Danny (Robert Montgomery) is the new, semi-seedy caretaker to the wealthy, wheelchair-bound Mrs. Bramson (Dame May Whitty), a hateful old woman who constantly demands, “Get me a chocolate!” She thinks of no one but herself until Danny proves quite the charmer (the two engage in the creepiest game of “This Little Piggy” the screen has ever seen).
Olivia (Rosalind Russell), Mrs. Bramson’s niece, isn’t so won over, especially when a dead body turns up outside missing a head, and a box Danny carries around looks like the perfect size in which to hide one. (One thing’s for sure: It ain’t Gwyneth’s.)
Everything about “Night Must Fall” is dated. It’s driven not by action, but dialogue (and Montgomery sure has a fun time with that, rolling lines like “You know, you wouldn’t be bad-lookin’ without them glasses” or “And some of that nice roly-poly puddin’, with jam on it, just the way you like it?”). It’s also of the era when acting was purely theatrical — not surprising, given the film’s stage roots.
But Whitty is so over-the-top, so playing-to-the-crowd that you’ll want to reach through your TV and throttle her. Give Danny time, however; he’ll take care of it.
Now remastered, this curious classic is only available as a burned-on-demand disc from our preservationist friends at Warner Archive. —Rod Lott