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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.
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.
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!
*** 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.
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 ***
I found this movie to very dry for the most part, with a few surprising shocks along the way. Most of the story is from the point of view the Lee and Cushing characters. Their conversations make up the majority of the exposition, so even though there isn't a lot of action, at least you're listening to two excellent speakers. The mystery is about the deaths of several trustees who are all connected to the same fortune. A young girl becomes an important character, as it is believed she holds the key to finding out who is behind the killings. Then we are lead to believe the girl's mother is behind it, and for a time, the movie seems to have one of the kookiest villains of any film. Watching this British housewife trying to rough it and survive off the land as she is being pursued through the wild by search parties is one of the best bits of unintentional comedy not to end up on MST3K. Finally, there is the ending. One of the most amazing climaxes of any horror movie, it delivers like few movies have. Some viewers were troubled by the plausibility of the group transferring their minds into the bodies of children to be able to extend their lives. I thought it was horrifying enough to make the slow parts worth sitting through. It was a bit over the top, but very memorable.
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.
Christopher Lee's own production company Charlemagne Productions survived
for just one film - this one - it is no wonder why.
Stifled by a convoluted plot and a haphazardly written script, the viewer is continually left confused by various events which are put together in an alarmingly thoughtless fashion.
Even Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing look unsettled by what is going on around them. It is far from easy viewing and the end doesn't come quick enough.
This could easily be voted as the worst of the horror duo's collaborations!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Nothing But the Night" of 1973 is a film with a bad reputation. The
films bad reputation (and a rating of only 3.2/10 on this site) is not
necessarily due to the films awfulness, however, but merely because it
disappoints for what it is. "Nothing But the Night" was directed by
Peter Sasdy, who had also directed three very good Horror films for the
Hammer Studios, "Taste The Blood of Dracula", "Countess Dracula" and
"Hands of The Ripper", and stars the great Horror icons Peter Cushing
and Christopher Lee. The film was produced by Christopher Lee's own
production company Charlemagne productions, and obviously picked up on
the recent Horror trend of supernatural/occult themes. This film is
considerably weaker compared to Sasdy's aforementioned films, and
especially considering the many brilliant other Cushing/Lee
collaborations. Yet the film is not as terrible as the rating might
After a mysterious bus accident, the investigating Scotland Yard Col. Charles Bingham (Lee), suspects a relation to previous murders. The mystery about the accident is how the bus-driver could have burned, when there was no fire in the accident... The film is way too slow, and the explanations are sometimes silly or illogical, but, as far as I am concerned, the storyline, which continues as a supernatural Horror mystery, is not all that bad. The film bears some similarities to several other British Horror productions. The idea of occultists using children for resurrection had been used on several occasions before, such as in the Hammer Studios' "The Witches" of 1966 (which is also only mediocre). The Scottish island setting reminds of an absolute masterpiece from the same year, Robin Hardy's "The Wicker Man", which is arguably the most brilliant film Christopher Lee was ever involved in. This resemblance can not be seen as a lack of originality, though, as this film was actually released earlier in 1973 than "The Wicker Man". Christopher Lee (as the police detective) and Peter Cushing (as the forensic doctor) are a great enrichment as always, and without their presence the low rating would probably be justified. Still, this brilliant twosome always make a film worth watching, in my opinion. Sadly, their screen time could be longer. The other two leading characters, a female journalist (Georgia Brown) and a doctor (Keith Barron), and especially the lady played by Diana Dors are quite annoying. Then 14-year-old Gwyneth Strong is OK in her role. Overall, "Nothing But The Night" has some creepy moments, and, as mentioned above, I do not find the storyline to be THAT bad. The film is also quite nicely shot, and Cushing/Lee are always great. It is certainly not a highly memorable example of British Horror cinema, however, and can easily be skipped.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Peter Cushing is pathologist, Mark Ashley. Christopher Lee an investigator, Colonel Bingham. Both are working to figure out the mystery behind the sudden deaths of trustees of an island castle orphanage. Diana Dors is a crazed mother, Anna Harb, just out of prison for three murders, trying to retrieve her daughter, Mary(Gwyneth Strong). The case intensifies when Keith Barron's Dr. Haynes, a physician at Cushing's hospital, interested in solving a puzzling recurring nightmare to a child in his care concerning a fire which caused harm to someone named Vincent and, it seems, herself, is murdered. It's conceived that Anna committed the crime. Anna flees in pursuit of her daughter, making her way to the island castle orphanage. Georgia Brown is a reporter, Joan Foster, for a dirt-mag who had fallen in love with Haynes, hoping to convince Ashley that this nightmare is of the utmost importance to the current situation. Begging to no avail by local police and the desperate urgings of Bingham for the remaining trustees to have guards inside the walls of their fortress, it seems Anna might just accomplish her goal as her daughter has returned to her orphanage home, supposedly safe and secure. But, something much more sinister and unbelievable lies ahead for Bingham, Ashley & company who have no idea what really has occurred to the little girl, and the other children for that matter, and it will all come to a head when a great birthday celebration for Mary, bonfire, fireworks and the like is prepared. Twist regarding transplanting knowledge into other brains resulting in possible immortality has drawn hostile criticisms, but you can't say it's not unoriginal. It didn't quite work for me, but Lee and Cushing make anything bearable. The twist, I must admit, was pretty wacky and hard to swallow. Sadsy's direction does ratchet up the suspense with the plot seemingly pointing a finger at Anna for a certain period of time but there are some very weird scenes containing Mary which throws the whole plot into question regarding who's really committing the murders and one does wonder why the remaining trustees would be so resistant towards police protection. Despite such a talented cast and an ideal overall setting, and solid pace, something just doesn't quite work, maybe it's the far-fetched discovery of the true answer to the mystery of the plot. It's a testament to Cushing and Lee to keep a straight face at such nonsense.
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