Still of the Night (1982)
When Meryl Met Chief Brody in Hitchcock Land
When the dead body of Josef Sommer is discovered following the opening credits of this Robert Benton directed feature, Roy Scheider and Meryl Streep will find themselves in a muddled world of Hitchcock(isms) for the next 93 minutes of screen time.
It turns out Sommer is the patient of psychiatrist Roy Scheider and much of the plot will unveil itself through the use of the flashback. Sommer has been having an office affair with an icy blonde ala most every Hitchcock film in the guise of Miss Streep. When she pays a visit to Roy’s office, he’s hooked by the femme fatale that he’s heard so much about from his now deceased patient’s treatments. Roy’s first worry should be the fact that she seems to be avoiding the police and any questioning that connects her to Sommer. Perhaps Roy could discreetly return her dead lover’s watch to the widow without involving her?
Roy’s analytic training and common sense go out the window. He wants to know who killed Sommer and why so he eagerly covers up for Meryl when lame brain detective, Joe Grifasi, comes to his office looking for details on the sessions Roy shared with Sommer. Like most any doctor I’ve seen in the movies, Roy points out that that’s privileged information between patient and doctor. In other words he isn’t sharing. This would appear to put Roy on the suspect list.
It’s the end of a long day and Roy heads home only to find a visitor at his doorstep. It’s the icy blonde from his fantasies which leads to a steamy kiss for their first meeting outside of the office. Like Clouseau in the Maria Gambrelli case, (name the movie) Roy knows that Meryl is just too attractive to be a killer and therefore refuses to take advice from his own family shrink, Jessica Tandy, who stars here as Roy’s mother urging him to let the police handle it.
The mystery is going to get a little more tense when Roy is mugged of his coat and wallet in New York’s Central Park only to be called in by Inspector Grifasi the next morning. Shortly after the theft that coat led to the thief’s own murder. As far as the police are concerned, Roy was the intended target.
Hide and seek games, a high stakes auction, planted newspaper clippings and an isolated country home follow. Sounds like Benton who also wrote the script had been overdosing on a number of Hitchcock styled thrillers to come up with these set pieces and locations. Could a double twist still be out there heading for the movie screens? Stick with Roy and Meryl till the fadeout and all will be revealed. Thankfully the film has resurfaced on blu ray from Kino Lorber allowing you to do just that.
This thriller tries way to hard be mysterious for it’s own good or hell, maybe it’s just not that interesting or good in the first place. While I’ve attempted to keep it light the truth is this isn’t one of Meryl and Roy’s finest hours but once again, I’m about the movie going experience as opposed to being downright nasty. Anyone who’s been a regular visitor here knows that Roy was a hero to any young teen around the time of this release as he’d slain the beast known as Jaws. He could do no wrong and as far as Meryl is concerned, she was still in the early stages of her legendary career that is still in full swing today.
Meryl represents for me an oddity in that I would usually look at a solid leading man and think of his leading lady costars over a long career. Gable appeared opposite Turner, Parker, Leigh, Garson etc… Meryl totally turns that idea around making Roy just one of the many actors of note that appeared opposite her.
If my memory serves, this was looked upon as a forgettable entry at a time when we had Brian De Palma turning out one Hitchcock like thriller after another. Though that may be, it’s still got the Scheider factor working for me and it’s a window to an earlier appearance from Streep.