Discussion between screenings with Goodis anthology editor Robert Polito and Library of America Editor in Chief Geoffrey O’Brien.
Nightfall | Jacques Tourneur | 1957 | USA | 35mm | 78m
Early in Tourneur’s terrifically compact, low-key adaptation of a 1947 Goodis novel, a man and a woman (Aldo Ray and Ann Bancroft) strike up an acquaintance and decide to have dinner together. After they’re finished, the man is suddenly hijacked and spirited away by two thugs, played by Brian Keith and Rudy Bond. In an extended flashback, we learn that Ray had crossed paths with the two men a year earlier during a camping trip, where they had accidentally left a bag containing $350,000. Now they want their money back. As always, Tourneur sifts the action into the settings, in this case an L.A. beachfront and the open spaces of Wyoming (brilliantly photographed by Bonnie and Clyde and In a Lonely Place d.p. Burnett Guffey). Ray and Keith, both subtle, gruff-voiced, and amiable actors, fit perfectly into Tourneur’s oddly unsettled universe.
The Burglar | Paul Wendkos | 1957 | USA | 35mm | 90m
Goodis did his own screenplay adaptation for this super stylish, rarely screened effort, the directorial debut of his friend Paul Wendkos. That wonderfully oily noir habitué Dan Duryea stars as a Philadelphia thief who teams up with a couple of cronies and his adopted sister (Jayne Mansfield, excellent in an early, pre-bombshell role) to rob a bejewelled necklace from a sham spiritualist. But when a crooked cop (Stewart Bradley) decides he wants a piece of the action–and of Mansfield–Duryea finds himself torn between the loot and his conscience. Culminating in a breathless finale in an Atlantic City funhouse that tips its hat (and then some) to Orson Welles’s The Lady From Shanghai, The Burglar is an unjustly forgotten gem from the glory days of Hollywood B movies.