The movie opens with smooth womanising songwriter Keith Vincent giving his latest girlfriend the brush-off. Vincent thinks he’s pretty good at this sort of thing but this time it doesn’t go too smoothly - he ends up with a slug from a .38 in his brain. Some dames just don’t take kindly to getting their marching orders.
When the police arrive they don’t take long to decide this is a clear-cut case of suicide. Vincent’s fingerprints on the gun and the powder burns make this fairly obvious.
Joe Warne is not the kind of guy to let that stop him. And he does have a lead. Vincent’s last girlfriend was named Dolores. The only problem is, all of Vincent’s girlfriends were named Dolores. If they weren’t named Dolores he called them Dolores anyway.
Raft was clearly a natural for playing villains but he grew tired of it and by the 1940s he was keen to play heroes instead. Nocturne gives him the chance to play a reasonably interesting hero in a good film. Sadly good parts like this would become increasingly rare for Raft by the end of the 40s.
Jonathan Latimer’s screenplay provides plenty of juicy hard-boiled dialogue and Raft and Bari make the most of it. In his novels such as Headed for a Hearse Latimer combined hard-boiled style with very generous amounts of humour. He tones the humour down somewhat in this script.
This is not in any sense one of those Hollywood mysteries played primarily for laughs. The tone is mostly dead serious but there’s plenty of wit. There’s only a small amount of outright comic relief, provided by Joe’s mother and one of her friends who are keen detective story fans who just love a good murder, and these brief interludes are actually quite funny.
The Warner Archive made-on-demand DVD is absolutely barebones (not even a trailer) but it’s an excellent transfer.
Nocturne is a top-notch noir-flavoured mystery thriller. Very highly recommended.