This review Contains Spoilers
“Night Editor”, a low-budget 1946 Columbia release, contains some of the most immoral characters put on celluloid. Originally a radio program which ran from 1934 to 1948, the script was written by Hal Smith based on a radio episode called “Inside Story.” It was directed by the vanilla flavored Henry Levin (“The Corpse Came C.O.D.,” “The Man From Colorado,” “April Love,” “If A Man Answers”). The film recounts the story, in flashback during a late night poker game with a group of newspapermen. Tony Cochrane (William Gargan) a police detective and philanderer currently hooked on Jill Merrill (Janis Carter), a psycho-sexually disturbed society femme fatale with hooks the size of a crow bar. Jill is the character that stirs the drink and Tony is the main ingredient.
Tony feels guilty about cheating on his devoted wife (Jeff Donnell) and loving child but he’s a weak man and cannot stay away from the sizzling looking though emotionally cold as ice blonde fox, Jill Merrill. One evening while parked in a secluded area they witness the murder of a young woman beaten with a tire iron. Because of the secretive circumstances of who he was with, where and why, Tony does not to report the crime. Jill though is sexually turned on by the violent act they just witnessed. We watch her uncontrollably writhing in her seat demanding to see the dead woman’s battered body. “I want to look at her”! she demands. Later Tony finds himself assigned to the investigation of the murder, and discovers an innocent man has been convicted of the crime and is about to be sent to his death.
The film’s core is Janis Carter’s Jill Merrill who sizzles as the nasty, treacherous, cold hearted man-eater reaching a bizarre peak in sexual frenzy watching a sadistic murder. Her performance and role surpasses everyone else in the cast. Carter’s career never achieved the iconic status of other actresses known for trekking the world of noir like say, Audrey Totter or Jane Greer but here and in the following year’s film, “Framed”, and later in “The Woman on Pier 13” she proved herself to be as vicious and poisonous as some of the better known bad girls. Some other films she co-starred in include “I Love Trouble,” “The Flying Leathernecks,” “Santa Fe,” “Miss Grant Takes Richmond,” “My Forbidden Past” and the Budd Boetticher directed “One Mysterious Night” a film in the Boston Blackie series.
William Gargan as Tony Cochrane is your typical noir chump, stuck on a dame who leads him down a doomed path. Gargan plays his role low key almost as if by design knowing he cannot compete with Carter’s brazen performance. It works well especially toward the film’s conclusion where once again Jill attempts to entice and seduce her male victim only to double cross him once more with an ice pick in his back.
The film’s dark despairing sleazy look must be credited to cinematographers Burnett Guffey (“My Name is Julia Ross,” “Knock on Any Door,” “From Here to Eternity” and “Bonnie and Clyde”) and Philip Tannura who keep the film claustrophobic and visually tight.
No one will mistake this film for a grade “A” production. The flashback story device is pretty weak. Despite coming from Columbia’s bargain basement, “Night Editor” remains a treasure among minor noirs with an outstanding deliciously deceitful performance by Janis Carter that you will soon not forget.