Clash by Night, Fritz Lang (1952)

Airless Odets working class melodrama originally set on Staten Island, transposed by Lang to a cannery town in California. Barbara Stanwyck is vicious and terrific as the local girl who can’t be satisfied; Marilyn Monroe seems rightly amazed to be here at all as the local girl who can; Paul Douglas is the golden retriever husband who keeps fetching for Stanwyk no matter how often he’s kicked; and Robert Ryan is the needy gorgeous drunk all the housewives swoon for.

Not even in Lang’s top fifteen, but it has some moments. How about these lines from Stanwyk: “Aren’t there any more comfortable men in this world? Now they’re all little and nervous like sparrows or big and worried like sick bears. . . . If I ever loved a man again I’d bear anything. He could have my teeth for watch fobs.”

Lang is 62 years old when he makes this. He’ll make just ten more, most of them awful, but two of them The Big Heat and The Blue Gardenia, which are among his very best.

I wonder if I’ll ever get to see Rancho Notorious. Long out of print, something of a legend in my mind, a kind of cinematic Atlantis.

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