Firstly before we start, let's just take a moment to acknowledge how beautiful this poster is.
Isn't it just a thing of design brilliance?
Director Basil Dearden delivers a Noirish curio in All Night Long, an entertaining update of Shakespeare's Othello set in the London jazz scene of the early '60s. In reworking the Bard, the scriptwriting team of Nel King and 'Peter Achilles' - the pseudonym for blacklisted exiled American Paul Jarrico - shift some of the focus from the titular character of the Moor, depicted here as jazz band leader Aurelius Rex (Paul Harris) and onto his duplicitous, malevolent drummer Johnny Cousin played to slimy, jittery perfection by the great Patrick McGoohan.
The action takes place almost exclusively in the converted dockland warehouse pad of a titled music patron played by Richard Attenborough (who seems three decades ahead of the yuppie trend for London's Docklands warehouse conversions) who is busy preparing a surprise first year anniversary party for Rex and his bride, Delia (Marti Stevens) Milling around the pad, setting up their instruments and helping themselves to a drink is a truly eclectic and diverse cast which includes real jazz greats like Charles Mingus, Dave Brubeck, Johnny Dankworth ("Sorry Cleo couldn't make it!"), Johnny Scott and Tubby Hayes as well as the likes of Bernard Braden as a recording studio money man, Keith Michell as Cass, the Cassio role naturally, Harry Towb, Betsy Blair and in a brief uncredited role, future Ken Loach favourite Carol White.
McGoohan's Johnny stalks around the proceedings dripping poison in everyone's ear as he attempts to manipulate the evening's events to propel himself into the big time, smuggling away Delia from the group and her marriage to be his singer. The plot stays pretty close to Shakespeare (until the end, at least) and neatly embraces the contemporary using such props as doctored tape recordings and cigarette cases as plot devices used to further Johnny's web of lies. Race and more specifically racial politics is alluded to in the mature way one would expect from Dearden who was also responsible for Sapphire and Flame In The Streets and one doesn't have to imagine how rare the film's progressive use of mixed-race couples was for early '60s cinema.
The dated hipster dialogue may appear occasionally contrived or just plain cringeworthy to some but I think it lends to the retro appeal now inherent in the production, and at least its delivered relatively well by the assembled cast. Certainly, Attenborough may have been a little too long in the tooth to truly convince in his role but he serves as a strong and reassuring ballast and master of ceremonies for the more unknown and inexperienced actors around him.
It's fair to say the film belongs to the powerhouse McGoohan, who plays his own drums here (and I couldn't help but think of the intro to The Prisoner every time Dearden showed the darkening storm clouds and had thunder claps fill the air) but Paul Harris' dignified and hurt Rex is also worthy of strong praise.
Wisely, the real-life musicians aren't expected to act all that much in terms of the drama that occurs around them and Dearden uses them primarily as credible background decoration, before shifting them to the foreground to do what they do best and enliven the proceedings with their musical talent.