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The Night Heaven Fell   B-

Home Vision Entertainment

Year Released: 1958
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Roger Vadim
Writers: Roger Vadim, Jacques Remy (based on a novel by Albert Vidalie)
Cast: Brigitte Bardot, Alida Valli, Stephen Boyd, Pepe Nieto.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

The Night Heaven Fell, a 1958 French film also known as Les Bijoutiers du clair de lune, is a shameless melodrama that takes itself way too seriously. But that's precisely why it's so engaging. The film has been released on DVD as part of Home Vision Entertainment's Classic Collection, which began with the screwball romantic comedy Plucking the Daisy. While that film showed Bardot to be adept and charming at light comedy, The Night Heaven Fell showcases her dramatic side. It also gives her many opportunities to overact -- but she does so with such grace and conviction that it's tough to fault her for it. If anything, Bardot's overwrought performance is what makes The Night Heaven Fell such an entertaining film. I'm beginning to dig this girl.

Directed by then-husband, Roger Vadim (who had previously directed her in And God Created Woman), The Night Heaven Fell features Brigitte Bardot as a pretty young virgin named Ursula who's just been released from the convent (yes, the convent) to go live with her aunt and uncle in rural Spain. Upon her arrival, local stud Lamberto (Stephen Boyd) gets into a brawl with her uncle (Pepe Nieto), who Lamberto blames for his sister's suicide. The fight here is quite possibly one of the most hilariously inept fight scenes ever captured on film, foreshadowing more unintentionally funny moments to come.

Anyway, Ursula immediately falls in love with Lamberto, but it turns out that her aunt (Alida Valli, very good here) might be having a secret affair with the stud. In the meantime, Ursula's uncle makes sexual advances upon her (his niece, that is) and we see that he's just not a very swell guy. Before the first act is over, there will be a murder and naïve virgin Ursula will flee to the hills with Lamberto as police hunt them down.

And Brigitte Bardot eventually gets naked.

Uh-huh. And now I think I can see why she still has a pretty strong fan base after all these years. No, it's not the nudity -- that's just the icing on the cake for many Bardot fans, I suspect. There's just something about her pouty lips, fiery eyes, and the confident way she carries herself, knowing that she can have just about any man who sets his eyes upon her. There's an underlying naughtiness gleaming just below the surface and an unbridled eroticism that she effortlessly exudes. I gotta admit, she had me here. I was captivated by her performance even when -- or especially when -- she was going over the top in scenes like the one where she's screaming for Lamberto not to kill their little piglet (they gotta eat, you know) or in the emotionally intense finale. Yes, I'm starting to realize what all the fuss is about regarding Brigitte Bardot.

This ridiculous but captivating melodrama is made even more watchable thanks to some very nice cinematography. Shot in CinemaScope, the movie is filled with sweeping shots of the beautiful Spanish countryside and all the canyons and vistas that come with it. There are some very stylish shots in the film, particularly during a sequence at a windmill.

Like Home Vision's Plucking the Daisy DVD, this one is slim on extras but the transfer and presentation is nice. The extras are the same: trailers for And God Created Woman, Plucking the Daisy, and The Night Heaven Fell, along with a Brigitte Bardot filmography. The film is in French with optional English subtitles. And I must say: if Plucking the Daisy was a nice light-hearted introduction to Bardot's charms, The Night Heaven Fell is inching me ever closer to agreeing with those who say she's one of the sexiest stars in movie history.

Review published 01.17.2002.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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