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Today some generations would rather turn on the TV to watch a violent and trivial slasher horror movie on late night Ch5, and would completely ignore this feature nestling in a late night slot on Ch4. All I can say is that it's a pity. Of the five horror stories related in this film the Haunted Mirror story and the Ventriloquist story stand out as true spine tinglers. The Golfing story is more comical and suffers in comparison, but is designed to keep viewers in acute readiness for the Ventriloquist story which follows. The Party story is also more tame than the others. I suppose the Haunted Mirror story and the Ventriloquist story gave people the same feelings about mirrors and dummies respectively that Psycho gave people about showers and that Jaws gave people about the sea. I never looked at our sitting room mirror in quite the same way after watching this film. Michael Redgrave gives a great performance as the increasingly unstable ventriloquist. Without any major special effects this film still chills and thrills in a way that modern horror movies seldom do and the black and white photography helps; the ending would not carry the same atmosphere in colour. Don't pass this one by in favour of any gory modern horror film.
One of the great triumphs of the British cinema, a peerless example of
English surrealism that not only takes what is best in a peculiarly English
tributary of literature, the ghost story, the nonsense works of Lewis
Carroll etc. - but, in its practices, looks forward to that great serial of
English surrealist fantasy, 'The Avengers'.
Not the least of its achievements is the way it takes those markers of English conservatism, fetishised most famously in the films of Merchant Ivory - the country house, the upper middle-classes, the family recreations of the past - markers that point to a reassuring stability; and makes them unstable, troubling, eerie, locii of menace, uncertainty, violence, where free will and social ties are negated, and darker impulses, fantasies, desires, dread form all laws.
Louis Aragon once said that surrealism never took off in England because its insistent normality was already dangerously surreal - not only are the stories here mere tweakings of the normal into the frightening, but even th e framing story itself shows how the predictable can seem eccentric, weird even - Sally's mother, for instance.
The film sets up an opposition between the scientific German rationalism of the psychoanalyst, Dr. von Straaten, where every seemingly unearthly phenomena can be explained away, and the dream world of Walter Craig, where events are arbitrary and inexplicable. And it is true that Dr von Straaten's explanations are hopelessly inadequate. But on this evidence, he is not a very competent psychoanalyst. There are more convincing explanations of each story on their own terms.
For instance, he could examine the connections between each story. Each features doubles - Hugh Grainger gets a vision of his own possible death, with the Hearse Driver repeated as the conductor of the fatal bus; Peter Cortland is doubled not only in the reflection of the cursed mirror, but in the personality and destiny of its first owner; Sally and her friend are doubled in the young ghost and his murderous sister; George Parratt and Larry Potter are two golfers battling over the same woman - Larry becomes the ghostly double of his former self; in the film's most famous sequence, Maxwell Frere is doubled by his malevolent dummy.
Another related connection is sex and death - Hugh's vision of his own death is just after he has proposed to his future wife, emergent desire and imminent death patently aligned; Sally's immersion in the ghost story is just after fending off sexual advances from Jimmy, her growing sexual awareness linked to the tale of a young girl who slits her own brother's neck, intimations of castration, incest etc.
My favourite sequence is the mirror one, a brilliant analysis of marriage. The gift of the mirror comes at the precise moment Joan tells her fiance she got a lift from a rival suitor, and he gets his first vision. This splitting of himself, making strange the domestic familiar is linked to his fear of his wife's infidelity, but also his fear of losing his identity in marriage, his loss of independence, his whole unit becoming a fraction of another, making him impotent, emasculated, dependent - after all, Joan is the one organising everything. His fear of her sexual freedom is equated with his own loss of bachelor liberty.
Larry's suicide and haunting is as a result of losing the woman he loves. Only Frere's tale has no explicit sexual content, but its similarity with the others - doubles, mirrors, the supernatural etc. - suggest a submerged theme, that of homosexuality, for instance, the need to lead a double life, linked to performance of multiple roles that is Frere's profession. Biography may further this interpretation.
But this is to play Dr von Straaten's game, to neuter the uncanny, explain it away, exorcise our dark sides. The framing story refuses such tidiness. It in itself is a dream - the stories are narratives within a dream, and contain their own stories and flashbacks. This is a film that both celebrates stories and undermines their reliability.
The film's satire on psychoanalysis may be dated, but its analysis of storytelling has not. Both seek to order and explain experience, channel its fragments, uncertainties and ambiguities, assert meaning. The framing story, however, in its uncertain mixture of dream and reality, its refusal to close and limit, its daring circularity robs the story of its controlling power, showing that life is too slippery to be held, that reality is never objective, that, as Plato feared, we might all be mere dreams or shadows. The film's style, with its labyrinthine framing within frames, gives a visual equivalent of the Chinese-box narrative.
Dead of Night is just something like a nightmare. Romantic, funny,
mysterious and terrifying dream. I think in this film is not the point
in watching the future but the premonition and despair.
This is one compound of confusing psychological experience, sharing stories by several protagonists, and at the end the main protagonist of all the experiences connected to one fantastic nightmare climax. Witnesses chronologically contain foreboding and vision, love and hallucination, "spicy" section and finally jealous split personality. Attempted murder leads to hilarious dreamy swirl in which intertwine all recounted horrors individually.
Michael Redgrave as Maxwell Frere left the deepest impression as mad ventriloquist. All the other actors are episodic protagonists who dominate in their sequences. Group of director and screenwriter made sure that every story has a frightening honest tone.
Such an entertaining movie! It grabs you pretty quickly in the beginning and keeps you captivated throughout the film. Great plot, story line, dialogue and great performances by all. Definitely worth watching. Michael Redgrave is one of my favorite British actors. Anyone see him in "The Browning Version"? Each character's relayed experience is so intriguing. My husband doesn't especially like old British movies. After the man started explaining about his dream and the real life similarities he was finding with the group of guests, he told me "Don't change the channel!" We were transfixed through the entire movie. Highly recommend this one and hope to see it again some time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This British anthology film of "Twilight Zone" type stories (15 years
before that famous TV series debuted) is one of Martin Scorcese's
favorite scary films. After just viewing it this morning, I must say it
is very odd that this quite effective and occasionally chilling horror
anthology is the solitary attempt by Ealing Studios to make a scary
The trick of the movie (and if you haven't seen it, stop reading here if you don't want the magic of the film spoiled) is that it ends where the story begins; a perpetual reoccurring dream of an architect ensnared in its sinister clutches. However, once you examine the narrative, an obvious fallacy reveals itself.
The nut of the matter is this: in order for the dream (and presumably, the film) to start up again in what we would consider "normal" reality, the architect, Mr. Craig, has to fall asleep in his bed back at home with his wife. However, during the course of the story's unfolding at Pilgrim Farm where all the house guests relate their tales of the supernatural, there is the sticky question of when it is that Mr. Craig falls asleep, and an even stickier question of how his body would be returned to his bedroom in the city.
Therefore, the only feasible explanation left for us is that Mr. Craig never wakes up. In fact, when we see him waking up near the end of the movie, he is actually still asleep and only dreaming that he is waking up. But even this explanation seems wanting; why would this architect dream about all these strangers at a country farm he's never been to in the first place?
Here is where the argumentative dialogue between the characters needs to be examined. With the exception of the psychiatrist, who represents the voice of reason and Newtonian cause-and-effect governing our reality, all of the other characters defend the architect's view that supernatural events sometimes impinge on our mundane reality.
The only premise that makes sense to me, therefore, is that the film itself is holding itself up as a mirror to this pro-supernatural view, with the skeptical psychiatrist acting as a foil to generate the necessary tension. In sum, the key to opening this Chinese puzzle box is in recognizing that we the viewers, due to our willingness to suspend disbelief, automatically presume that Mr. Craig is an actual character. He is not. In a sly way, in his role as the "architect," he represents the film itself.
As a post script, let me add that I think Stanley Kubrick must have seen "Dead of Night" and enjoyed it, for there is more than a bit of this dynamic psychological tension generated in his adaptation of Stephen King's "The Shining" (1980). For example, in "Dead of Night," one of the scarier tales concerns a mirror holding a separate spatio-temporal reality within its frame, a portal to another dimension; a narrative device Kubrick and his co-writer Diane Johnson make ample use of in imbuing the Overlook Hotel with a treacherous ambiance that ensnares its doomed protagonist Jack Torrance.
Speculation on this film's influence on Mr. Kubrick aside, however, "Dead of Night" is wonderful entertainment and remarkably ingenious. My only regret is that I didn't get to see it late at night on TV as a boy, as many of the fortunate reviewers here on IMDb have delightfully related; I'm sure it would have scared the crap out of me, too.
