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Fear in the Night (1947)

A man dreams he committed murder, then begins to suspect it was real.


Maxwell Shane


Cornell Woolrich (story "Nightmare") (as William Irish), Maxwell Shane (written for the screen by)

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Complete credited cast:
Paul Kelly ... Cliff Herlihy
DeForest Kelley ... Vince Grayson
Ann Doran ... Lil Herlihy
Kay Scott Kay Scott ... Betty Winters
Charles Victor Charles Victor ... Captain Warner
Robert Emmett Keane ... Lewis Belknap, aka Harry Byrd
Jeff York ... Deputy Torrence (as Jeff Yorke)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Joey Ray Joey Ray ... Contractor (scenes deleted)
Loyette Thomson Loyette Thomson ... Waitress (scenes deleted)


Bank teller Vince Grayson wakes from a nightmare in which he and an unknown woman murdered a man in a strange, mirrored room. Only a dream...but Vince finds that he has physical objects and bruises from his "dream." His cop brother-in-law dismisses his story...until the family, on a picnic, takes shelter from a thunderstorm in a deserted mansion containing that mirrored room. Is doom closing in on Vince? Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

nightmare | key | button | picnic | mansion | See All (57) »


MURDER... With The Only Clue A NIGHTMARE! (original Herald) See more »


Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

11 August 1948 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

And So Scared to Death See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


DeForest Kelley's debut cinematic appearance. See more »


It is daytime when Vince Grayson (DeForest Kelly) is about to jump out of his window. When his brother-in-law goes to save him - it is nighttime. When he is pulled back into the window - it is daytime again. See more »


Vince Grayson: I've got an honest man's conscience... in a murderer's body.
See more »


Featured in Carolina (2003) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Then I saw the room, a queer mirrored room.
26 February 2011 | by SpikeopathSee all my reviews

Fear in the Night is directed by Maxwell Shane who also adapts from Cornell Woolrich's (AKA: William Irish) story titled Nightmare. It stars Paul Kelly, DeForest Kelley, Ann Doran, Kay Scott & Robert Emmett Keane. Music is by Rudy Schrager and photography Jack Greenhalgh. Plot finds bank teller Vince Grayson (Kelley) awoken from a nightmare where he kills a man in a mirrored room. Disorientated and sweaty, Grayson is further startled to find bruises on his neck and items about him that suggest that his nightmare was real. After confiding about the events to his brother-in-law, detective Cliff Herlihy (Kelly), it's presumed he's under stress and a good day out with the girls will do him wonders. But once the picnic with the girls is interrupted by a storm, Grayson finds himself leading the group to a house in the country. A house he doesn't know and a house he's sure he's never been to, but upon the discovery of a mirrored room it becomes evident that something very strange is going on….

Low budget across the board but not suffering too much for it. A cracking little film noir mystery neatly condensed into 72 minutes. Maxwell Shane's film is dealing in dreams and a protagonist caught in a circumstance, without understanding, that's out of his control. Tormented not only by the events of what appears to be in his "dream", but also by the heavy cloud of befuddlement that follows him during daylight hours. He himself ponders if he is going insane? It's a good question, and one which Shane and Woolrich do well to not answer for the first half of the film as the atmosphere stays hazy. The tone of the narrative is aided considerably by Greenhalgh's photography, Schrager's music and Shane's box of cheap, but hugely effective, tricks.

Much of the film relies on visuals to make its points, even as we get a cool pulpy voice over from Grayson, the blurry shifting images say much more. So too does the use of mirrors, very Hitchcockian: with the actual mirrored room at the core of the story very disambiguation like. There are shadows involved for practically every interior shot and even for much of the outdoor sequences too. While the music comes from the realm of the haunted house. The cast give variable performances, but there's nothing to hurt such a short movie. Lets just say that Kelley (in his first main role) fits the dazed requisite well and it's no bad thing that Doran & Scott don't get a lot of screen time. Kelly (Crossfire) is good value, making a believable copper, while Keane is wonderfully sedate and creepy (check out the candle sequence).

True enough there's problems that stop it being a B noir classic, such as the back screen shots and the afore mentioned less than stellar acting. Whilst the film would have benefited more by having a Gothic designed house as opposed to the white picket fence type that is used. But considering the budget and time of its making, it's an admirable film that's easily recommended to noir and murder mystery fans. Shane liked the story enough to remake it as Nightmare in 1956 with Edward G. Robinson & Kevin McCarthy as cop and protagonist respectively. A bigger budget and name actors it has, but the jury is still out on its worth. I'm happy with this version, thanks, even if the DVD print is old and scratchy. 7.5/10

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