THE NIGHT OF THE FOLLOWING DAY
(US - 1969)
Directed by Hubert Cornfield. Written by Hubert Cornfield and Robert Phippeny. Cast: Marlon Brando, Richard Boone, Rita Moreno, Pamela Franklin, Jess Hahn, Gerard Buhr, Jacques Marin, Hugues Wanner, Al Lettieri. (R, 93 mins)
Marlon Brando's performances in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951), THE WILD ONE (1953), ON THE WATERFRONT (1954), THE GODFATHER (1972), LAST TANGO IN PARIS (1973), and APOCALYPSE NOW (1979) just to name a few, are so legendary and so iconic that they're ingrained in the very fabric of film history and are frequently the roles cited by those who call him the greatest actor who ever lived. Brando (1924-2004) was so great that people generally chuckle and give him a pass for his later paycheck gigs like SUPERMAN (1978), CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS: THE DISCOVERY (1992), and THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1996). It's easy to forget that when Paramount was getting ready to put THE GODFATHER into production, Brando had to audition for the role. The studio was firmly set on Laurence Olivier to play Don Vito Corleone, with Ernest Borgnine their second choice should Olivier decline. Francis Ford Coppola fought for Brando against vehement protest from studio executives. Brando's career was in the toilet by the early 1970s after a decade of flops and eccentric behavior that turned him into an unemployable pariah in Hollywood. In the years leading up to THE GODFATHER, Brando was working almost exclusively in Europe. Though shot in France, Universal's THE NIGHT OF THE FOLLOWING DAY (1969) was his last Hollywood studio movie until his GODFATHER comeback.
brutal beatings, is terrific in it; he's also good as Elizabeth Taylor's cuckolded, closet-case husband in John Huston's otherwise overwrought REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE (1967) where he was brought in as a last-minute replacement when Montgomery Clift died shortly before filming began--and while none of the films are completely terrible (well OK, 1968's psychedelic, all-star CANDY is pretty awful, but Brando is amusing as a sex-crazed guru), the frequently mediocre results and Brando's sullied name combined to make him persona non grata in the American movie industry. Even the trailer for THE NIGHT OF THE FOLLOWING DAY tries to sell it with the narrator declaring "Brando...here's the old magic!" essentially telling audiences "You haven't liked him in almost a decade, but we promise it'll be different this time!"
BURN! (1970), followed by the British horror film THE NIGHTCOMERS (1972), and then the Brando image was reborn later that same year with THE GODFATHER, obviously one of cinema's great comeback performances. One is hesitant to say Brando's worst period was in the '90s because he wasn't working that much and when he did, it was usually a small role for big money, though if you want to see Brando cut loose and get really crazy, he had his biggest late-career role in his penultimate film, the low-budget, little-seen 1999 comedy FREE MONEY, which skipped theaters and premiered on cable. The ten-year stretch from 1962 to 1972 was probably Brando's career low, and it was a slow process that never really scraped bottom. There's something worthwhile in all of these films--even CANDY--and even when Brando was inexplicably making life hell for those colleagues around him, the results proved at least intermittently interesting and his performances were never bad. Hell, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU proved that even a bad Brando performance is still required viewing.