The first thing you’re going to notice is this film is from MGM. That’s hard to miss.
Once again Amazon Prime Video is the source, and if it appears I’m pimping for them that’s because I am. I figure if I do this they might not sue me for using screen shots from their streaming service.
This is Still of the Night from 1982, and I don’t have to tell you that is a long time ago. Details are from Wikipedia. Here are the principle players:
- Roy Scheider as Dr. Sam Rice
- Meryl Streep as Brooke Reynolds
- Jessica Tandy as Dr. Grace Rice
- Joe Grifasi as Joseph Vitucci
- Sara Botsford as Gail Phillips
- Josef Sommer as George Bynum
My goal here is not to recap the plot, but I need to get a bit into it to do some analysis. This is billed as a psychological thriller, and it scrapes by on that theme. Here’s the opening. A shady character, notice he’s not a black dude, is checking car locks. You know he wants to find one unlocked and drive off with it. This is in New York City, and I understand there has been a bunch of that going around. Anyhow, he sidles up to a couple of autos parked at the curb, looks innocently around, slips his hand under the latch, and gives a little pull. Too bad. Somebody locked his car before leaving it parked on a New York street.
Third try is a charm. The latch gives, the door swings open, and out rolls a dead body. He is George Bynum, and for somebody found dead in the opening scene, he is going to get a bunch of screen time.
So, George has been murdered, although we never learn how the police latched onto the fact. Obviously George was dead in the car when the thief unloaded him into the street, so you have to wonder. Did the thief bolt for the blue and leave the body for others to find, or did he hail the first patrol car and say, “Hey, I was just boosting cars along this street when I came across this stiff inside what looked to be my night’s paycheck.” We are never told.
Anyhow, Sam Rice was the dead man’s shrink, and he is just releasing his patient of the hour when the comely Brooke Reynolds slithers in. She has George’s watch, and she want’s to see it gets back to his wife without the wife finding out about Brooke and George. About then Sam’s receptionist buzzes that a cop is outside, and Brooke panics, breaking that figurine on Sam’s desk, and bolting out the side door.
The cop is Detective Joseph Vitucci, and he wants to know stuff about George. Sam won’t tell him, since that kind of stuff is supposed to be confidential. This is a puzzlement to viewers, because death of a patient, especially death by unsolved murder, tends to break down this barrier. Sam can help to solve the crime by identifying Brooke, a possible suspect.
Sam goes back to his digs and leafs through his two years of notes on George. He recalls how George hired Brooke at Crispins auction house. Immediately we are brought to think of Christie’s, an actual concern in New York City. Obviously the producers were unable to associate the name of a famous auction house with this morbid tale, but they were able to allow viewers to make the link.
Anyhow, it is obvious George was a personality of the worst order, because his story is of one sordid encounter after another. Here (in flashback) he grooms Brooke to be his next conquest.
Sam reviews additional notes. George tells how Brook took an apartment across an airway from his own, and he observed her nightly goings on. A strange man comes to her door. She goes to another room and changes into something more comfortable. Then she returns and gets even more comfortable. We are left to wonder what George saw next, but we will eventually learn.
Sam’s notes tell of a dream George had. He is walking at night and arrives at a strange house. It’s unlocked, and he enters. Inside he encounters a menacing child. He retreats, but she follows. He obtains a green box, which figures later in the plot.
Sam needs to talk to Brooke, and he goes to Crispins. Gail Philips shows him to her office.
Things progress. There is an attraction. Sam tries to contact Brooke. The police know she had a meeting with George minutes before he was killed, but they don’t know who she is. Sam tries to contact her. He goes to her apartment east of Central Park. She is not there, but he sees her walking. She enters the park. He follows. Under one of those bridges famous in the park he encounters a mugger with a knife. He gives up his coat, but he seems to have a nefarious reason for doing so. The reason becomes apparent minutes later when the mugger, wearing Sam’s coat, is knifed and killed. Somebody (Brooke?) was out to kill Sam.
Sam finally finds Brooke at home in her apartment. He enters to find her mostly nude, receiving a massage. That explains what George reported seeing. This is the most we are ever going to see of Meryl Streep.
Things come to a head. Brooke invites Sam to attend an auction event. One of the items is this Jackson Pollard, obviously a show-stopper. While Brooke is taking phone bids on the Pollard, Sam notices she has dropped her keys.
He scoops up the keys and uses them to snoop Crispins, especially Brooke’s office. Inside her locked desk he finds these pieces of a newspaper clipping. It’s a story about the death of Brooke’s father in Florence.
Sam warns Brooke the police have come to the auction to see if they can identify the person last seen with George. Brooke flees. Gail tells Sam she may be at her mother’s home on Long Island, specifically Glen Cove. He goes there and locates the home. It is deserted except for Brooke.
Soon we learn the story. Brooke’s mother was institutionalized, and Brooke went to Florence to live with her father. After three years her mother died, and the estate was probated. Brooke received a note from her late mother warning that her father was a dangerous man who wanted only her inheritance.
This next is straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Brooke fled to the bell tower of a church, and her father followed, attempting to kill her. Instead he crashed through the railing and fell to his death.
They leave the house, but Brooke goes back inside to get her keys while Sam waits in the car. It’s that standard “somebody is hiding in the back seat” plot device. It’s Gail and she stabs Sam then goes after Brooke.
But Sam is not dead, and he comes up behind as Gail is attempting to force Brooke over the edge of the railing, onto the rocks below. Gail goes over, instead.
Watching this I was unable to escape the Alfred Hitchcock connection. Apparently I am not alone. Here from Wikipedia:
The film is considered as an overt homage to Hitchcock, emulating scenes from many of his movies: a bird attacks one character, a scene takes place in an auction, someone falls from a height, stuffed birds occupy a room, and an important plot point is the interpretation of a dream. Meryl Streep’s hair is styled much like Eva Marie Saint‘s was in North by Northwest, and the town of Glen Cove features in both films. According to some reviewers at the time of the release, the screenplay displays subtle references to various Hitchcock’s films.
Here is what I notice:
- The church tower scene, already noted.
- At the auction, Sam tries to get Brooke’s attention and ends up paying $15,000 for a painting he does not want. This recalls Cary Grant acting out to get the attention of the police in North by Northwest.
- NbNW again. Cary Grant is abducted at gunpoint and taken to a house out on Long Island. Where else? Glen Cove. I recalled this, because later in life I had occasion to pay a visit to Long Island—Glen Cove.
- The rocks beneath the balcony scene recall the scene with Cary Grant in a Mercedes Benz about to drop off Glen Cove’s rocky shore line.
The auction scene is puzzling. Sam bids on a painting. Isn’t there some sort of certification required before you are allowed to bid at one of these things? I mean, he shucked off several serious bidders with no proof he would be able to pay.
George dreams of going to this strange house. When Sam arrives at the Glen Cove home he is struck by the similarity to the house in the dream. But George never was at the Glen Cove home, else why did he not identify it to Sam when he was describing the dream.
We ultimately learn the significance of the green box. Gail kept her money in a green box, and she obtained the moniker “Green Box.”