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At a fashionable dinner party in Hong Kong a naval officer is coaxed into revealing details of a dream in which eight persons take off from Bangkok in a Dakota bound for Tokyo and crash in the Japanese mountains. Amongst those listening is Air Marshal Hardie who is due to fly to Tokyo the next day. Hardie initially dismisses the dream because he is scheduled to fly out in a Liberator, but as Hardie arrives at the airport he discovers that the Liberator has developed mechanical problems and has been replaced by a Dakota. When, just before the flight is due to depart, two soldiers board the plane making a complement of eight, Hardie fears that the Dream may be coming true and he is destined to die. Written by
Dave Jenkins <email@example.com>
Leslie Halliwell in his book HALLIWELL'S HARVEST refers to this as a "smoking room story", which is the kind of reminiscence tale told between old friends in a club over drinks. It is not given in one shot
all good anecdotes are told slowly and build up. This one (apparently
based on a true incident from the Far East in the late 1940s) takes it's time, but as it progresses the momentum of events squeeze and squeeze the human personnel involved until the moment of crisis.
Do you believe in fate? It is an issue that has perplexed man since we first began to reason. Are our destinies written out in the stars of astrology, or in the hands of the three Greek "Fates" who spin, measure, and cut our threads? Or is everything done by chance, pure and simple? Years ago I read a portion of an essay by William James (I think it was him) for a philosophy course. James dismissed fate - he felt that the problem with believing in it is that if you decide to go down street A to reach point D a fatalist will say that you were always supposed to do that. But if you go down Street B to reach point D the fatalist would say the same thing, and that didn't sit well with James. But a fatalist would probably point out that as you went on that occasion only by one of those routes, that is the destined route you had to take at that occasion. So who can really know? In THE NIGHT MY NUMBER CAME UP, Michael Redgrave is a British Air Marshall who must go on a mission with several others, including Denholm Elliot and Alexander Knox in one of the military Dakotas used in World War II. There would be nothing wrong about this, but Michael Hordern who is in charge of arranging the trip has just had a nightmare wherein Redgrave, Elliot, Knox, and several others are traveling to the location of this mission (which Hordern did not know about when he went to bed that night) in a Dakota that is in mechanical difficulties and in very bad weather. In fact, it is crashing on a beach.
Hordern makes the mistake of telling this to the three of them, and while Redgrave pooh-poohs it, Elliot and Knox are not as certain (although Knox pretends it is all nonsense). Among other things, a major political figure (Ralph Truman) is supposed to be on the plane too in the dream, and he is not scheduled to attend the mission that Redgrave is going on. So the preparations go ahead. But point by point, little things from the dream begin to fall into place in the real world. For example, at a stopover, Truman suddenly shows up - he has to go by the Dakota on a separate trip, hooking up to another flight later on. Also there are a certain number of passengers, including a noisy one, who are to be on the plane. Everyone is happy when the number of passengers goes down, but it goes up as well. Then a rather noisy, boisterous businessman (George Rose, naturally), comes on board - literally manipulating his way on board when initially kept off by Elliot and Knox (he circumvents them going to Redgrave and Truman).
So the circumstances grow in the small world of that pressurized cabin as the passengers watch amazed at how good weather collapses and engine problems multiply (they can't raise the plane above a certain level outside the storm due to a pressurization problem - ironically enough). But Redgrave maintains his icy calm throughout the situation - he is determined that he and the others are not going to give into panic over the paranormal.
The film is excellent in tackling this type of situation in a serious way. In the end it does not matter if you are a fatalist or not, the film will carry you to to it's conclusion successfully.
One final minor point. I don't know much about the scrap metal business, but this film (made in 1955) and the Judy Holliday movie BORN YESTERDAY (1950) and one classic sequence in THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946) with Dana Andrews and the scrapped fleet of bombers are the only ones that seem to tackle this growing big business. A lot of military hardware was there for the taking after 1945. In BORN YESTERDAY, Harry (Broderick Crawford) owns junk yards and has built a local empire on scrap metal (and is in Washington to try to get the laws altered to expand his business). Here, George Rose (an English counterpart to Harry) is trying to get on the flight in order to get to Japan for an important conference dealing with British scrap metal interests in the Far East (and he constantly mentions the American competition as intense - a nod to Crawford?). It's almost enough to start a college study into the post war scrap metal business!
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