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The intensity of the action, superb direction, astonishing juxtaposition of the city sequences and scenes in the tranquil, snow-filled countryside, and – probably most of all – the many hardboiled dialogues present Nightfall as a truly expressive film noir. Through a clever use of retrospectives the film introduces the audience to James Vanning (Aldo Ray), whose life story is as tragic as it is suspenseful.

James wanders around town anxiously, looking as though he’s waiting for someone the whole time. After his meeting with a lovely lady named Marie (Anne Bancroft) turns into a gritty kidnapping intrigue, all the pieces of the puzzle soon start to fit right in. A pair of thugs is after him, because they think that he hid the money (350,000 dollars to be exact), which they stole during a bank raid. In order to get the information out of him they try torturing him, but James ultimately manages to escape. As he returns to meet the lady, who supposedly gave him away to the criminals, brief retrospections appear on the screen, and entangle us in the whole obscure and dramatic affair. When James and his friend Dr. Gurston (Frank Albertson) were in the middle of a hunting trip they encountered a car crash and quickly realize that they the guys, whom they wanted to help, are nothing but a couple of violent robbers. They kill Dr. for their great amusement, but leave James only unconscious. When he wakes up, he realizes that what they also left behind was a bag with the cash. Soon a thrilling and fast-paced game of cat-and- mouse begins, as both the thugs and a private investigator Fraser (James Gregory) are on his trail. With the help of the previously met lady, James decides to stop the killers and retrieve the money-filled bag, which he left somewhere in the snowy country…

Nightfall is an enormously moody, sombre, and hard-hitting crime drama, which achieves high level of aesthetics through the sudden yet suitable changes of scenery, overcoming some of its screenplay-related faults in the process. The shootout in the secluded, wild place is a great advantage of the film, giving it a totally different perspective than other films in the genre have. It’s a low-budget, extremely economical yet successful adaptation of a 1947 novel of the same name.

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