Skip to main content

Film Review: Yield to the Night (1956)

From the intense and violent opening scene of a woman being gunned down on a city sidewalk by a gun-wielding blonde, J. Lee Thompson's cinematic masterpiece Yield to the Night grabs a hold of its audience and never lets go. Based on the novel of the same title by Joan Henry, the film offers an intimate look into the life of a woman driven to murder. Told partly in flashbacks, we feel sympathy for Mary Hilton, a woman who has been sentenced to hang and is waiting on death row for her execution. Yet, before we get to the dreaded final act, we're treated to outstanding performances from a mostly female cast, led by our leading lady Diana Dors. Playing against the blonde bombshell roles she was typically cast in, Dors gives a career-best award-worthy complex performance that is both powerful and haunting. Pushing past her stunning aesthetic seems like a lot to ask of the audience. Yet after the first few scenes, you realize that Dors is giving everything she has to tell this woman's tale. Supported by a cast of talented actors (including a brilliant stand-out performance by Yvonne Mitchell), Dors uses each interaction with each character to give us a glimpse into the multifaceted Mary Hilton, a woman of whom many assumptions have been made (similar to Dors own career and hypersexualized image; the parallel is echoed between actor and character in a profound way, making both worthy of a deeper study by a film scholar - yes, there's a dissertation to be discovered and written here). What makes this film so ahead-of-its-time (as many modern critics have pointed out) is the rejection of the impulse to make another woman-in-prison exploitation film (which were common in the era this film was made) and instead create a fascinating and sad exploration of the life of a doomed woman who society convicted of a crime long before pulling the trigger. Adding to the still-happening and very necessary global discourse on capital punishment, this cinematic gem should be revered for its crafted storytelling, brave performances, and its determination to make a movie with a memorable message. 


David-Matthew Barnes

⭐⭐⭐⭐🍿🍿🍿🍿

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Film Review: The Adam Project (2022)

Watching Shawn Levy's sci-fi action comedy The Adam Project is a fun, thrilling experience. The concept of the film is clever: a fighter pilot travels back to a specific point in his life, only to meet (and bond with) his younger self. The always-charming Ryan Reynolds is our leading man, playing the grown-up version of Adam Reed. Reynolds continues to prove he knows a thing or two about being funny. Here, his comedic timing is sharper than ever, evident each time he delivers hilarious lines of dialogue. The pairing of Reynolds with young actor Walker Scobell (who plays a 12-year old version of Adam Reed) creates a fantastic comedic duo. Their dynamic is very enjoyable to watch. They are surrounded by an all-star cast, appearing mostly in supporting roles, including Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Garner (both should've been given more screen time), and a devilish performance by Catherine Keener as an ultra-villain who you will love to hate. At the heart of the film, this is a good

Film Review: Undercover Girl (1950)

This intense and captivating film noir from 1950 feels groundbreaking and significant and deserving of noteworthy acclaim, which unfairly it hasn't received. While watching this remarkable film, I couldn't help but be keenly aware of how ahead of its time Undercover Girl is, not just for its content but cinematically. The story follows a female police officer named Christine Miller (played with mesmerizing brilliance by Alexis Smith in a career-best performance), who is determined to avenge the murder of her father by going undercover to take down the narcotics ring responsible for his death. In so many ways, this feels like a fantastic precursor for Police Woman , Cagney and Lacey , and even Law and Order: Special Victims Unit . Yet, the gender of our main character is not the only celebratory element: this is a damn good movie from start to finish. Giving Alexis Smith terrific on-screen support is Royal Dano in a complex role (his movie debut nonetheless) with which the very

Film Review: Joy Ride (2023)

Joy Ride is a lot of things: a bawdy comedy, a fun road trip movie, a daughter's quest, a hero(ine)'s journey, and a not-so-deep exploration of gender norms and stereotypes. While the laughs are plenty and the cast is charming, the film tries to figure out what it is and the result is a bit muddled.  Director Adele Lim (in her directing debut) knows how to tell a good story. Her pacing of the movie is what keeps this comedy going. Little room is left to catch your breath before you've been moved on to the next outrageous situation, seemingly set up to allow the cast of comedians to shine. And they do, in part to Lim's directing, but also because all four actors are so damn entertaining: Ashley Park. Sherry Cola, Stephanie Hsu, and Sabrina Wu. Any of them could easily carry a film on their own. Here, they each have some terrific moments, but are ultimately diminished by a film that's too full.  Structurally, the film's first two acts work really well. After a qu