Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dead of Night (1945)

Great title. So-so film.

British horror film from Ealing Studio unites directors Alberto Cavalcanti (The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby), Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob), Basil Dearden (The League of Gentlemen) and Robert Hamer (Kind Hearts and Coronets).

This 1945 release is a collection of shorts stitched together under a bigger narrative. There's five stories here (Christmas Party, The Ventriloquist's Dummy, Golfing Story, Hearse Driver and The Haunted Mirror) plus the overriding story.

Architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Jones) heads out to the country to do work on a home. There, he has an uneasy feeling he has ventured out to the property before and knows the residents, and guests, inside.

He shares his story and, by jove, just about everyone else has a creepy story to tell too.

Well, they're not all creepy.


Hearse Driver and The Haunted Mirror have all the subtlety of a cement block dropped on one's foot.

Golfing Story, based on a story by H.G. Wells, is a real hoot. Two long-tiem buddies love golf and the same girl. They decide they'll hit the links for a game to decide who gets their lady love. The loser talks a long walk in a deep pond, but comes back when he learns his buddy cheated during their round. When he forgets how to make himself disappear, frustrations mount.

The Ventriloquist's Dummy is a standout too. American ventriloquist catches hot British act in a French nightclub. Follow that? Dummy wants to work with the new guy. American talent is confused. Does the dummy talk on his own? Why's the British chap drinking so much and acting paranoid? This is a great effort.


Still trying to make sense of the film's ending when all the stories come together to terrorize Craig. Is he mentally ill? Did he dream the whole episode? Is he doomed to repeat the country visit for the rest of his days?

My advice: Watch Golfing Story and The Ventriloquist's Dummy. Skip the rest.

RATING: 9/10 (for two recommended stories)
RATING: 7/10 (the entire film)

FUN FACTS: Actress Googie Withers died on July 15, 2011. She was 94. Withers' credits include The Lady Vanishes and Shine, her last role.

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