The Big Night

In this rarely-seen melodrama, the last film Joseph Losey made in Hollywood (“completely re-cut, and stupidly re-cut” according to the director, as quoted in Leahy, “The Cinema of Joseph Losey”), now-familiar Losey themes are presented in a somersaulting, broken pattern of events and images. George La Main (played by 19-year-old John Barrymore, Jr.), timid, bespectacled, persecuted by his peers, is the son of a tough bartender who, on the night of George's 17th birthday, receives a brutal whipping from a sadistic rival. In setting out to avenge his father's beating, George takes his first steps into “manhood” - finding his own place in a world of violence, mutually-exploitative relationships, and guilt.
“Within the framework of a low-budget melodrama, it crams an uncommon amount of character insight, originality and intense feeling, as well as the seedy realism of cheap big-city backgrounds in the small hours. And young...Barrymore, in a turbulent, demanding role, convincingly earns his right to a famous name.” (Time)

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