Mr. Scorcese, if you ever happen to read this, thank you for turning me on to this thought-provoking film!
Classic supernatural anthology film starts when architect Walter Craig
(Mervyn Johns) arrives at a country house along with several other
guests. Craig has been having a recurring nightmare and it starts this
same way. As each guest takes their turn telling their story, it
becomes clear to Craig that his nightmare is coming true. This is the
set-up for the film, where each guest's story is told.
The first story, "The Hearse Driver," is about a racing driver (Anthony Baird) who is haunted by a vision of a hearse (coach not car). The second story, "The Christmas Story," is a ghost story about a group of kids playing hide & seek at a Christmas party, where a young girl (Sally Ann Howes) meets a mysterious boy in the attic. Both of these stories are good but fairly routine efforts. Anybody who has seen or read ghost stories, even in 1945, will have encountered similar material. "The Haunted Mirror" is the third story is about an antique mirror a woman (Googie Withers) buys that seems to have a strange hold on her husband (Ralph Michael). This is possibly my favorite story in the film. It's definitely the most underrated. Ralph Michael gives a fantastic performance as the man drawn to this strange mirror and being slowly driven to kill.
The fourth story is a humorous one called "The Golfing Story," about a pair of friends (Basil Radford, Naunton Wayne) who are rivals for the same girl. They decide to settle who gets her over a game of golf. It's a likable, frivolous story, written by H.G. Wells, and sandwiched between two darker ones, presumably to lighten the mood somewhat. The last, and most famous, story from the film is "The Ventriloquist's Dummy." Psychologist Dr. van Straaten (Frederick Valk) tells how he was called in to determine the sanity of a ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) who claims his dummy Hugo is alive. This story is the one for which the movie is most remembered. Obviously there have been dozens of similarly-themed stories down through the years. If you have seen some or most of those before you come to Dead of Night, you might be less impressed by this story. Still, it's very good with an outstanding performance by Redgrave.
The beginning of the film ties back in at the end in a clever way that is one of the best twist endings to a horror anthology film I've seen (and they all seem to have them). What I said before about the impact of the final story being diluted somewhat by years of imitations, remakes, homages, etc. can be said for the entire film. Most of these stories have been done, in one variation after another, in films and television shows for decades. I think this is perhaps why the film is not more widely regarded today. I've recommended the film to several people over the years and they've all come away liking it but also with a sense of disappointment. To a person they all cite the sense of familiarity of some of the stories, particularly the ventriloquist one. Unfair as it is, that's just an unfortunate side effect of being an influential film. I would still recommend you watch it and try it for yourself.
I remember being bowled over as a kid when I first saw this classic. I
know now that American cinema of the time simply wouldn't risk
confusing an audience with such a complex (stunning) wrap-around and a
string of separate stories. Then too, that was before humanoid dummies
became a horror cliché, and so the effect was doubly jarring.
Nonetheless, I'm still astonished at how well Redgrave shades his
stages of madness, certainly Oscar worthy in some universe. That
episode may be the creepiest and most difficult to figure out in the
whole horror genre.
But what really amazes me now is how such a completely collaborative effort could have turned out so well11 writers, 4 directors, and a large cast of principals. Usually collaborative efforts amount to less than the whole; this one, however, is considerably greater than the whole. After so many comments, there's no need to echo the obvious, except to point out that true horror depends on the psychological and in no way depends on buckets of blood. In my book, the movie's as good now as it was 60-years ago.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I always treat this film as a companion to 'Night of the Demon', as it is of a similar age and uses the same technique of slowly turning the screw. It is of the 'portmanteau' type, with several scary tales included within an overall story. Each tale is told by a guest at a country house which itself is said to have an unsettling history. Our 'hero' Walter Craig (the much underrated Mervyn Johns) is on his way to meet a customer in the country. He arrives there to find everything strangely familiar, from the layout of the house to the guests, each of which has an interesting story to tell.(SPOILERS FROM HERE) The tales themselves are of varying quality and scare value, but the creepiness slowly builds up as several predictions he has been bold enough to make begin to come true. Panic ensues when the lighting fails, and our protagonist finds himself murdering the doctor. He enters a world of terrifying madness populated by the characters from the guest's stories. This short sequence is the film's climax and is genuinely horrifying. Suddenly the scene changes and he wakes up to find the whole thing was a dreadful nightmare, so he gets up and sets off on his trip to meet a customer in the country. And in one of those twists that makes your neck-hair stand up he arrives at the very same house, and you realise this poor man is going to re-live this ghastly nightmare forever.... Overall it's a great film with quite a subtle blend of tension and horror. Acting and direction is efficient rather than arty and the film is a little heavy-handed in places, but it still beats the heck out of modern attempts.
Firstly a piece of advice: if you call yourself a horror fan and what
really ticks your boxes in the genre are gore and blood - FORGET IT:
Either we can say the film is no match for your dubious taste or your mind is not of the kind which likes to "work out" a bit - GET BACK TO YOUR GRATUITOUS excuse of a horror film whatever it might be!
On the other hand if you're someone whose favorite genre is REAL horror - and it doesn't matter if it's either movies or short stories in a book - you should definitely bow to the geniuses behind the making of this precious little gem.
The plot is powerful and evolving. The atmosphere (and what an atmosphere!)is creepy and eerie and that creeps up even further supported by the astonishing photography, acting and technical skills of its crew and cast as the plot develops.
Had I seen it when a kid - just like other commentators did - I'm sure it'd have stuck in my mind deeply. I didn't but the dejavu and feeling of this or that scene being familiar reminds us of the umpteen homages and copies that came afterwards - some even went as far as plagiarizing it, I'd say. And since copying is sometimes another way of flattering, one can realize that along with filmmakers they're not alone on thinking this is a staple in the world of horror art.
And just to emphasize the very definition of horror: it's not the characters' pain or bloodshed which scares the hell out of a true fan of the genre: it's their very own fear which makes up for most of the things he or she, as viewer, cannot see.
I really like the way this was composed and presented. I like Mervyn Johns and he comes across quite well here. Normally, he plays minor characters, so it was nice to see him stretch his acting legs. This centers around two people, Johns, who seems to be having a deja-vu experience, and a psychologist who listens to the stories and evaluates them. Each of the stories would have stood on its own. Some are better than others, but each grabs the viewer. Things are eventually integrated which is a lot of fun as well. I wonder if Rod Serling saw this movie because there is a lot of "Twilight Zone" in these stories. My favorites are the one about the mirror and the final one, the ventriloquist. But what really makes it all work is the undercurrent of danger we know they are all in. There are so many pregnant statements that foreshadow events. So even as they spin their yarns there is a much greater issue lurking. The people are likable and pleasant but where did they come from and why are they there. See this; it's quite diverting.
Five different ghost stories in this anthology with different writers
and directors tied to an architect (Mervyn Johns) who is plagued by
The scare factor varies with each segment, but the Ventriloquist's Dummy segment in which Michael Redgrave's wild-eyed ventriloquist performs with a demonic puppet that's out to get him, makes this film worth the time. Influencing everything from Anthony Hopkins in Magic to the Child's Play series, it's a venerable little chiller that hasn't lost a scrap of its hair-raising power over the last 60 years.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Dead of Night" (1945) is a haunting and great film that doubtlessly
ranges among the true classics of British Horror cinema. Not only does
this film mark the beginning of the rise of post-WW2 British Horror
cinema, it is also the milestone that single-handedly popularized the
sub-genre of Anthology/Omnibus Horror, which would have its heyday
about two decades later. But even regardless of its status as a classic
and milestone, this elegant and creepy film is a true must-see to every
Horror fan as it simply promises a haunting and eerie heck of a time.
The film begins when a man arrives at a rural cottage where a bunch of people have met. He recognizes all of them as people from his dreams; his nightmares, to be precise. Each of them has a story to tell, resulting in five spooky tales of the supernatural... Brazilian director/producer Alberto Calvacanti, who was mainly active in Europe, is the only credited director of the film, but in fact the film had four directors: Calvacanti who directed two segments and the complete film, Charles Crichton (segment "Golfing Story"), Basil Dreaden (segments "Hearse Driver" and "Linking Narrative") and Robert Hamer, who directed the creepiest segment, "The Haunted Mirror".
