’s best if you start with Part 1 really, which is here.
There are two versions of Jules Dassin‘s Night and the City. The British version contains about five minutes of extra material, making the American cut a bit leaner and snappier. For example, when we first see Harry and his girl Mary together in her flat, the scene is extended for British audiences, with more talk of how Harry will make her rich and happy.
Also later in the film, the UK version contains a scene where a man calls on Harry in his office at the gym because a hotel bill is outstanding. These extra bits don’t add to the story, but slow the pacing and render the UK film a slightly flabbier affair.
The ending of the British version has an upbeat turn for Mary too. A contrast to the bleaker conclusion for US audiences. Maybe they were considered more able to cope with darkness and despair than us delicate limeys.
However the main aspect that divides these two movies is the music. Both have completely different scores.
The US score is composed by Franz Waxman. Befitting of Widmark’s character, it is a jazzy, thrilling, edgy accompaniment to the greed, corruption and betrayal seeping out of the London night.
The UK score by Benjamin Frankel is far more European in feel, although still jazz influenced, but in a more classical, quaint way. There are fewer drums and horns and more banjos and accordions. The DVD we watched the US version on contained as one of the extras an illuminating comparison of the influence music has on the viewer’s experience.
The city itself is filmed in luminous black and white by Mutz Greenbaum (credited as Max Green). Highlights are when Harry, fleeing for his life, heads into an industrial area, a wasteland of bricks, iron and rising steam. At one point he finds himself in a claustrophobic shot tower surrounded by a relentless, regular, metallic pounding. Great sound design.
The finest visual moments feature linear movement through the body of the city. The camera takes us into the dark, subterranean lairs of smugglers, forgers and tricksters. It looms over bomb damaged buildings, all the time with the capital’s famous landmarks in spitting distance, notably the dome of St. Paul’s. A car drive through the thronging streets at night, with brightly lit shops and a newspaper vendor on every corner is breathtaking.
Night and the City was remade in 1992 with Robert De Niro and Jessica Lange. The remake is set in New York (boo!) and the sport is changed to boxing. Can’t see it being as good as this film though, despite the fact that Dassin claims he never actually read the novel.
Did I mention the man upstairs and his spectacular spaghetti bolognese disaster?