This film is about a man who could be a poster boy for Alcoholics Anonymous. Naturally, he’s living in New York City and working as (what else?) a writer.
As the title suggests, the story takes place over the course of a weekend in which the alcoholic Don Birnam (Ray Milland) is supposed to take a short vacation with his girlfriend Helen (Jane Wyman) and his brother Wick (Phillip Terry), who are both concerned about his drinking. Unfortunately, Helen and Whit are too stupid to live naïve to the ways of alcoholics and actually leave Don behind, on his assurances that he’ll catch a train and join them later. But instead of going to the train station, Don heads for his favorite bar. One bottle of cheap whiskey later and it’s “Good night, nurse,” for ole Don.
Nearly the entire weekend is spent with Don as he stumbles about looking for booze or money. He manages to scrape up a few bucks from an old girlfriend, only to take a tumble down a staircase and knock himself unconscious. Then he awakens in a nightmarish hospital alcoholic ward, but makes his escape when one of the other inmates goes violently off his rocker.
By the time Monday rolls around, Don has stolen a bottle of booze, then spends the day drinking and hallucinating, and not in a fun way. Eventually, Helen notices Don never showed up. She’s also tipped off to Don’s problems by his landlady who informs her that Don’s been at home, screaming like a banshee.
Without revealing the ending (for that would be a total spoiler), let’s just say that Don learns his lesson. Has any other movie so vividly captured the horror of being an alcoholic, with the possible exception of Days of Wine and Roses?
This classic of the film noir variety deserves two thumbs up!