Without giving away too much, I can say that all of the stories are more than enjoyable for a Horror fan. Four of them are creepy and great whereas one, "Golfing Story" is humorous and a bit too silly, but still fun to watch. The anthology opens solidly with an eerie, though not overtly exciting story called "Hearse Driver". The tale about the Haunted Mirror is, in my opinion, by far the creepiest and most atmospheric one. The segment is very eerie from the beginning to the end and features several truly spine-chilling moments; the reflection in the eponymous mirror is very, very creepy. The episode about the ventriloquist is also great, and was vastly influential for later Horror productions. Personally, I also like the creepy little episode about the Christmas party a lot; as the Golf-Episode, it was originally cut from the American version. The segments are brilliantly linked and the film culminates in an incredibly creepy climax that is is simply astonishing. The entire film is elegantly filmed in nice Gothic settings, the atmosphere is always eerie and tense. Overall, "Dead of Night" is a true Horror classic that must be seen by all fans of the genre... over and over again! Not to be missed!
Like the other reviewer, I was terrified by this film as a child, though for me it was the story about the Ventriloquist's Dummy which recurred for years in nightmares; and, seeing it again as a grown-up (well, sort of), it still gives me some uneasy moments. In this segment, directed by Cavalcanti, Michael Redgrave gives a chilling and convincing portrait of growing madness. The end of the film--or rather its two endings, one of which continues the Dummy sequence--are among the best of any horror film I have ever seen. I agree with the other reviewer about the power of the Haunted Mirror sequence, which achieves with great narrative economy and clever photography an impression of claustrophobic possession and violence far more effective than all the detached body parts and buckets of fake blood that dominate most horror films. The underlying strength of the film, which carries all the stories, is the high quality of its ensemble cast, as so often with British films of the period, and the ordinariness of the setting for the linking sequences: no spooky haunted mansion or misty graveyard, but a comfortable, well-lit country house inhabited by charming and civilised people, each of whom turns out to have another life far outside the comfort zone. Do see it.
Saw this years ago, dead of night, when it should be watched. Mousy
architect has recurring nightmare (an early version of Groundhog Day),
of which most of the movie's comprised.
To help alleviate him of his anguish, characters in his nightmare each tell a tale of a nightmarish experience. Tales culminate with one of the greatest horror effects ever, so popular that it's been used on the silent screen (The Great Gabbo) & on TV (Hitchcock & Twilight Zone each had a version): the old ventriloquist's-dummy-assumes-the-ventriloquist's-persona trick. An ideal metaphor for the schizoid personality.
Spirited dialogue, Michael Redgrave, & enough smoking & drinking to acquire whatever 2d-hand ailments there are to be acquired. & Don't forget Hugo: "Good niiiiiight!"
***SPOILERS*** It seems like forever that architect Walter Craig,
Mervyn Johns, has been waking up in a cold sweat from a nightmare that
he only has fleeting memories of.
One cold morning Craig ,as unusual, wakes up disturbed and befuddled of what he just dreamed about and after kissing his wife, Renee Gadd, goodbye. Craig drives out to the little town of Kent, out in the English countryside, to the Foley Estate to talk over with Mr. Foley , Roland Culver, about some work he's to do on his property. As Mr. Foley leads Craig into his spacious living room he meets a number of his, Foley's, friends staying over his house for the weekend. Craig's subconscious mind starts to open up as he starts to get glimpse of what's to happen as a very powerfully and frightening sense of deja vu comes over him and he starts to relive the nightmare that's been haunting him all these dark and eerie nights.
Very early, if not the first, movie anthology of murder madness and the supernatural with five different stories that in the end fuse together as a real-life house of horrors for the poor confused and tormented Walter Craig. As the guests at the Foley house recall strange events in their lives Craig starts to see his nightmare come to life as he slowly begins to realize what the final and shocking outcome is going to be, where at the same time Craig knows that there's nothing that he can do to stop it!
In a series of flashbacks all the stories that the guest tell link together, like in a jigsaw puzzle, and become the nightmare that has been haunting Craig all these nights. With the exception of the golf sequence which has really nothing to do with the movie or Craig's nightmare, and seems to have been put in just to pad and lengthen the film. Each of the chapters has Craig as the main character in them but it's only at the very end that you, and Walter Craig, realize that. By far the best of the sequences has to be the one with the mysterious ventriloquist dummy and the person Maxwell Frere, Michael Redgrave, who used it in his act. I remember seeing similar sequences like that one in many movies and even in a 1960's "Twilight Zone" TV episode with Cliff Robertson but none were ever as good as this one.
Craig seems to be on automatic pilot throughout the entire time he's at the Foley home as everything, and everyone, that he sees play themselves out in a surreal and frightening fashion as his minds snaps and he descends into a dark abyss of insanity and murder. The ending of "Dead of Night" is somewhat anti-climatic but does explain what is really behind Craig's strange and repeating dreams or nightmares but we in the audience, unlike Walter Craig, realize that there's really nothing that can be done to cure, or make him forget, them.
I first saw "Dead of Night" around the mid sixties, and as others have said, it sent shivers down your spine. Agreed it is a bit dated now, but that is understandable after such a long time. Having viewed it now, around thirty odd times, for me it has lost none of it's appeal, Miles Malleson excels, as do Mervyn Johns and Michael Redgrave. The "haunted mirror" sequence with Googie Withers is especially frightening, in fact even now, whenever I go into an antique shop and see a large mirror hanging on the wall, I often wonder what terrors would await me if I bought it and took it home..... Actually, I quite enjoyed the light relief of "The golfer's tale" with Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, quirky,and very British..... Interesting that Johns and Sally Anne Howes were cast together in another Ealing classic from the previous year "Halfway House", which IMO is equally enjoyable......Recommended as a "must see".... "Just room for one inside sir".................
My father first showed me this film when I was about Seven years old.No
other horror film has impacted on me, like this one. The acting is
sensational, the plot and direction flawless. WhatI find most eery
about this film is that there seems to be something very real and
fammilar about the whole dead of night concept. I almost feel comforted
when i watch this film, despite it being spooky, the surreal ideas feel
very natural and insightful to something.Like where really on the verge
of understanding something about the human mind and our relations to
each other The comic relief golf scene never seizes to amuse, even
though I feel it's a little out of sync and doesn't exactly flow with
the rest of the film. Whenever I make a new friend, I ask them to watch
this film, even if they are what you might call a movie buff. This is a
special film. I feel honoured to have seen it. Does anyone know much
about the director/writer???
sorry about all the terrible spelling
What appears to be a get together at an old cottage turns out to be something more when a mysterious man shows up and knows more than is humanly possible. The people present begin to tell ghost stories and attempt to unravel the mystery. For a movie made in 1945 it's pretty damn scary and psychotic I've never seen anything quite like it for such a old classic. Sort of like Psycho or Vertigo if I had to make a comparison or perhaps more like The Others or The Sixth Sense if you want something a little more contemporary. I didn't know any of the actors or actresses and haven't seen them in anything else but it's the plot you're interested in more than the characters similar to The Usual Suspects in that regard. A good movie to scare the pants off you on a dark stormy night.
I had always looked forward to seeing this film. It is well-regarded among critics, horror and otherwise. The snippets and short reviews, however positive, do not do it justice. While the individual stories that make up Dead of Night are related only in context, they are woven tightly together by a strong central narrative. The main character is summoned to a country estate to do some work on a house. He's brought into the house and greeted by others who are gathered there. The character than has a revelation: he's already had a dream about visiting the house and meeting the other guests. The dream told him that something ominous is about to happen. The other guests, fascinated by his revelation, reveal their own brushes with the supernatural. One guest, a psychiatrist, is skeptical about these stories and about the main character's dream. His bounces his doubt off of each story and finally reveals a bizarre tale of his own--the most effective of the lot. There's more to Dead of Night than just the stories. The main character's visit to the house isn't just a vehicle for supernatural tales, as it was in films such as Dr. Terror's House of Horrors. The filmmakers had deeper intentions for Dead of Night. Like The Cabinet of Dr. Caliguri, Dead of Night has a surprise in store for the viewer, and has spawned countless imitations from lesser films. Dead of Night is a brilliant horror film, easily of the best ever in the genre. The cast, direction and screenplay are magnificent. If you are a horror fan and haven't seen this film, go out and get it immediately.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am surprised that no-one has commented on the amazing similarity between the ventriloquist's tale in "Dead of Night" and "Psycho". Fifteen years before Marion Crane visited the Bates Motel and her fateful encounter with Norman, an American ventriloquist met an English member of the same profession with pretty dire, if not quite so traumatic, results. There was even a psychiatrist around to attempt a behavioural explanation; that for part of the time the English ventriloquist was himself and at others he was his dummy. Heard it again fifteen years later or something rather like it? You must have done. There is even a scene at the end of the story where, locked in a police cell, the ventriloquist, brilliantly played by Michael Redgrave in as nervously twitchy a way as Anthony Perkins's Norman, stares at us the audience addressing us with the voice of the dummy he has destroyed. There now, how's that for a dummy run (excuse the pun) for the great Hitchcock shocker! For the rest "Dead of Night" is one of those portmanteau films much favoured around the middle of the last century which now seems to have gone out of fashion. It was always one of the best of a genre that included "Un Carnet de Bal", "Tales of Manhatten", "Full House" and "Le Plaisir", but, as usual with such compilations, it suffers through the unevenness of its episodes. "The Ventriloquist's Story" directed by Cavalcanti is easily the best of its five tales, followed closely by Robert Hamer's "The Haunted Mirror". The others are slighter and make less of an impact. But where "Dead of Night" scores over most other portmanteaus is in the brilliance of its linking tale in which an architect visits a country house and meets a group of people, each with a strange story to tell, whom he feels he has met before. The visit ends with his nightmare peopled by the characters in the tales, from which he wakes only to set out again on the journey with which the film began. The idea of a film that will never end is strangely chilling and makes for one of the most unsettling experiences in cinema.
