Monday, October 31, 2016

Dead of Night (1945)

An architect is asked stay the weekend in a country estate to plan renovations. He is introduced to other guests and realizes he knows them from a recurring dream he can’t quite remember. A skeptical psychologist offers scientific explanations for everything, but coincidental happenings makes his story harder to explain away. The other guests relate strange stories they too cannot explain.

English movies are kinda weird. The cinematography is stage-like, the dialog matter-of-fact, and the score, if there is one, understated. In other words, very non-Hollywood. This makes it hard to create the dreamlike setting the story requires. This takes some getting used to, but for now I can’t help but notice it.

Here is Ealing Studio's only attempt at horror. Apparently taken from an H.G. Wells story, it's strange that the movie does not take place, as one would expect, in the dead of night. I'll track down the original story sometime.

Anyhow, the movie features Michael Redgrave (The Lady Vanishes, The Innocents) but apparently only in one flashback sequence, a creepy ventriloquist story. Another story, about two golfer friends competing for the affections of a lady young enough to be their granddaughter, was interesting for two reasons. First, it was silly and light-hearted, and thus broke the tone of the rest of the film, and secondly because I recognized them from The Lady Vanishes. They played fanatical cricket fans anxious to get back to London to see a match. Essentially they played the same characters with different names.

This is a better than fair film. The side stories were interesting, if mostly unrelated to the principle narrative. It could have used more atmosphere, but the story was unique and the ending did not disappoint. It even inspired a Twilight Zone episode. AMRU 3.

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