Mae Doyle is a good-time girl, but now times are bad. Weary of too much booze and too many men, she returns to her girlhood home, the fishing village of Monterey, California. There she finds security as the wife of a devot... more »ed and dull fisherman?and passion in the arms of his provocative best friend. Film noir master Fritz Lang (The Big Heat, Ministry of Fear) directs four towering talents - Barbara Stanwyck, Paul Douglas, Robert Ryan and rising star Marilyn Monroe - in a stark tale of lives burnished by human emotion and shattered by human failings. Intense and powerfully realistic, Clash by Night (from a Clifford Odets play) is about many towns, many families. Serene on the surface. Roiling with desperation underneath.« less
Fritz Lang Brings Documentary Realism to Clifford Odets.
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 08/25/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Director Fritz Lang opens "Clash by Night" with a violent crashing of waves that sets the audience on edge and foreshadows the inner turbulence of the film's protagonist, Mae Doyle. This is followed by an extended documentary sequence that was filmed on location in Monterey, California, illustrating the daily routine in the fishing town. Boats come in with their catch; their crews unload the fish; and the cannery processes them. It's a memorable sequence, and I was surprised to find it in this relationship drama. Mae Doyle (Barbara Stanwyck) has returned to town after a 10-year absence that left her disillusioned with life, love and the plans she had. Her brother Joe (Keith Anders) works on a fishing boat owned by Jerry D'Amato (Paul Douglas), a cheerful, simple-minded man who is smitten with Mae. Joe's good friend Earl Pfeiffer (Robert Ryan) couldn't be more different. He's misogynistic, lecherous, and deeply needy. Mae is attracted and repulsed by the cynicism that she sees in Earl and shares with him. She'd like a man like Jerry to take care of her, but knows she could never be satisfied with that.
"Clash by Night" is based on the play by Clifford Odets, and it's fun to try to pick out the lines that sound like Odets by their affectedness. Usually the actors deliver the lines casually, so they don't sound too histrionic. I found that the film's strength is its documentary-like qualities, which don't end after the introductory sequence. The vignettes of working class life and conversations about family matters lend the film an authenticity that it really needs considering that Barbara Stanwyck' s glamour and forcefulness seem as out of place in that town as her character professes to feel. Robert Ryan was a terrific character actor who could just as easily be sympathetic or loathsome, and he's convincingly obnoxious here. It's not clear if Earl is suffering from feelings of inferiority or superiority, but he's an overbearing, moody, insufferable jerk. "Clash by Night" was the first film in which Marilyn Monroe had billing above the title. She's beautiful and youthful as Joe's feisty girlfriend Peggy, even if she had trouble with her lines, as Fritz Lang claimed. "Clash by Night" is a bit of melodrama, I suppose, in which people's needs and desires clash with life's realities. But strong performances and a realistic environment make it an interesting film.
The DVD (Warner Brothers 2005): There is an occasional flaw, but this is generally a good print. Bonus features are a theatrical trailer (2 ½ minutes) and an audio commentary by Peter Bogdanovich and Fritz Lang. Most of the commentary is Bogdanovich. Occasional brief contributions from Lang were recorded by Peter Bogdanovich in 1965 when he was interviewing Lang for his book "Fritz Lang in America". It's a good commentary in which Bogdanovich provides scene-by-scene comments on the actors, characters, dialogue, filming anecdotes, and, of particular interest to me, analysis of some of the longer shots and cuts. Subtitles for the film are available in English, Spanish, and French."
A drama many years ahead of its time!
Daniel C. Markel | Rosharon, TX USA | 07/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This review is for the 2005 Warner Brothers DVD.
The storyline revolves around Mae Doyle (Barbara Stanwick) who returns to a Northern California fishing community after a ten-year hiatus. She left that town hoping to find a wealthy or prestigious man to marry, but her dreams never materialized. Upon returning she runs into an old acquaintance, Jerry D'Amato (Paul Douglas), at a bar and they later start dating even though they have very little in common. Jerry is hardworking and stable, yet a boring simpleton. Mae is fickle and shallow. Jerry introduces Mae to his best friend Earl (Robert Ryan) who is cantankerous yet very extroverted - pretty much the exact opposite of Jerry. From this point on in the movie, the human dynamics these three people go all over the map and develop into an enthralling plot for the viewer.
I was initially taken off guard with the way the film ended, but I couldn't get it out of my head for the rest of the day and realized it took a very brave direction with the issues it confronted. Furthermore, the movie is probably more representative of today's social landscape than it was when the film was made and has some hard-hitting commentary for the consequences of people's actions. There is however, one scene that is clearly politically incorrect by today's standards where Earl imitates a Chinese person. The movie also contained some refreshing scenes of a young Marilyn Monroe who plays the girlfriend of Mae's brother. Overall I give the film a solid recommendation for viewing.
The DVD is remastered but not restored and as a result, the black and white transfer is sharp but occasionally tiny spots of film deterioration can be observed. The sound is fine. The DVD comes with commentary by Peter Bogdanovich, with audio interview excerpts of director Fritz Lang.
PLEASE NOTE: Before buying this DVD, consider buying the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 2 which contains this movie plus four other highly recommended movies at a very reasonable price.
