The Film (4/5)
Psychiatrist Sam Rice (Roy Scheider) is visited by Brooke Reynolds (Meryl Streep) who confesses that she was having an affair with a patient of his, George Bynum (Josef Sommer) who was recently found murdered. Brooke has Bynum's wristwatch and wants Sam to return it to his wife as she believes the wife has no knowledge of their affair. Rice is then visited by Detective Vitucci (Joe Grifasi) but doesn't reveal any information about his patient George. This leads Vitucci to proclaim that the killer may come after Sam if he thinks he knows something.
We flashback to scenes of Benton in therapy with Sam as he relates portions of his affair with Brooke as well as a strange dream that later we discover contains clues to the murderer's identity. Benton also said he knew a woman who claimed she had killed someone. Meanwhile in the present it's clear that someone is following Sam around and Brooke is acting more and more strangely. Sam is quickly drawn into a world of intrigue and attraction to Brooke who may very well be a murderess twice over.
I first read about Still Of The Night when it was included in a list of American Gialli. There's a few of those lists out there and they almost always include DePalma's Dressed To Kill, Alice, Sweet Alice, Klute, and Eyes Of Laura Mars, but this particular one had listed this one as well. It has a few giallo moments no doubt, but I find it to be more in a Hitchcockian vein. I wouldn't strenuously argue AGAINST it's inclusion on the list but it's certainly not The Bird With The Crystal Plumage. Perhaps more pointedly, it's not a DePalma film of a similar vintage. No gauzy lens filters or grand sweeping of the camera. There's no sexual deviancy underlying the murderer's intent. What Still Of The Night is though, is a nice little thriller with many nods to Hitchcock including the casting of Jessica Tandy (The Birds) as Sam's mother, who is also a psychiatrist. Tandy helps Sam work through an interpretation of George Bynum's dream which holds the clues to solving his own murder.
The film does have some style despite director Robert Benson not exactly being known for thrillers, the dream is appropriately disjointed and dreamlike, and it does indeed contain not only a couple of giallo moments but several playful winks at Hitchcock classics such as a scene in an auction house, attacking birds, stuffed birds, etc. It was interesting to see these done in a more workmanlike direction instead of the flashier style of DePalma. Still Of The Night doesn't jump out at you with lurid, trashy flash but comes across as a more classy studio thriller, which in and of itself was going against the grain at the time. The cinematography is courtesy of Nestor Almendros, (Days Of Heaven, Truffaut's The Last Metro) known for his natural light method, and he contributes to the film's warm look. Perhaps Still Of The Night can be seen as a bridge between the 70's Italian gialli, DePalma's thrillers of the early 80's and the Basic Instinct type thrillers of the 90's that were yet to come.
Kino presents Still Of The Night in a MPEG-4 1080p transfer in it's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Healthy grain structure is present and I didn't notice any DNR. The colors are a bit faded but it's a warm transfer and I noticed no print damage. Audio is presented in the form of a DTS-HD MASTER 2.0 mono track and it sounded good. English subtitles are included.
Three theatrical trailers, all Roy Scheider films from Kino: Still Of The Night, 52 Pick-Up, and Last Embrace.
If you're looking for Dressed To Kill, move along. Still Of The Night is a much milder film than that. But if you're looking for a film that was inspired by Hitchcock like DePalma and gialli were nonetheless, I'd give Still Of The Night a chance. The film isn't outlandishly stylish but it certainly isn't flat either. Meryl Streep remarked that this was the one film she wished she hadn't made and I certainly think that's too harsh. I think it would make a good triple feature with Klute and Eyes Of Laura Mars.