Dead of Night is probably the Grandfather of the horror anthology movie/series. The stories are the very best of subtle yet eerie horror of the very unexplained.This movie has been influencial and continues to be so even today. One has to only look at the Twilight Zone, Tales of the Crypt and others to see this film classics influence. My personal favorite story was the girl who goes up the stairs and finds a boy who was crying. All four stories are very good. The acting, the script an and the stories themselves are excellently done. If you are looking for decapitated heads and disembowled bodies then this will not be your cup of tea, so to speak. This is for lovers of classic, subtle, hair-standing-up on the back of your neck type of horror where ones brain and imagination has to do some work for once. This is a must for all fans of the horror genre.
The original "Groundhog day" but without the happy ending. I first saw this film at home one Sunday afternoon in the late sixties and it terrified me! I was only about 8 years old at the time, but it had the same effect 10 years later.(Don't tell my friends!)I envy people who haven't seen it yet and don't know the plot. It must have been a fantastic cinema experience when it was first released. Oh to own a time machine!
I remember reading an article once that "Dead of Night" was one of the inspirations for Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone" - and if you've ever seen this movie, it's easy to believe this is true. Told as a series of short vignettes, it involves a group of people relating scary stories, which in turn are acted out for our benefit. My father had seen this movie as a young boy, and it made such an impression on him, that he woke me up very late one Saturday Night when I was about fourteen when he discovered it on the late night movie. He had told me about it many times, as we were both huge fans of "The Twilight Zone" and similar types of creepy tales, and when I saw it that first time (having missed the very beginning), I was hooked. It's one of those movies that fascinates you and creeps you out at the same time. When I got my first VCR back in the 80's, it was one of the first movies I began hunting for. When I finally found it, I bought two copies, and promptly gave one to Dad. I've since turned many people on to this classic, including my thirteen year-old daughter, who thought it was one of the best "old movies" that she's ever seen, as well as "totally creepy."
I saw 'Dead Of Night' when I was about nine, and the final segment - with the dummy Hugo Fitch, gave me morbid fear of dummies and puppets that lasts to this day. I took my daughter to see a Punch and Judy show when she was about three years old, and afterwards, The Professor asked if anyone wanted to see Mr Punch close up. The answer was very firmly No! I can't sleep in a room with dolls or puppets in, i really don't like seeing them, nothing would induce me to touch one. All this from the power of one film - imagination is a wonderful thing ... sometimes!
The spiraling of the linking narrative from reality??? to surreal nightmare is handled very well. Very creepy film. Could have done without the golfing story and the nightclub song (that always seems to be thrown into movies of the forties). Googie Withers and Michael Redgrave are awesome, as is Mervyn Johns as the architect. The "other" bedroom in the mirror sequence is lovely (too bad it makes you want to kill your wife). A great classic of British film. The mirror story reminded me of "The Picture of Dorian Gray", and the Ventriloquist spawned "Magic" and countless other films. PEOPLE, YOU NEED TO SEE THIS FILM. It is definitely original and chilling.
You can't beat this film for hair raising chills and eerie atmosphere. A series of short stories connected through the framing device of a group of people, gathered in a rural English home, relating stories of strange happenings. There are two weak segments that have been deleted from some editions of this film. The Golf vignette seems out of place in this film, although it stars one of the most delightful English team of light comedians, Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne. The Christmas party with a very young Sally Anne Howes is not on par with the rest of the movie. The remaining three will chill you. Much has been written about the Redgraves ventriloquist story.....there is no need to repeat it here except to say that it will absolutely scare the socks off of you. My favorite is "The Haunted Mirror" with Googie Withers, a wonderful actress. It puts the nerves on edge and has a dark, brooding quality that is very effective. In a small part as the antiques dealer is Esme Percy, one of the unsung greats of British film. If you like him here, then see "Murder", an early Hitchcock talkie which showcases his eccentric talent. The framing story which features Mervyn Johns as the confused and frightened man trapped in a dream is top drawer. It will frighten you as much as the short stories contained within the overall film. The very end will blow you away!! This is British cinema at its best and is essential viewing for the movie buff.
This is an excellent piece which, apart from the episode of comedic relief, maintains its eerie quality despite the passing of years. Alberto Cavalcanti should be recognised as one of the greats of the directing craft, for his episode alone. It would be intriguing to see his other work. Dead of Night is the height of cinema and a yardstick for what can be accomplished without the histrionics of blood and guts. Hope you all enjoy it, regards, ANDY
I first saw 'Dead of Night' 55 years ago. Even now, thinking of it sends a cold chill down my spine.I have never forgotten the 'mirror' story, nor the blood-curdling story of the ventriloquist and his dummy - a masterpiece of acting by Redgrave, surely one of his finest performances ? Other film-makers have paid tribute to this film by virtue of imitation - some have come close, but no-one, surely, has surpassed its unique quality of demonstrating the indefinable boundaries between sanity and madness or the real and imagined. Seeing the film again a few years ago with some of the younger members of my family, I was surprised to observe their reactions and their observation that, without the assistance of blood,violence or special effects in colour, this short,simple black and white film had (and I quote) 'scared the daylights' out of them, particularly the 'mirror' episode.One wonders why they don't make them like this anymore ?
I have always been a fan of this fine British film since, as a twelve or so year old, I dragged my father off to see it at the "Gothic Film Society" in Holborn, London. One little mentioned but, in my opinion, essential ingredient in the Film's success is the great score by the French composer Georges Auric. I do not wish to give away any of the plot but if you compare the pastoral sequence which opens the film (when the Mervyn Johns character arrives at the farmhouse) with the nightmarish music at the end of the Film (which perfectly conveys the sense of impending catastrophe) you will see what I mean! Readers may be interested to know that the "Suite from Dead of Night" has recently been released (in the UK) on an enjoyable CD of Auric's film music on the Chandos record label, performed by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Rumon Gamba (the record number is CHAN 9774).
I will start by saying quite unashamedly that I am a horror movie fanatic.I have spent the best part of 30 years hunting down every rare,weird and sometimes downright awful film involved in this particular genre.But it is only recently that I have watched this movie,you see like a lot of people I felt that to be scary a film must be modern,gory, willing to let us see every moment of terror.So to sit and watch a film that is more than 50 years old in b/w and British made, hardly full filled me with anticipation.What a surprise! I don't know if it was due to watching it alone on a windy night,or it was just a moment of weakness but this movie scared the hell out of me! the last story without doubt was 100% terror,only the Shining and to a lesser extent the Exorcist has a movie had this effect on me,so I urge all you fear finders out there to give this one a viewing you won't regret it!
This anthology style film spawned a generation of Amicus-led imitations,
few can match it. If a 'portmanteau' style film can best be defined
its framing device, that is, the story which links all of the tales, then
'Dead of Night' is truly the greatest. Essentially the story of architect,
Walter Craig, who eventually comes face to face with the house and people
who have been haunting his dreams...or does he? I don't want to spoil the
tense ending for those who have yet to see the film, needless to say there
is the obligatory twist in the tail.
The strength of the stories is variable, with the strongest, in my opinion, being that of the 'haunted mirror' story, a theme which was echoed in the haunted mirror and door tales in Amicus' 'From Beyond the Grave.' However, the plaudits tend to be reserved for the final tale in 'Dead of Night' where, Michael Redgrave, is stunning as a ventriloquist sent spinning into madness by the actions of his charge, Hugo (three guesses at what Hugo is.)
