Howard Trent (Hayden Rorke) hears the secrets that you keep, when you’re talking in your sleep… particularly if you’re his wife, Irene (Barbara Stanwyck). Howard has secretly been recording every conversation that takes place in his home, including those his wife has with no one, while she’s dreaming.
Howard is convinced that Irene isn’t dreaming at all, but carrying on an affair with his attorney, Barry Morland (Robert Taylor). Barry denies it, offering to help Howard get to the bottom of the mystery.
Is Irene actually dreaming? And if not, who is the mysterious man visiting her every night?
The Night Walker was directed by William Castle. The screenplay was written by Robert Bloch.
This film marks somewhat of a fitting end to Stanwyck’s theatrical-release film career, as she delivers a strong performance in her paranoid-woman role (a role she played several times throughout her career). One of those trademark rants of hers comes early on in the film, Stanwyck shouting at her on-screen husband, “My lover’s only in my dreams and he’s still more of a man than you!” (Ouch!)
Stany shares the screen with her former real-life husband (and two-time former co-star) Robert Taylor, playing the wrongly-accused lawyer. Interestingly, the scenes of their sleuthing as a pair are some of the film’s least engaging. Perhaps their personal history had some influence on this, or perhaps it’s just down to Taylor’s approach to his character. (Despite a nicely-executed plot twist for him near the end of the film, I found most of Taylor’s work in this film quite forgettable.)
I’m a big fan of William Castle, with all of his usual gimmicks and corn. The Night Walker, while still a little campy, is one of his less campy films. There are creepy wax figures and over-dramatic opening narration. There’s an end title reading, “PLEASANT DREAMS.” There are also, however, some genuine suspense and wonderfully photographed dream sequences. The story takes a few unexpected turns and definitely kept me hooked throughout its run time.
The Night Walker isn’t a Grade-A thriller, but for the most part, it’s a lot of fun to watch. A fascinating end to the long silver screen career of a chameleon who played everyone from femme fatales to tormented wives to Annie Oakley. I would recommend The Night Walker, especially for those of you who share my love of both Stanwyck and William Castle.
And with this, the Barbara Stanwyck Filmography Project has officially come to an end! I’ve officially reviewed every Stanwyck film (with the exception of her lost debut, Broadway Nights)! Stay tuned for a few posts wrapping things up (favorite discoveries, film ranking, etc.).
Until then, I hope you have enjoyed this long journey with Stanwyck as much as I have. I come away from this project with Stany firmly cemented in her position as my favorite actress, and with several films holding permanent places on my best-of-all-time list.