Color, 1968, 93 mins. 7 secs.
Directed by Hubert Cornfield
Starring Marlon Brando, Richard Boone, Rita Moreno, Pamela Franklin, Jess Hahn
Indicator (Blu-ray) (UK RB HD), Kino Lorber (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC), Elephant (Blu-ray & DVD) (France RB/R2 HD/PAL), Universal (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
The influence of European crime films had some strange effects on Hollywood in the late '60s well into the '70s, and when you throw in Marlon Brando during the weirdest period of his career (around the same time as Candy, Burn! and Reflections in a Golden Eye), the result is The Night of the Following Day. Unsuccessful at the box office at the time, the offbeat thriller went on to build up something of a cult following largely thanks to home video as well as the wider availability of the Euro thrillers it was emulating. The surprising casting choices and desolate French location shooting make it worth a look alone, not to mention an audacious twist ending that still divides viewers today.
Arriving alone by plane to the coast of France, a young woman (The Legend of Hell House's Franklin) is swiftly abducted by her chauffeur, Bud (Brando), who's in cahoots with the more brutal Leer (I Bury the Living's Boone), drug-addicted Vi (Moreno) who was a stewardess on the flight over, and her brother, Wally (Hahn). The plans to hold her for a quick ransom turnaround quickly unravel due to Leer's propensity for violence and Vi's instability, with Bud becoming more protective of their captive along the way.
Not the smoothest production thanks to Brando's trademark friction with his director, Hubert Cornfield, The Night of the Following Day is a fascinating and weirdly compelling film with a mean edge and an evocative early score by Stanley Myers, who had just come off of No Way to Treat a Lady and delivers a song here sung by Annie Ross (Basket Case 2). All of the leads are excellent here with Moreno and Boone getting some of the juiciest material, and the refusal to operate like a standard kidnapping thriller keeps you on your toes from the disorienting opening. Essentially it anticipates some of the more unusual kidnap crime films to come soon after, especially The Grissom Gang and The Candy Snatchers, though the ultimate resolution is really open to interpretation and makes you wonder how it applies to the title itself.
Rarely seen for years after its initial release and 1970 TV airing in heavily censored form on NBC, The Night of the Following Day was hailed as something of a discovery when it finally hit VHS in 1993 and then got upgraded to a widescreen DVD in 2004 featuring a commentary by Cornfield recorded shortly before his death. Though he speaks with the aid of electronic modulation, it's a valuable track with lots of info about the film including the adaptation of the novel The Snatchers by Lionel White (who also penned the inspiration for The Killing), the casting process, the wrangling over the ending, and the process of shooting a Hollywood studio film in France. The first Blu-ray was released in 2019 in France from Elephant, featuring French and English tracks with optional French subtitles. In 2021, Kino Lorber issued it on Blu-ray in the U.S. featuring the Cornfield commentary, the trailer, a Trailers from Hell presentation by Joe Dante, and a new audio commentary by Tim Lucas that lays out far more about the source novel, Cornfield's career, the cast, and relevant crime films of the era.
In 2023, Indicator brought The Night of the Following Day to U.K. Blu-ray featuring the same solid Universal HD scan (up to their usual catalog standards from more recent years), an LPCM English 1.0 mono track, and improved optional English SDH subtitles. The Cornfield commentary, trailer, and Trailers from Hell presentation are ported over here, but you get a couple of substantial new goodies as well. "Rita Moreno in Conversation" (62m49s) is a wildly entertaining 2013 chat with Matthew Sweet at BFI Southbank, London, in which she shares tons of stories about Ann Miller, Singin' in the Rain, West Side Story, Summer and Smoke, and having to snort sugar for this film while acting next to ex-boyfriend Brando. Then in "Dangerous to Know" (19m18s), author and film historian Neil Sinyard examines the film’s offbeat qualities including multiple Jean-Luc Godard connections, the bumpy production including Boone having to step in to direct a bit due to Brando's steamroller behavior, and the little surrealist touches that make the end product stick in one's memory. A 54-image gallery is also included featuring B&W and color stills as well as international poster art. A 36-page insert booklet features a new essay by Jeff Billington, "A Dream Come True," surveying the film's production history and offering some fascinating alternative readings of the ending (which definitely diverges from the book). Also included are a short Johnson County Press Chronicle Brando profile, a 1962 text interview with Cornfield conducted for Film Quarterly, and sample critical reactions.
Reviewed on April 26, 2023