The other three tales are passable, however special mention must be made of the terribly clipped ever-so English acting of the child characters in the 'Christmas Party' story, begins to grate after a while. The 'golfers' tale is a reprise of the roles played by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne as the protagonists in 'The Lady Vanishes,' and serves as light relief, prior to the arrival of the demonic Hugo.
As a fan of the 'portmanteau' style of horror film, I would heartily recommend this film, as it truly is the grand-daddy of them all.
To me "Dead of night ".Weaves a strange magic that still can be felt today.Highly memorable,I only saw it once on T.V ,a long time ago.It is interesting, that I remember the 2 golfers, rather the ventriloquist. It will always rank very highly against other psychological horror movies.
One of the marks of a good film is how many other films are inspired by it.
In the case of "Dead of Night", its bold multiple-story format led to
Amicus's successful series of similarly-styled horror films (such as "Tales
from the Crypt"). The chilling and much-remembered ventriloquist's dummy
section is an obvious precursor to "The Devil Doll", "Magic" (and more
recently, an episode of "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer"!)
The first section with Sally Ann Howes is a little twee but then we get the impressive "Haunted Mirror" tale and the story really begins to kick in. Michael Redgrave's performance as the ventriloquist who is slowly going insane has been justly-praised but one should not forget Mervyn Johns in the framing story, as a timid man who finds himself caught in a nightmarish spiral of events.
The film climaxes with a brilliant, surrealistic montage, a shocking, impulsive murder and then a subtle final twist. Excellent.
So I first saw this flick when I was about 6 years old and it scared the
bejeezers out me then. I developed a phobia of ventriloquist dummies which
still have to a degree.
I saw it a few times later on during my life and loved it each time, and
that I have it on video I freak my kids out with it.... you gotta make
watch it late after dark though...
I think it was the first Horror Anthology type movie I ever saw; it had
comic book feel to it and I think it set the trend for all the others
(Creepshow, Tales for the Crypt etc) to follow...
A great psychological horror film; very well-acted and written. Mervyn Johns, Googie Withers and the Germanic psychologist are all impressive, while generally, the quality of the 5 stories is very fine. The weakest is the "Golfing Story" but it still provides needed light relief in between the two best entries- the mirror and The Ventriloquist's Dummy. The Ventriloquist is played by Michael Redgrave to perfection- an outstanding characterisation, and also whoever did the Dummy Hugo's voice deserves praise. The theme of this story may've been copied many times, but that shouldn't detract in any way from this story. It's a very frightening segment, with the Dummy itself looking sinister. Certain scenes stand out like the one at the bar where the Dummy insults this "bit of skirt" and the scenes in the hospital/jail. This segment could've worked as a full-length feature by itself, that's how good it is. Overall, a fine compendium, with a neat ending. It is a disgrace that it's not in the BFI Top 100, and it probably should be in the Top 10 British Films of all time. There's no way this film will be forgotten as long as people watch it. It's not necessarily for all tastes- fans of gore, Hollywood shallowness may struggle to attune to it, but I recommend everyone tracks it down and watches it. Rating:- **** 1/2 (out of *****)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The late century's worrying trend for "best of" lists goes on unabated, with
the most recent being the British Film Institute's listing of the 100
greatest British films ever made. Never mind that a fair few of these
"British films" were actually made with American money, what really
unsettles is the possibility that films which didn't make the list will be
cast into history's oblivion.
Will we really enter a new century having forgotten all about Dead of Night? One of - if not THE - best British films of all time, surely? Some of the elements - a five story horror anthology including a man possessed by a ventriloquist dummy - may seem old-hat now, but were original THEN. The plot structure, too, is innovative, though I will not say more about that lest it be a spoiler. Some of the elements, especially the language, may seem dated, but other more derided elements, such as the jokey golf sequence, serve to give the audience a welcome breather before unexpectedly switching gears into the best of the bunch - the ventriloquist's dummy.
Michael Redgrave steals the show with a barnstorming performance as the psychotic ventriloquist in a league of his own. Giving 110% (perhaps too much for fans of more subtler renditions), Redgrave's textbook example of mental breakdown is endlessly rewatchable.
This film is too important to forget - let's enter the 21st century with Dead of Night taking it's pride of place as one of the most perfect films of the last century.
This is a great film with several moments that are still genuinely spooky fifty plus years on - particularly the two segments directed by Alberto Cavalcanti. Should be compulsory viewing for any would-be horror film director!
A superb film - one of the best that British cinema has ever produced. Gently played, which heightens the tension and confusion, and excellent acting throughout. Wonderfully atmospheric, and the sting in the tail never misses!
Dead of Night is a recipe for a scary and thought-provoking film experience. Mix together a large measure of deja vu, a dash of neverending story, liberal ghostly apparitions, a dose of possessed inanimate objects and a hilarious game of supernatural golf and you have an extremely appetizing movie meal. The overall story that links this film together is as good as the short stories it is built around.
A number of short stories are turned into one with a setting that combines them. Some parts one can do without, other parts are absolutely suberb. Some of Britain's finest actors and directors have contributed.
Dead of Night is an utterly unique suspense horror. I think that it stands
film. It's the spookiest movie I ever hope to know. It's an expertly
experience of one man's hell. From the first frame, there is no hope for
condemned protagonist; yet we must follow him through his condemnation. I
love this movie, but it scares me.
Walter Craig, who has been suffering from horrible nightmares meets with
several strangers at a secluded cabin on the countryside, and soon discovers
that they and the cabin are the occupants of his nightly spooks! The
tension builds as each of these strangers shares his or her nightmarish
visions, with the increasingly antsy Mr. Craig.
Sensationally scary, well-mounted, and tremendously suspenseful, chock full of meticulously crafted detail, story elements, and plot twists, not to mention fantastic acting, this one will certainly deliver ample frights on a dark, rainy night...or even a sunny day. Arguably the greatest psychological chiller ever.
**** out of ****.
Despite the fact that this film is very highly regarded my mood throughout much of the film was one of pleasant disappointment. I certainly enjoyed most of the stories but thought them too heavy handed to be truly scary, for example the mirror story could have been pretty creepy if done in the understated way of the BBC's adaptations of MR James but the swelling soundtrack was a bit of a mood killer. However the much commented upon Dummy story was truly frightening precisely because it was so understated. Overall then this film was an enjoyable collection of ghost stories to watch on a winters night but the only story to really chill the blood in my opinion was the last one featuring the ventriloquists Dummy
It almost pains me to write this,but I have just watched 'Dead of
Night' for the first time in years and I was surprised at how dated it
has become.I remembered it for being a pretty chilling film,but now it
is reasonably entertaining but not particularly scary.
The film now has the feel of a stage play to me with acting that verges on hammy.A couple of stories are still pretty effective I guess.The one with the mirror is a pretty good tale.I have to say though that the golfing segment is just stupid and does not fit into the frame of this movie at all.I was willing it to end.I also found the music to be over the top and overwhelming in places.
The one piece that saves this film completely is the ventriloquist's story.It is still excellent to this day and features the best performance in the whole movie from Michael Redgrave.I almost felt that this story should have been a film in it's own right with Hugo the dummy a scary and haunting figure.
It is a film that has achieved cult status,but it is surely best remembered for the pure chills of the ventriloquist and his dummy.
DEAD OF NIGHT is one of those early horror films from Great Britain
that really socked it to American audiences when it came out, largely
because there hadn't been that many anthology type of horror films up
until that time. Things changed swiftly after that, and now it's no
longer uncommon to find four or more stories told within the same film.
Of course, it's always true that not all the stories are of the same caliber--especially when Gothic horror is involved. The standout here is the MICHAEL REDGRAVE sequence involving a ventriloquist and his sidekick dummy facing hard times in the show biz world. Gradually the man begins to believe that his dummy has a life of his own and is soon frightened out of his wits by his own creation. It's this chilling sequence that lingers in the memory long after the film is over and reduces the other stories to mere tepid fillers.
Actually, the other stories are passable enough--but don't expect the real chills that "The Ventriloquist's Dummy" provides. It's a shocker, a classic of its kind and deserves being seen.
Since this film was made, the public is used to the kind of fright offered on "The Twilight Zone" and later on, "Tales from the Crypt" and the Stephen King sort of stories which are much more graphic in the horror genre than what is suggested here.
