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Odd and unusual but nevertheless highly imaginative British supernatural horror/thriller story, once more pairing the two legendary genre veterans Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, this time under the skillful direction of Peter Sasdy. "Nothing but the Night" somewhat plays in a league of its own, as you definitely can't compare it to the extremely popular contemporary Hammer productions. I even daresay this is quite a unique piece of Brit-horror, which is probably why it required the constitution of a brand new production company, named Charlemagne, that didn't last very long afterwards. "Nothing but the Night" may be overly convoluted and full of irregularities, but it's really not a bad film and it definitely doesn't deserve the embarrassingly low current IMDb rating of 3.2 out of 10! Adapted from a novel by John Blackburn, the screenplay offers up a very ambitious and compelling mixture of mystery, medical horror, creepy country sides and typically British police work. The film is incredibly fast paced (I can't fathom that some of my fellow reviewers call this movie boring) and the plot is literally a non-stop series of red herrings and vague clues, desperately attempting to avoid that any viewer would figure out the climax too fast. Let me tell you straight away: you won't guess the full denouement no matter how clairvoyant you are, as multiple story aspects and twists in "Nothing but the Night" are simply too absurd and implausible for normal human beings to even consider. Once again, though, this doesn't mean it's not fascinating and entertaining to look at. The film opens with an immediate attention-grabber, as we're right away treated to grisly images of three murders looking like suicide. Police Colonel Bingham (Christoper Lee) later explains to his friend Dr. Mark Ashley (Peter Cushing) that all victims were trustees of a prominent but highly secluded orphanage on a small Scottish island. When one of the orphanage's children is hospitalized after a mysterious bus accident, the young doctor Haynes wants to investigate the girl's bizarre nightmares, but the influential Van Traylen Fund trustees prevent this. The girl's flamboyant and aggressive birth mother also wants to reclaim her, but the orphanage lies isolated and well protected a small island only reachable by ferry boats. Some abrupt plot twists work very efficient, whereas other red herrings are blatantly obvious. For example, we're supposed to believe that Anna Harb the girl's real mother is a complete psychopath, but that would just be too easy. Peter Sasdy maintains a sinister atmosphere throughout and the Scottish isle and countryside filming locations are stupendous. There aren't many bloody moments, but there's a fair portion of suspense and a couple of shocking insinuations. Other people claim that both Lee and Cushing are underused in the film, which may perhaps be a little true, but their characters are terrific and I swear I've seen films where their names were more shamelessly exploited for even smaller roles (like "Scream and Scream Again", for instance). Not a masterpiece of Brit-horror, but a worthwhile movie in case you're looking for something creepy yet different.
I don't think this film is as bad as it's been suggested. If you go in
viewing it more as a mystery than expecting faced paced horror from the
start, I think it's enjoyable...it just requires some patience. The
ending rewards you if you allow yourself to stick with it.
Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing do their best with a less than great script, but it's important to keep in mind that most novel-to-screen adaptations do suffer badly, and I think this is more the case here. Gwyneth Strong does an amazing job as Mary Valley, and it makes me curious to see what other work she's done.
If you find a bargain DVD of this one, or see it on late night cable, give it a shot. And if you're a fan of British horror like I am, it is always great to have a visit with Lee and Cushing once again!
With an overall rating of just a bit over 3, I sure didn't expect much
from this Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing collaboration. However, I
was surprised to find this film was a lot better than I'd come to
believe. Perhaps some of the reason the film has a lower score than the
usual fare from these actors is that although the film has the usual
supernatural angle, you don't learn about this until the end. Up until
then, it just seems like a detective film about some nasty ex-con who
is being sought be Scotland Yard. I could say more, but it would spoil
Strengths of the film include a very novel script, generally good acting (though the ex-con is about as unsubtle a character as you can find), and nice location shooting. The biggest minus is that the thing just takes a long time to get going, though by the end of the film the whole thing is steaming full speed ahead.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had totally forgotten about this movie. Some people will say that's a
good thing. However, I didn't remember it at all while watching until
the very last scene. Then, I was instantly transported back to the mid
1980's, watching Saturday afternoon television on a local station.
I may be in a great minority with loving this film, which I don't even rank as a true horror film, but it's pretty close. It has shades of The Wicker Man to be sure. Lee and Cushing give some of their best performances and thankfully have a great many scenes together. All of the other actors do fine as well. The countryside near the old fishing village is so succulent you can taste the mouldering old stone walls and outcroppings and imagine the wee folk running about playing tricks at twilight.
This film is pretty slow going, mainly talky--which is a grand thing when you've got Lee and Cushing. There is minimal bloodshed, almost G rated, although there is a scene where Cushing examines the remains of some dead people, but it's obviously just some leftovers from the butcher shop and not even worth fussing over.
