George Taylor returns from the WWII with amnesia. Back home in os Angeles, he tries to track down his old identity, stumbling into a 3-year old murder case and a hunt for a missing $2 million.
"Somewhere in the Night" is an exemplary title for a film noir, and the shellshocked pilgrimage of an amnesiac WWII veteran through an L.A. shadow-zone of hotels, bars, steam baths, sanitariums, and creepy private dwellings casts an uncanny spell. The plot is so byzantine, and the interlayering of the banal with the bizarre so pervasive, we may occasionally feel we've wandered into a Raul Ruiz mindgame in the guise of a '40s mystery-melodrama. The situation is primal: a man searching for his own identity, dreading what that identity will prove to be, yet so monastically dedicated to his mission that he won't reveal his dilemma to anyone even when it might ease his quest.
The script is shot through with contradictions and improbabilities, though these loom more glaring in retrospect than during the viewing. In his sophomore directorial outing, Joseph L. Mankiewicz--who would soon evolve into a multiple-Oscar-winner (Letter to Three Wives, All About Eve)--occasionally bungles action setups that any journeyman director could have handled in mid-yawn. But he¹s also written some choice dialogue and slivered some engaging business into the proceedings--especially for Lloyd Nolan as a drugstore-philosopher homicide cop, and German-Expressionist refugee Fritz Kortner (Pandora's Box), whose arias of Continental fatalism and duplicity are sheer delight. The always-assured Richard Conte is slick as an affable nightclub operator, and there are fine bits by a host of unbilled character players (Whit Bissell, Henry "Harry" Morgan, Jeff Corey, Houseley Stevenson). But Hodiak makes a charismatically challenged leading man, and a better actress than neophyte Nancy Guild ("rhymes with wild!") would have found it tough to bring off the combination of worldliness and devotion required of the nightclub chanteuse who offers him aid and comfort. --Richard T. Jameson