Time changes everything, including our assessment of films we thought could never be surpassed.
Before I begin, I need to point out that I saw this on videotape from
HBO films. This is important because the sound quality was terrible.
For non-Brits, it may be VERY difficult to understand what is being
said much of the time. So, hopefully, there are other brands with
better master prints.
The story begins when a man enters a home he's never visited and announces to all the guests that he's been there before and knows much of what will occur because he's seen it all in a recurring dream. This is the framework for the film and at the conclusion it returns to this as well for a really weird and interesting ending. In between are a bunch of very short horror tales that are strong on the supernatural but not on the disgusting (thank goodness). An interesting experience despite the ad print.
With a name like "Dead of Night" I expected a zombie movie, to be
frank. It's nothing of the sort. Instead, it is a series of
supernatural stories tied together by the nightmare of a single man.
The stories themselves range from light horror to comedy and horror
some more. Without special effects the film manages to convey a sense
of weirdness and helplessness, even if it is not really a horror movie,
but more of a supernatural thriller.
Not everything is hunky dory. It is in black and white, of course, and the actors have varied degrees of professionalism. Also that British "talk fast, pretend to understand the world and be in control, then leave the scene before anyone else has a chance to react" is pretty annoying at first, but it doesn't last much. Frankly, I think that the ending was not at the same level of quality and feeling as the rest of the film.
Bottom line: a true classic (back then I guess it was horror), very well done for that era, but not something terribly extraordinary.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
To the writer's wife who remembered an elevator in the "Room for one more" segment: I must have seen this movie when I was very young because I vaguely remembered the song in the hospital. I was well into my forties when I saw both the movie, and the remake episode of Twilight Zone again. The Twilight Zone version had the elevator, and the movie had the song. I was further astounded to find that I had learned the song in the movie from another source. I have been a fan of Charles Trenet since about 1960. He wrote the original French lyrics of "You, Why Do You Pass Me By?" Not a strange choice, since the composer of the film score was another Frenchman. By the way, does anyone have the complete text of that translation? Jack Lawrence, who wrote the American (as opposed to British)versions of both "Vous qui passez sans me voir" and Trenet's famous "La Mer" (Beyond the Sea), mangled the meaning of both texts so badly that I yearn for British translations.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a very good, inexpensive Ealing movie. I can't imagine that
they would make something like this now. It makes your hair stand on
end and there is only one murder and not a drop of blood to be seen.
It's not a masterpiece of art but, like a lot of Poe's short stories, a work of true craftsmanship.
I won't give away the whole thing, but I'll mention that there are five episodes built around a framing story. A group of jolly people at a country estate swap stories that sound as if something supernatural might have been involved. Doesn't sound too inviting, does it? (1) A hospital patient gets a warning from what seems to have been a strange nightmare. (2) An adolescent girl in a large house finds a louche deserted room with a sobbing child who may be a ghost. (The lullaby she sings to him, "Golden slumbers fill your eyes/ Smiles awake you when you rise," will sound familiar to fans of Abbey Road. The original was written by the poet Thomas Dekker a couple of hundred years ago. The Beatles must have been bricoleurs of literature. Out of the gibberish at the end of "All You Need Is Love" we can hear someone say sternly, "You'll be a serviceable villain," which is ripped off from "King Lear.") (3) A comic interlude about golf and love, starring the two laconic cricket-obsessed Brits from "The Lady Vanishes." (4) The one that scared me the most, about a man who is possessed by a strange Victorian room alone can see when he looks in a certain mirror. And (5) the most critically applauded one that has generated at least two Twilight Zone episodes and a couple of movies and is a predecessor of the final scene of Hitchcock's "Psycho," in which a stuffed figure takes over the identity of its owner.
I don't think I'll go on with this because the plot has turns that I don't even want to hint at.
See it if you can. It's scare quotient is magnitudes above that of "Freddie vs. Jason."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Just watched this for the first time - or so I thought! It all seemed
familiar - which is weird given what the film's about...
I'm sure I could have seen it in my childhood...
Anyway I'm a big Robert Hamer fan (Kind Hearts & Coronets & School for Scoundrels) so I wanted to watch it without knowing which of the 4 directors directed which bit and see if I could work out which bit Hamer did...
The bit I liked least was the golf sequence and I was worried that that was it. Turns out he did the mirror bit which was the best! Along with the linking narrative itself.
On the whole a great film - 8 out of 10. Kind of Ealing does David Lynch's Lost Highway...
And proof that Robert Hamer wasn't just a one-trick pony!
Memorable British thriller with an eerie premise: man is invited to a country estate, only to find that he's met all the 'strangers' staying there before--in his recurring dream. Story splits into separate parts from there (practically too soon), as each of the guests recount similar experiences. The tale of the demented ventriloquist played by Michael Redgrave is justifiably famous, however my favorite was the episode with the haunted mirror. A very good movie, slow in spots and heavy with talk, but extremely well-made and nicely performed. Too bad more time wasn't spent on the prologue, which offers a feast of spooky possibilities not really explored. **1/2 from ****
"Dead of Night" is a film defeated by its own towering reputation as
being of the creepiest films of British cinema. Certainly it is easy to
imagine that a 1940s audience would have found it utterly terrifying
but many of its ideas - premonitions, things in mirrors, a dummy that
might have a life of its own etc. - have been repeated many times over
the years to the point where this film will probably seem very quaint
to a modern audience. Indeed, one may find oneself trying to
second-guess the film and create better twists in the story lines than
the ones that actually occur (certainly it's easy to spot some
opportunities for a few extra scares in some of the segments). However,
if approached with the right attitude then it's an enjoyable anthology
piece that manages to unsettle even after 60 years.
Ealing Studios is of course best remembered for it's comedies and there's certainly a strain of good humour running through parts of this film, most notably in the absolutely barking golf segment ("May the Lord have mercy on your handicap!") which is really very funny (even if the idea behind it - that a woman would allow herself to be a prize for two golfers to play for - is too fantastical for words). However, this film is by and large meant to be frightening and there are still several moments of hair-raising tension sprinkled throughout. Whilst the actors now seem terribly stiff and far too well-spoken (though look out for a young Michael Redgrave as the ventriloquist), the direction more than compensates with interesting camera-work and use of lighting. The segment about a man seeing "something" in a mirror is by far the best one and may very well send shivers up your spine, even if the music is a bit too overblown (whilst the other segments are oddly bereft of much in the way of incidental music - much to their benefit).
At the end of the day, it's perhaps best to view "Dead of Night" as more of an historical document or curiosity as modern viewers coming to it hoping for thrills and genuine scariness will be left disappointed. However, if viewed in the spirit of its original context then it's easy to see why it gained the reputation that it did.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
60 years old and still as scary and haunting as the day it was first unleashed upon the world. That quite is an achievement you got to earn and there certainly aren't many films that stood the test of time so well as "Dead of Night". This brilliant collaboration between several directors (also often righteously referred to as the first horror omnibus ever) therefore is one of the few horror films that are essential viewing for everyone who ever showed interest in the genre. "Dead of Night" offers a sublime diversity in genuinely spooky horror tales and especially a compelling wraparound story. Two of the five stories are downright brilliant and will unquestionably make the hairs on your arms stand up! I'm talking about Alberto Calvancanti's "The Ventriloquist's Dummy" and Robert Hamer's "The Haunted Mirror". The first is a psychological piece of terror in which we witness a very convincing Michael Redgrave getting possessed by his (seemly) lifeless dummy. I assure this segment will change your views on the art of ventriloquism forever! The Hautned Mirror revolves on a tragic history event repeating itself through a secondhand mirror, bought by a newlywed couple. The first two stories ("The Hearse Driver" and "Christmas Party") are definitely praiseworthy as well but, considering the modest length, they better serve as entertaining appetizers. The remaining chapter; Golfing Story written by H.G. Wells; actually is the only non-frightening story and involves two obsessive golfers walking between our world and the world of ghosts. The acting, in the wraparound story as well as in every chapter, is terrific and adorably sophisticated. The camera-work is dazzling and the constant high-tension level is nearly indescribable. And yet, the most astonishing aspect is carefully saved for last! Namely the end sequences in which all the pivot elements of the separate stories uniquely come together in a surreal and nightmarish climax.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This black and white classic is considered the grandfather of British
anthology films, even serving as an influence to Rod Sterling - the
creator of The Twilight Zone that ran for five seasons from 1959 to
1964. In past reviews you've seen me mention Amicus Productions; a
British film company that released various anthologies throughout the
1960's and early '70's and even they felt the effects. So what is an
anthology? Well, it's a film sometimes referred to as a portmanteau,
compendium, or omnibus in which several short stories share a unified
theme. Dead of Night is widely recognized for having laid the
groundwork behind this concept on the big screen.