The plot involves a worn out old "hoor" trying to get her daughter back after the old mom was in the clink for a time on murder and prostitution charges. The daughter has been living in an orphanage run by some trustees to some dead lady's fortune on a small but enchanting isle. There are some G-rated murders, one huge red herring with red hair and a red coat, no less, and a long-limbed girl at the center of it who's all elbows and knees and is a damn pretty version of Anna Paquin. This movie seems to want to be a detective thriller until the last ten minutes when it switches gears unevenly into a strange amalgam of cultists/witchery/science gone wild. But don't let the poor ratings others have given this flick put you off. Even if you aren't huge fans of Cushing or Lee, you'll find some tastiness in this old, forgotten relic. I'm glad I unearthed it and blew the dust off after so many years. Now it sits firmly in my guilty pleasure stack.
Every now and then you stumble on an unheard of gem..
This is one of those movies you've never heard of which has a decent story and good cast. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee star in this modern film about a mystery surrounding the children of an orphanage and a bizarre series of deaths. This is definitely worth watching if you like these Hammer stars and like occult movies. I must admit this one caught me off guard. The end could have been fleshed out a bit more but I definitely enjoyed the story and have even managed to obtain a DVD transfer for my collection.
I think this plot could be done to make a great modern horror. I found it on Youtube...
In spite of having some exciting (and daring) sequences, NBTN just
never gets going. There are exploding boats, hat pin murders, mass
suicides, pathologists with body parts, and all sorts of classic
mystery/horror scenes, but they're interspersed with extended periods
of pure exposition. Everybody in the movie looks bored. This is a shame
because many of the sequences would be considered daring at the time
this was filmed.
Add to this the "too-proper" Brit characters and you feel like you've drifted into a Sherlock Holmes movie.
Finally, the cinematography is very ordinary. There are lots of opportunities for beautiful shots of of the countryside, or complex shots of someone being pulled into a huge bonfire, but the whole thing is unimaginative and dull.
Definitely only for Lee and Cushing fans.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An orphanage on a remote Scottish island gets beset by a series of
brutal murders. Hard-nosed special bureau chief Charles Bingham
(superbly played with great authority by Christopher Lee) and shrewd
pathologist Mark Ashley (a typically marvelous portrayal by Peter
Cushing) join forces to figure out the reason for these killings.
Director Peter Sasdy relates the absorbing story at a steady pace, makes fine use of the sprawling Scottish coast countryside, builds a good deal of suspense and spooky atmosphere, and pulls off a real doozy of a genuinely startling climax. Lee and Cushing display an utterly winning natural screen chemistry; they receive sturdy support from Diana Dors as the pushy and distraught Anna Harb, Georgia Brown as pesky and snoopy tabloid reporter Joan Foster, Keith Barron as the determined Dr. Haynes, Michael Gambon as the no-nonsense Inspector Grant, and Gwyneth Strong as sweet and precocious little girl Mary Valley. The crafty and novel script by Brian Hayles offers an inspired plot with quite a few nifty twists and turns. Kudos are also in order for Kenneth Talbot's sharp cinematography and Malcolm Williamson's shuddery score. Well worth a watch.
Three trustees of the Van Travlen have died within the last couple of
months, their deaths looking less than natural. When a bus accident
occurs involving the Van Traylen Trust, the only survivor is the young
girl Mary Valley. The behaviour of Mary has Dr Haynes worried, so he
tries his best to dig up information on her and this leads to her
original mother/convicted murderer. She wants Mary back, but the Trust
manages to bring her back to their orphanage on the Scottish isle of
Bala. Police Colonel Bingham believes there's more to these deaths, and
soon his trying to protect the Trust from Mary's mother who believes
that they turned her daughter against her. Also pathologist Sir Mark
Ashley and reporter Joan Foster start digging up some vital dirt, which
could answer many questions.
"Nothing But the Night" seems to fall more in the interesting bracket, than the successful one. Peter Sasdy's minor mystery chiller is a moderate attempt made more accessible due to the presence of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. It was actually produced under Lee's Charlemagne production company, and would be the last one too. These two icons of the genre can make anything watchable and even though they might not be as prominent here. They still have the ability to leave their mark when they aren't on screen. Brain Hayles' cryptic screenplay (taken off John Blackburn's novel) works up a smart, if overly padded script and captivating dying half, but the knotty plot doesn't seem to click, as it moves all over the place making it hard to get comfortable and come to terms with the haunting pay-off. You might find the twist kinda obvious, but the true revelation throws you off. It does take quite awhile to hit its straps. Which could turn people off from its talkative and slow progression. However the timidly restraint and uncertain nature only makes the final 10 minutes even more unnerving, as that's when the murder mystery makes way for some creepy horror strokes. Both Sasdy and Hayles do a good enough job in keeping the viewer interested. Sasdy uses the open locations to great effect, and ably stages the set pieces with efficient slickness and ominously dark shades. Malcolm Williamson's lightly smooth jazzy score stays on the back-burner and Ken Talbot's sturdy photography keeps it stark and upfront. The performances are considerably tailor-made. Lee (more uptight than usual) and Cushing are at their assured best, even if they only have lesser parts. The spruce Diana Dors makes for a good fiery, eccentric turn and Georgia Brown's is equally impressive as the down-to-earth reporter. Gwyneth Strong wonderfully draws up her part as Mary.
A middling hot (impeccably acted) and cold (unfocused story) mystery thriller.
