The Night Heaven Fell (1958)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama  |   Run Time - 91 min.  |   Countries - France   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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The Night Heaven Fell is a frustrating film. There's much in it to admire, yet there's also so much that's simply bad that one watches Night wishing that the good parts could be surgically removed and placed into a better film. As is often the case with a Roger Vadim production, much of what is good is visual. Simply put, there are some absolutely stunning shots here, with Armand Thirard's color photography capturing some gorgeous landscapes, focusing on a flash of vibrant color there, a lovely muted pastel there. Vadim and Thirard are masters at finding not only a range of beauty in the surroundings but at unearthing the drama in those surroundings. Unfortunately, that drama is often largely self-contained; it creates an impression by itself, but that impression does not necessarily reinforce or even tie in with the drama that is supposedly at the core of the film. That core drama -- or, to be accurate, overheated melodrama -- is one of the flaws of Night. It's a trashy, overblown story that simply doesn't hold the interest. Vadim's direction of this part of the film is choppy and insufficiently inspired. This doesn't help his cast, which struggles valiantly. Brigitte Bardot's performance is game, but perhaps a bit too much so. She tries hard, but her best moments are those when she simply lets the incredible Bardot magic ease in and cast its spell. When that happens, she's incandescent and it's hard to look away. Stephen Boyd has no such moments and it generally inept here, but Alida Valli is very good and gives the film its best acting moments.