An architect by the name of Walter Craig is summoned to a country farm house to discuss a new project on behalf of his client. When he arrives he is greeted by a room full of guests in which he claims he's met before but only in a dream. A doctor by the name of Van Straaten attempts to scientifically explain this strange dream-to-reality phenomenon and how it is possible for Craig to foresee events before they happen. In the midst of diagnosing the issue several guests entertain Craig with odd or unsettling tales that they've either experienced or heard about.
This film is broken down into 5 different segments - all of which vary in the intensity of their delivery. Since this was produced in 1945 one could excuse the mild tone of some of the tales involved but despite the more innocent outlook on horror in the '40's, they could have been more memorable. After all, certain films in the silent era still have an impact today! Easily the most disturbing story in Dead of Night is about a dummy and the mad ventriloquist who controls him. The amount of times this idea has been replicated is intriguing. The earliest film rendition of this idea is 1929's The Great Gabbo - you can go even further and recognize that the Great Gabbo was parodied by The Simpsons back in the '90's. I know of one Tales From the Crypt episode that borrowed from this theme that starred Bobcat Goldthwait. In addition, there were two The Twilight Zone episodes that followed it closely. If you really want to get obscure, there was a short entitled The Dummy that originally aired on USA's Night Flight back in 1981 - not really a play-for-play copy of what you see in Dead of Night, but certainly influenced nonetheless.
A great deal of anthology films exercise a twist ending and Dead of Night is no exception. It's a satisfactory way to close the film and it should be considered a point of interest. It's true that this film was there in the early days of film-making. Sadly, the tales lacked consistency, whether intentional or not, and remains a big flaw among many anthologies.
Ealing Studios' collection of five short stories, all designed to
frighten and amuse, would not deserve mention almost 60 years later if
it were not for its fifth and final episode. The first four, by
comparison, are negligible.
Alberto Cavalcanti, who three years prior had directed one of the better British war films, "Went the Day Well," is responsible for both the worst and the best of this anthology. In fact, it's better not to mention his "Christmas Party" segment at all, except to say that the young actress Sally Ann Howes does the best she can with what little she's given to work with. Again, the chief reason for seeing "Dead of Night" is Cavalcanti's powerful "The Ventriloquist's Dummy," the episode that closes out the quintet. It retains its dramatic impact over these years mainly through the presence of Michael Redgrave.
Redgrave plays Maxwell Frere, the ventriloquist of the episode-title, a genius at throwing his voice and inventing clever one-liners for his partner, a Charlie McCarthy-style dummy. Frere, however, is also a schizoid personality with an extremely overprotective fondness for his wooden partner. Frere's identification with his creation is so all-consuming that soon the identities of both actor and dummy merge. The chilling conclusion must surely have been the inspiration for the ending of Hitchcock's "Psycho" (1960).
In fact, the entire episode was the chief inspiration for many future horror-melodramas, including "Devil Doll" (1964), with Bryant Halliday; "Magic" (1978), with Anthony Hopkins; and the "Child's Play" movies of the '80's and '90's.
Fredrick Valk appears as Frere's psychiatrist and Elisabeth Welch, as a Parisian nightclub singer, belts out the memorable 'Hulla-looba.'
A troubled man accepts an invitation to a meeting at an old farmhouse,
but when he gets there finds the guests may make his nightmares come
Interesting anthology that seems familiar and a bit tired. It's certainly heavy on dialogue and some of the stories do drag on, but the framing of feelings versus analysis works well, at least in the first half and in the climax. But a bit lax in the middle.
Other reviewers have set out the stories, so I'll just say the haunted mirror is my favourite, and I expected that would be the H G Wells contribution because it uses all its potential. But no - he wrote the daft golfing story.
The actors are OK - nobody outstanding (including Redgrave) - and the protagonist has several ucnonvincing dramatic moments. There are a few unnecessary characters in the farmhouse, and I think it would have been more interesting to have the farmhouse actors also play the supporting characters in the stories. Y'know - Wizard Of Oz style.
Editing very patchy, with an obvious insert to deliver gravitas to the golfing story. Plus the protagonist's first view of the house, when the car comes to a halt, is so awkward - at the end of the film the same footage is used much better. Music threatened to overwhelm, but thankfully it eased off.
Two most impressive moments were the golfing suicide + the scene where the faces press up against the jail bars. The latter is nice and weird and brings the wraparound to a satisfying point, where you think back on everything you've seen. Not perfect, but you get a sense of the conflict of feelings and analysis ending in horror.
Overall, interesting but not gripping.
A pretty good film. At least one of the segments was ludicrous, however.
Another of the segments seemed to be the antecedent of "Magic." The
of the segments was well done, and the acting was all very good. I didn't
recognize any of the actors except Micheal Redgrave. However, I couldn't
help but wonder what Alfred Hitchcock could have done with this
Summoned to a strange house, a man welcomes five strangers together as
one reveals he's dreamed about them. When the others confess to the
same strange feeling, one of them offers to hear their stories and
figure out why they know each other.
The Good Stor(ies): Christmas Party-Living in a giant house, a girl decides to play hide-and-seek with the other children there and goes off hiding. Selecting a strange bookcase, she finds it leads to a bedroom that she doesn't recognize, and when she returns back she finds that she's been the subject of a ghostly encounter. Again, although this one is much too short and features one of the most laughable weak endings ever, it's also quite enjoyable. The house has a fantastic Gothic atmosphere to it that lends a lot of credence to it. The ghost action is nice, if again a little short and definitely should've been more chilling, especially with the wraparound but there's some nice scenes in here courtesy of the game. It's certainly a watchable story.
Haunted Mirror-Stuck for a present, a woman finds a rare picture-frame and gives it to her fiancée for his birthday. Immediately loving it, he begins to act strangely as the wedding day approaches, not like himself and a little worn out. Crediting it to stress, he claims it to be the mirror, and as time goes on, he starts to become obsessed with the mirror to the point of madness. This is the first actually well-done entry in the series and certainly satisfies on many levels. There's an abundance of atmosphere in this, which is always nice to have and really works in its favor. The mystery with the mirror here takes center-stage and it's done well, slowly building up with the reflected image that only appears within and how it affects the sole viewer, are the proper way to handle this seemingly ridiculous storyline in a serious way, and the early scenes showing him alone viewing the image within is inherently creepy. It's taken over the edge in the spectacular sequence where they both look into it, reflecting the normal version for her and then the same trick for him, despite her insistence at it's fallibility. The scenes that come in from the back-story are just great as well. The main issue with this is that it does seem to take an incredibly long time to get to something that should've been done much earlier, since it's clear what it's going to take to take it out, and taking so long to get there is a little troublesome for a few out there. Otherwise, this one here is a winner all-around.
The Bad Stor(ies): Hearse Driver-Suffering from a motorcycle accident, a racer awakes in a hospital lucky to be alive. Tending to his injuries, he keeps having recurring nightmares about a hearse driver coming in the night for him. Convinced it's nothing more than leftover feelings from the crash, he gets over the feelings and leaves the hospital, only to feel it is still after him. This one really could've been quite good, as the premise is solid and is balanced out by two rather well-done action scenes in the carriage chasing after him, but unfortunately it's too short to mean anything. Barely twenty minutes long, it feels incredibly chopped down and doesn't offer much time for anything, and although it's creepy, not a lot happens in that time and knocks it down considerably.
Golfing Story-Both obsessed with their friendship, two pals decide to put it on test over the woman who is the object of their affections. Managing to cheat his way to her heart, he offs himself on the golf course, returning as a ghost to haunt him. When they both get tired of the situation, he tries to vanish, only to have forgotten how and tries to remember how, to their annoyance. This one here really should've been much better. The set-up is brilliant, the suicide sequence is classic and the initial hauntings are pretty nice, especially on the golf course. However, once it starts in with the ghost forgetting how to disappear, it gets incredibly campy and ruins the feel and flow of the segment before. It's a one-note joke played out for far too long, rendering the whole thing a disappointment and hampers the segment considerably.
