A gripping, if at times convoluted, thriller in the film noir vein, The Long Night let Henry Fonda show his considerable dramatic skill, which had recently been neglected in favor of lighter, more comedic fare. Fonda doesn't disappoint, creating a returning War vet whose loneliness is accentuated by the alienation he feels when he cannot really fit in as he wants to upon his return from the war. There's a powderkeg of angst inside him, and it blows when the circumstances in this movie lead him into the murder that sends him near the edge. Fonda is commanding throughout, and shades his performance with beautiful moments of insight. He comes to close to being overshadowed, however, by Vincent Price, whose showy role was written for the exuberant kind of cunning evil at which he excelled. Ann Dvorak is also quite good as a wised up cookie, and Barbara Bel Geddes shines as the innocent at the center of the controversy. Night's multiple-flashback storyline does prove a bit confusing at times, and the melodrama occasionally gets slightly heavyhanded, but all in all director Anatole Litvak does an excellent job at creating tension, casting doubt, and keeping the film barreling along. He is aided enormously by the sensational lensing of Sol Polito, whose camera is essential in capturing the soul of the story.
Film opens with bang-bang as Fonda shoots Price. Squad car arrives and crowd gathers as Fonda resolves to shoot it out with cops. Via flashbacks, Bel Geddes' meeting with Price and subsequent tragic events are revealed. Yarn moves from present to past and back cleverly, winding up where it started.