Surprisingly good psychological crime drama. On the surface a relatively simple story of a teenager’s (Natalie Wood’s Liz) kidnapping by a deranged man (Raymond Burr), A Cry In The Night becomes a complex story of two dysfunctional families.
Burr, as the arrested-development Harold, and Edmund O’Brien as Wood’s father, give strong performances as disparate, but equally intense characters. O’Brien’s role as Capt. Taggart as a bullying hothead is frightening. He acts as though Liz’s boyfriend Owen (Robert Anderson) is as much to blame for her abduction as is the actual perpetrator. In a sense, it doesn’t matter who Owen is or what he’s like, Taggart wouldn’t trust any guy with Liz. His suspicious nature is reinforced by his sister’s admission that he ran off her last boyfriend.
Harold’s mom (Carol Veazie) is also a suffocating presence. Harold has never been allowed to grow up. At least Liz manages to rebel enough to develop a romantic relationship. It’s interesting that, although she’s the one abducted, Liz keeps her cool while Harold never relaxes, alternating between panic and menace. She fights back by pleading, confronting, giving advice, showing sympathy, trying to wriggle away… showing much more capability than a stereotypical ’50s girl-in-distress.
As many others have noted, Harold’s ‘lair’ is suitably creepy. There’s an incongruous assortment of girlie pictures with what looks like paperdolls, not to mention a dead dog. One thing that seemed too coincidental was the fact that police found the brickyard without any clues. Maybe Harold worked there, or his mom knew about it.
The chase scene at the end is loaded with noir traits. Abandoned industrial buildings make a nighttime maze of shadows, walls, ladders, stairs, and lofts for Harold’s eventual capture.
A Cry In The Night features two great actors at their best, and a multi-layered story told with sharp pacing and good dialogue. Burr’s ability to show shifting moods with his eyes and facial gestures is haunting. This movie is worth watching for Burr’s performance alone. 8/10.