DVD Quality: B"
D. Hartley | Seattle, WA USA | 02/05/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Although the emphasis here is on emotions rather than mayhem, fans of "Film Noir" will chew on Fritz Lang's "Clash By Night" with relish. What saves this film from becoming another weepy 50's melodrama are the cynical, tough-as-nails characters played by Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Ryan. They are the illicit lovers cuckolding hubby Paul Douglas' naive, easygoing Monterey Bay fisherman. Ryan brings a sweat-streaked, smouldering, "Streetcar Named Desire" intensity to all of his scenes with Stanwyck, who holds her own as a restless, world-weary housewife with a "been there done that" past. Stanwyck and Ryan play out thier furtive romantic scenes like rutting animals (this is pretty hot stuff by early 50's standards). Paul Douglas gives his career-best performance, particularly when he registers heartbreak, betrayal, and internal struggle between gentle demeanor and homicidal rage all in one pivotal scene ("ANIMALS! That's what you are...ANIMALS...!") Marilyn Monroe is excellent in a small but memorable role as Stanwyck's tomboyish sister-in-law. What makes this film unique in the Noir canon is that while there is a fair amount of violence, none of it is fatal in the literal sense. The only fatalities here are the characters' hopes, dreams and faith in humanity-now THAT's what I call Noir!"
"She left town with big ideas but got small results"
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Clash By Night opens with waves crashing against rocks and seagulls flying effortlessly over the windswept sea. Perhaps this is meant to symbolize the dueling powers of freedom and passion, and although by today's standards the images might appear clichéd, they give do give the viewer a good indication of what is to come in this marvelously acted exploration of romantic dreams gone wrong.
The characters in the sensational Clash By Night are moving through a landscape of disenchantment and broken hearts; they're crippled and frustrated with disappointments that life hasn't quite panned out the way they wanted. This is particularly true of the movie's central character, Mae Doyle (Barbara Stanwyck) who returns home to the small fishing village of Monterrey after being away for ten years.
Things haven't really gone that well for Mae. Apparently she became involved with a married politician, but she got sick and tired of waiting for him. Now she's bitter and cynical, a tough hard-bitten broad who drinks like a fish, smokes like a chimney, and makes wise cracks about the pointlessness of love and the futility of men. Mae's become tired from running away from her problems and of being vulnerable.
Mae's sexy and very beefy younger brother Joe (Keith Andes) is weary of her. He's not happy that she's back but he tells her that he can stay with him temporarily. His fiancée, Peggy (a delectable Marylyn Monroe) is immediately drawn to Mae - she admires Mae's independent spirit and her sense of adventure. Although Peggy loves Joe, there's a part of her that, like Mae, desires to be liberated and unconventional.
Soon Mae reconnects with Jerry D'Amato (Paul Douglas), a kindly, hard-working, and affable fisherman. He showers her with attention and compassion and is immediately taken by her spirited and strong-willed ways. Eventually Jerry asks her to marry him, but Mae is unsure. Jerry's a little too simple and unsophisticated for the complex Mae. She realizes doesn't love Jerry, but she thinks this marriage will give her stable life, one in which she can feel secure.
When Jerry introduces Mae to his close friend, movie projectionist, Earl Pfeiffer (Robert Ryan), she's initially put off by his cynical and rude ways. He makes disparaging remarks about Asians and threatens to stick pins in his wife. Mae is disgusted, but something draws her to him. Earl is a startlingly handsome and virile man, but he's also a kindred spirit; someone who, like Mae, has been searching for love, but has somehow ended up disappointed.
The stage is set for some fiery emotion as these three characters become involved in a desperate and distracted love triangle. The three of them desperately want love and security but they're not sure how to get it and whom to get it from. Mae is torn between her desire to be a fully independent woman and her need for the security of a marriage. She doesn't want to conform but in many respects she has no choice. And her dilemma is representative of many spirited women in the 1950's. In one instance, she screams at Jerry, that she just can't play "house" anymore.
Earl is a drifter and the last thing he wants is to be saddled with a child. He's also a romantic loser, who gripes about his failed marriage and is predominantly selfish at heart. Jerry is sincere, but he's also rather infantile and naïve and you can understand why Mae gradually tires of him. Mae is drawn to Jerry out of a yearning, to be taken care of, but she's forced to sublimate and hide her real passions, which are for Earl.
Clash by Night is a beautifully acted ensemble drama. The movie is full of complex and multifaceted characters who steadily grow and transform as the story progresses. Even the innocent naïve Peggy is forced to confront what she really wants when Joe meets her spirited ways head on. No one in this movie wants to grow old - alone and alienated; they're all desperate but, as in keeping with the time, their choices are remarkably limited.
Director, Fritz Lang doesn't sugar-coat the characters or avoid the issues; and he manages to show, with a startling authenticity, how easy it is for us to go through life choosing to see faults in other people yet often blind to the faults within ourselves. Mike Leonard July 05.
Town Tramp Comes Home.
F. Gentile | Lake Worth, Florida, United States | 06/02/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Interesting "little" 1950's film noir, with always terrific Stanwyck as the worn out bad girl who returns home, to what's left of her family, because she has nowhere else to go. Clifford Odets written morality tale, with as much dark, suggested sexual undercurrent as the early 1950's would allow. Set in the atmospheric California fishing coast, ala "Cannery Row". Especially interesting as early Marilyn Monroe vehicle. She is charasmatic and convincing as the simple and naieve but not stupid Peg, who is to marry Stanwycks characters brother, played by Keith Andes.Her innocent Peg is a perfect contrast to Stanwycks world-weary character. I always find Marilyns pre-star roles very interesting. Hind sight is 20/20, but to see her obvious talent and screen prescence, before she was an icon, it's easy to see that she was something special. She gives an excellant acting performance in this film, in which she was up against big-leaguers and old pros. This is the film M.M. was shooting when the news broke that she had posed for the then very scandalous nude calendar. Apparently the stars of this movie were getting irritated at all the focus on this little blonde girl, with one commenting "That blonde... is getting all the publicity!". Sometimes the "smaller" films can be more interesting than the big studio hits, and I consider this one of those. A moody, sensual movie, in the classic tradition of all those great black & white films of the 1940's & early '50's. Definatley worth a look."