Ventriloquist's Dummy-Given a new case-study, a psychologist finds that a fellow prisoner has gone mad and tries to get to the bottom of the whole thing. Since his ventriloquism act is gaining popularity, he finds many admirers of him and his puppet's work, enough to believe that a fellow ventriloquist wants to steal him away for his own act, resorting to deadly means to keep the puppet away from the others. This one here is the hugest let-down, given its history, especially since the puppet is repeatedly made out to be alive. The fact that it's never definitively proved is part of the problem, but also because the segment doesn't really have any effective moments to make us think otherwise. Most of the segments supposedly to depict it as being alive are either just lame or not all that effective at generating suspense. The story has potential, the puppet is creepy-looking, but the wrap-around following it is much more effective, and that alone is enough to watch this one.
Today's Rating/PG: Violence.
I'm afraid time has passed this classic British horror anthology by. It may
have given audiences a real scare in 1945, but it's long been outstripped by
its successors and imitators. To anyone remotely familiar with TV shows like
"The Twilight Zone," "One Step Beyond," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and
"Night Gallery," not to mention numerous other horror movie anthologies
("Asylum," "Tales From the Crypt," "The Vault of Horror," to name a very
few), "Dead of Night" will seem terribly, terribly tame.
There are five stories in all (not including the framing device, in which an architect finds himself in a country home filled with oddly familiar strangers who have stranger tales to tell). The first two stories, having to do with a hearse driver and a children's Christmas party, are minor, inconsequential affairs (although the latter does boast a charming teen-aged Sally Ann Howes, later of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" fame). The third story, about a haunted mirror, is nicely spooky. Story number four, about two middle-aged duffers who are rivals in love as well as golf, is, I'm guessing, supposed to be funny. (It isn't.) The best remembered - and best - segment is the fifth one, in which Michael Redgrave plays a troubled ventriloquist. Again, you've seen this done elsewhere, but Redgrave's intense performance still packs a punch. (The segment's closing line elicited nervous giggles from the AFI audience in Washington, D.C.)
Word has it (from the IMDb as well as Pauline Kael) that two of the five segments were deleted from the original American release, throwing out of kilter the movie's climactic attempt to bring the stories together. (The deleted segments were later returned.) Which stories were temporarily lost? (I'm guessing either the hearse driver and the Christmas party, or the Christmas party and the golfers.)
Justifiably Famous for being one of the First Horror Anthologies with
Heavy Twist Endings that have become a Mainstay in the Genre. It
Anticipated much that has become Formula and is Overall not a Bad
But, as these Things go, the results are usually less on the Whole than the some of its Parts. Here the Stories range from Weak to Excellent with the Ventriloquist Segment the one Everyone Raves about and rightfully so. It is by Far the Best, the Creepiest, and with its totally Surreal Story and Cinematography, it is a Knockout. The Weakest is the Stodgy and Silly Golf Romp. The others fall somewhere In Between.
The Wrapping is Effective the way the Tales are Packaged and the Ending is Nicely done. But for all its High Points the Lows are Dreary and Drag the thing down to what amounts to a Disappointment. Definitely worth checking out for the Better but be prepared to endure some Unfortunate Filler.
Dead of Night (1945)
*** (out of 4)
An architect is invited to a country inn for the weekend but once he arrives there it appears he has been having dreams about the place. When he meets the other guests he's certain that this is the same place of his recurring dream and one by one the people begin to tell stories of the supernatural. Ealing Studios certainly weren't known for horror movies but DEAD OF NIGHT is considered one of their best films and one of the greatest anthology projects in history. While I wouldn't heap so much praise on the film there's no denying that all of the stories are fairly good with the last one being a masterpiece. The final story involves Michael Redgrave playing a ventriloquist who has been accused of attempted murder. The entire story deals with whether or not he's crazy or perhaps the dummy is actually alive and forcing him to do all of these bad things. I certainly won't ruin what happens but this short sequence is without question the best story in the picture and it's also one of the shining moments in horror history. Redgrave is so wonderful in the role that you can't help but feel as if he's really possessed by this thing and the terrific vocal work on the dummy is quite eerie and very effective. The rest of the stories aren't nearly as great but none of them are bad. The longest one involves a husband slowly going man because whenever he looks into a mirror the reflection isn't in reality. I think this sequence runs way too long but the ending was very effective. There's a golf segment that was cut from the U.S. release as it really doesn't impact the overall story. This episode goes for more laughs and feels out of place but it's charming in its own right. The first story involving a man surviving a car crash and then meeting Death was nice as well. All of the performances are quite good but there's no doubt that the film belongs to Redgrave. DEAD OF NIGHT is considered one of the greatest of its type but I think the praise is a tad bit too high. I hate the word overrated because it seems as if you're putting something down and the film certainly doesn't deserve that. I just think most of the praise is aimed at the final story and it does deserve a masterpiece label.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Michael Redgrave segment stands head and shoulders above the others and is the one thing that most people remember about this Ealing Studios release that ventured into new territory for a studio associated with comedy laced with occasional melodrama (It Always Rains On Sunday). It was also an early sighting of the portmanteau movie - soon to be supplemented by Easy Money, Quartet, Trio, Encore and from Fox in Hollywood O'Henry's Full House, We're Not Married, etc. The Redgrave sequence epitomises the Dark end of the spectrum whilst the Naunton Wayne/Basil Radford section represents the lighter element with the Sally Ann Howes and Googie Withers segments occupying the middle ground. I'm prepared to believe that in 1945 it was reasonably scary though European audiences had just lived through a horror that eclipsed anything here. Today it's basically one (Michael Redgrave) standout segment plus some reasonably entertaining supplementary footage.
Dead of Night more than shows its age. All of the stories, excluding
the wrap-around, are weak by today's standards (and quite possibly also
the standards of the day) and, for the most part, exceedingly
Of the five stories (which doesn't include the story used as a framework), "Hearse Driver" is by far the weakest. Most horror fans (or even readers) will instantly deduce the ending just by looking at the title. This folk tale was old even back in the 40s, but luckily it's also one of the shortest stories. "The Haunted Mirror" and "Christmas Party" are both lackluster tales, although Mirror has some creepy shots. "Golfing Story" is one of the stronger entries, as it's somewhat unusual and has a good deal of humor. "The Ventriloquist's Dummy" is the most frightening of the bunch, but the ending is sure to disappoint.
These five stories detract from their frame, an unusually strong wrap-around story about an architect who arrives at a party out in the country. It's a fairly atmospheric tale that should keep the viewer rooted even through some of the more abysmal entries. However, here, too, the very end is predictable and the story, in all, isn't good enough to redeem the three weakest tales.
C'mon folks, it's just a movie. And a weird movie at that. I was 27
when I saw it at a Berkeley art house in 1964. It didn't scare me,
but I did wonder what all the fuss was about. Okay, the Redgrave
segment is excellent, and the full circle linking bookends suitably
surreal. But the latter was too derivative of Caligari, and the film
itself had already been puffed up to twice its worth by critics and
historians, whose essays and articles I'd previously read. Co-feature AND THEN THERE WERE NONE seemed a much better picture then, and now. I've not seen Dead of Night again,
though I greatly admire all of Powell and Pressburger's postwar
films, and have seen most of the others several times each. RED
SHOES and STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN can be seen over and over.
And I have. Shoes is such a beautiful, wonderful movie. Stage
Door Theatre SF; May 30, July 7, September 19 and October 29,
1948. It ran 31 weeks, I loved it; I was 12.
It took me years to catch up with this acclaimed classic horror film
and now that I have, I don't see what all the fuss was about. I found
it to be surprisingly dull and never-ending, and what might have been
brand new and thrilling in 1945 now comes off as clichéd and ordinary.
Only the stories with the mirror and the dummy provided a bit of interest for me, and even then I feel variations on the ventriloquist theme have been improved upon since this anthology came out (1963's DEVIL DOLL, for example, is much spookier). The way in which the tales unfolded came off as convoluted and sketchy, IMO. Add to this some early British accents which I often had to strain to understand, and I was in for a rough ride. My personal winner for Most Overrated 1940s Horror Film, at least for now. Deadly dull, Deadly dated.
This movie was a yawn,there is nothing to it but dramatic music there is not one single scene in this whole waste of time that was even remotely frightening,spooky,or visually chilling in any way. Other people claimed it is original and a stepping stone for other anthologies which is also not true as there were other anthologies before this and other horror films as well that were far more effective than this utter drivel.It has to be the driest stuffiest group of Clue like characters that you could possible slam together in one cast. I wouldn't recommend this movie to anyone unless they are having trouble sleeping as this lullaby will put you right out. This movie deserves to be lost in time and shouldn't be misrepresented by so many stars as it isn't even worth one for me. I also want to make it clear that I like older films it is not that I don't understand the period it's just that this movie really really sucks.
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