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Clash by Night

Screening on Film
Directed by Fritz Lang.
With Barbara Stanwyck, Paul Douglas, Robert Ryan.
US, 1952, 35mm, color, 105 min.
Print source: Warner Bros.

While Lang would initially seem an unlikely candidate to direct a seamy melodrama adapted from Clifford Odets, Clash by Night proves to be one of the director’s most scarring treatments of a romantic theme. Barbara Stanwyck is a woman returning home after years of disappointment (“Home is where you come when you run out of places”), Robert Ryan the seething misanthrope all too eager to join his fate to hers, and Marilyn Monroe an innocent butterfly-like waif whose gossamer wings, too, will be singed. Without any of the director’s typical camera flourishes, Lang sharply delineates a full spectrum of self-loathing in the claustrophobic bars and houses dotting Cannery Row. The theme of entrapment is indelibly etched from the opening documentary footage of fisherman reeling in their catch, gloriously shot by cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca.

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