Tuesday’s Overlooked: Dead of Night (1945)

I have mentioned this post before but have not dedicated a whole post to my selection for this week’s overlooked film, Dead of Night. This film hails from Great Britain and is the product of the venerable Ealing Studios.

Basically it is a horror anthology that consists of six tales. The framing for these stories is set on a country estate where Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) arrives at a dinner party whose guests seem all too familiar. So much so, he is confident that he will know how all the subsequent events for the evening will proceed. What ensues next is sort of a parlor game, where the guests put Craig’s foresight to the test, interspersed with their own tales of the supernatural.

What makes this so impactful in my eyes is the fact that many of the segments (like in many such film anthologies) is done by different directors:

  • Alberto Cavalcanti (“Christmas Party” and “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy”)
  • Charles Crichton(“Golfing Story”)
  • Basil Dearden (“Hearse Driver” and “Linking Narrative”)
  • Robert Hamer (“The Haunted Mirror”)

At a swift 102 minute running time, each story is neatly told and packs the essential narrative punch. It was only upon a recent re-watch did I realize just how scary some of the stories were, and not just the most famous of the pieces – “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” featuring Michael Redgrave. It is definitely a precursor to the classic Cliff Robertson “Twilight Zone” episode.

Of course some of them work better than others – I am thinking of “Golfing Story”  which features Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne (some may remember them as the cricket-obsessed duo from Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes); I suppose their bit was to add a humor and levity to the proceedings. But as a piece to send shivers down one’s spine, I would not say it was the most effective.

Even if you are not a horror or suspense fan, I recommend that you seek this film out. Although actually acquiring the title may present a bit of a challenge, as it is not listed as being available on DVD.

Comments

  1. Patti Abbott says:

    I love these sorts of anthologies although anything with a ventriloquist scares me to death.

  2. It’s rather a pity, really, that Ealing (while doing so well with black and fantasticated comedy) didn’t choose to do much (any?) other horror film, per se…
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  3. Great choice – this is a genuinely creepy film, especially the climax to the redgrave story of course and the circular ending, which has certainly been copies often enough. Charles Barr in his anthology ALL OUR YESTERDAYS makes a fascinating case comparing this narrtive structure with that of the David lean film BRIEF ENCOUNTER, which is also short in the expressionist style and which is also all told in flashback to an audience and ends up right back where it started, makign one wonder what was dream and what was real.
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  4. Hi, iluv and company:

    Great choice!

    People often for get that Ealing did creepy, but not quite scary better than most during the 1940s.

    I’m also with Patti. Film’s with ventriloquists don’t sit well with me to begin with. But Flying Monkey are the worst!

  5. Good call. I’m a big Ealing fan- the films not the suburb- and Dead Of Night really does seem out of place. But a corker of a film with some cracking actors.
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  6. Agree with those above, a really great-looking cast. Ealing’s Lavender Hill Mob is one of my all-time faves. I saw a film of Alberto Cavalcanti’s, WENT THE DAY WELL? on the big screen last year…it was quite a movie, about an English village taken over by Nazis. I’m not into scary movies very often, but I may have to check this out if I can get a hold of it.
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  7. Sounds interesting, but ventriloquists creep me out big time! Is Michael Redgrave related to Vanessa Redgrave?
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