"Nocturne" starts with a clever scene, a camera shot taking us from an aerial shot of a city before rolling in down a hill and seemingly through the window of a flashy apartment where a composer is at his piano. It is for me the best part of the movie seamless in execution but after that it all becomes procedural, a detective called Joe, a dead body and several women all who could have a motive for murder whilst the official cause of death is suicide. Basically "Nocturne" takes the film-noir text book and recreates various elements, especially the confident women who give as good as they get when it comes to verbal sparring. But not only does it make it formula driven but often lifeless with the emphasis placed more on the witty dialogue than anything else.
When a composer is found dead in his apartment the obvious cause of death is suicide but detective Joe Warne (George Raft - Some like it Hot) has a nagging doubt and despite being told not to waste time investigating the case goes ahead. He discovers the victim was a playboy, a serial dater and dumper of attractive women which he all called Dolores leading Joe to track down the women from the gallery of photos on the wall of the apartment as he suspects one of them to be the murderer.
As I mentioned the opening scene to "Nocturne" is impressive and in truth is the best part of the movie but it also sets the tone for the rest of the movie. On one hand we have film-noir as we see a woman sitting in the corner of the room, shadow obscuring her face so we can't make out who she is but we also have the mild amusement of Vincent the composer being smug in his treatment of women, smug in such a way that you wouldn't mind putting a slug in the arrogant jerk yourself. That mix of film-noir and humour continues through out the movie with various humorous characters often breaking the flow of drama, plus we have the fact that Joe as a grown man still lives with his mum who stays out late at night.
Now in fairness the writing is sharp and witty especially with most of the women being tough dames who are not intimidated when being questioned by the police. But as I said it seems to have taken the film-noir text book and picked various standard elements and scenes and recreated them. Yes that means we have solid use of shadows, people lurking in corners and heavies following Joe about but at the same time it is all so ordinary. Not once does it bring any life to this creation of typical elements and leaves it feeling like you've seen it all before. And that also makes it less than subtle as we see things before Joe does whilst Joe does stuff which feels unbelievable such as tracking down 9 women in 2 days with only their photos to go on.
But in truth most of the problems arise from the casting of George Raft as Joe because Raft is so stiff through out the entire movie that he ends up uninteresting. There is no emotion or passion in his performance and he always stands there stiff as a board, it just makes it very hard to get into when you have such an uninteresting central character. It also means that all the women end up coming across as over the top because there passion and vibrancy is too much of a contrast to Raft's stiffness.
What this all boils down to is that "Nocturne" is just an average film-noir which could have been so much better with a different actor and more time spent on making the style more original.