It's always a thrill to catch up with something that I missed out on
when it was shown on local TV in the early 1980s; the fact that this
immediately takes me back to my childhood days when home video was
still science-fiction in my neck of the woods and I was (almost
completely) at the mercy of TV programmers for my practical film
education is kind of sweetly ironic given the picture's own
'reincarnation' theme! Even if it's available on DVD in Japan (of all
places), I came across it via a full-frame TV screening with forced
It was the sole film made by Christopher Lee's own company, Charlemagne Productions: in an interview done at the time of the film's release (which I just dug up in a magazine of my father's), he takes pains to stress how he abhors screen violence and how, despite the presence of himself and frequent partner Peter Cushing, his new film is "not one of those macabre movies...but an action-adventure thriller with tension, suspense, a lot of exciting outdoor action, and some moments of high terror...a very good evening's escapist entertainment" (needless to say, the film's lurid re-issue titles THE DEVIL'S UNDEAD and THE RESURRECTION SYNDICATE made no such qualms!). Incidentally, it is also stated that Lee intended to adapt two other works by John Blackburn (writer of the film's source novel) for the screen but these, of course, never came to pass. Still, given its eventual climactic similarities to the later and superior THE WICKER MAN (1973), this film is as much a horror piece as that one would prove to be. The initial disjointed outburst of inexplicable murders almost makes one expect a conspiracy like the one that would later figure in THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL (1978); that the eventual revelation, then, is closer to THE DAMNED (1963)-meets-THE BROTHERHOOD OF Satan (1971) makes it worth waiting for nonetheless, with a powerful climactic sequence that is clearly the film's highlight and makes one bemoan the fact that it comes too late to really make this show a winner (and which perhaps explains its relative invisibility nowadays).
Actually, Cushing and Lee (playing all-too-typical parts, albeit with their customary professionalism) are not the main characters which are instead unremarkably filled by Keith Barron and Georgia Brown as overzealous doctor and journalist respectively looking into the mysterious mumblings of a 'special' girl that hails from the remote, exclusive Scottish island/school of Bala. Diana Dors, as the girl's tarty, jailbird of a mother, spends most of her time screaming, pushing people around or crawling on her belly to escape the clutches of the pursuing police force (who have been set on her by the seemingly all-powerful school institution) and who have tracked her down to Bala. Fulton Mackay as a bumbling but high-profile Police Official and Kathleen Byron as an enigmatic scientist engaged at the school also have noteworthy roles; for the record, this turned out to be the last film of John Robinson (the star of the original TV series of "Quatermass II" , here appearing as an aristocratic protector of the school) as well as Michael Gambon's first, playing a young Police Inspector.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First off, I must say that reading the review of this movie in the
annual paperback guide to movies by critic Leonard Maltin and his
cronies is inadvisable as it gives away the ultimate twist. No matter
what one thinks of a movie, they shouldn't be spoiling things like that
for the unfamiliar.
Anyway, "Nothing But the Night" tells the story (based on a novel by John Blackburn) about murders plaguing an orphanage located on a Scottish island, and the subsequent investigations, and certainly has an impressive pedigree going for it: another teaming of cinematic greats Sir Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, direction by Peter Sasdy ("Taste the Blood of Dracula", etc.), and a fine supporting cast including Diana Dors, Georgia Brown, Keith Barron, Gwyneth Strong, Fulton Mackay, and in his first major film role, the young Michael Gambon (now immediately recognizable as having replaced Richard Harris as Dumbledore in the "Harry Potter" series).
This project came to fruition as an attempt by Lee to "create more serious genre films", and it was the first (and, sadly, last) production by Lee's then recently formed Charlemagne company (named in reference to his Italian ancestry), which he'd started with old Hammer associate Anthony Nelson Keys. "Nothing But the Night" proved to be unsuccessful back in 1973, which is too bad; it has its problems, but those have more to do with the wild story which some viewers may rightly question.
That's not to say, though, that this interesting, offbeat, very atmospheric, and in fact sometimes downright insane movie doesn't have its moments. Some of them may provoke unintended laughter, but some of them are unexpectedly bleak and brutal (although these don't really involve blood / gore). Some of the plotting is definitely too obvious, like the way Dors's Anna Harb is always set up to look so utterly dubious; anyone watching would reason that this is no more than a red herring. At least, if one doesn't know how this will all resolve itself (and, admittedly, it does take almost the whole movie for things to finally become more or less clear), they may keep watching just to see things continue to develop.
Lee and Cushing remain great fun to watch, totally professional and displaying that ever present chemistry. Dors definitely has the showiest role and makes the most of it; luscious singer Brown is striking as the overly aggressive reporter, young Strong is absolutely adorable, and the too briefly seen Barron is very believable as the young psychiatrist determined to solve the problems of his strangely traumatized young charge.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers would come to realize that they didn't have as much control as they would have liked, and director Sasdy - personally chosen for the project by Lee - admits it's not among his best work. But fans of British horror can now check this out on DVD (thanks to Scorpion Releasing) so that it may be discovered or rediscovered.
Seven out of 10.
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