Far more than its then trendy look, Marlon Brando’s bleached blonde hair (or wig), the women’s fashions or anything else, Hubert Cornfield’s decidedly odd The Night of the Following Day (1968) is dated by its annoyingly intrusive faux “cool jazz” score by Stanley Myers—something that plagues the film for much of its length, and something that probably reduced my enjoyment considerably. That’s unfortunate, because this strange kidnapping yard is an often fascinating film—not good exactly, but never lacking in strange interest—that features one of Brando’s least “methody” performances. Most of his bag of method tricks seem to have been left at the door this time, though it’s hard to say whether the over-use of punctuating sentences with “man” is in the script or added by Brando. (In either case, it becomes a little tiresome from the then-44-year-old actor, making him come across like someone desperate to be hip-1968-style.)
The oddness of the film is hard to pinpoint, since the basic setup is pretty simple: A gang of crooks (Brando, Rita Moreno, Richard Boone and Jess Hahn) kidnap an heiress (Pamela Franklin) and hold her for ransom in a largely deserted French beach house. And while everything goes wrong and the characters descend into a kind of mire of Roman Polanski-style paranoia, the actual events are less strange than the almost surreal tone of the film. There’s no denying that the characters are unusual, especially Boone as a sadistic psycho and Moreno as Brando’s heroin addict girlfriend, but stranger still is the mood, and the bizarre fact that characters are identified by one name in the credits and called by other names in the film. Brando, for example, is billed simply as “the chauffeur,” but is called by his real-life nickname, Bud, while Hahn is credited as “Friendly,” but is always referred to as “Wally” in the film. Whether or not this has any meaning, it adds to the overall sense that the movie is somehow “abnormal,” something underscored by its cyclical structure and minimalist settings. Admirers of Brando should find it of great interest—as might collectors of unusual cinema.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke