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Dead Of Night (The Ealing Studios Collection - 1946)

01/05/2007. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Dead Of Night in the USA - or Buy Dead Of Night in the UK

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region 2 DVD. pub: Canal Image/Optimum OPTD0610. 99 minute film with no extras. Price: £12.99 although it can be got for just under £ 5.00 if you know where to look (UK). stars: Michael Redgrave, Mervyn Johns, Googie Withers, Basil Radford, Nouton Wayne, Sally Ann Howes, Rowland Culver and Frederick Valk.

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I saw this 1946 black and white film on TV back in the 60s and was shook up by the cell scene in the end nightmare sequence far more than the final actual murder. This film was released last November and a little late to grab a review copy from Optimum direct but important enough to get my own copy.

Ealing Studios were renowned with the comedies in the 40s-50s and to do a scary film seemed at odds with this. If anything, it was more a tasting the waters of the cinema public at the time. Even so, they still instilled on comedy sequence into the film.

'Dead Of Night' is essentially an anthology film with four directors working together here. An architect (played by Mervyn Johns) is invited to a farmhouse for the weekend to plan giving it a couple more bedrooms. He gets déjà vu, recognising people and events before it happens, gently ridiculed by a psychologist there. They then tell various spooky tales that have affected them or people they know.

This aspect of formula was borrowed from this film for various Amicus and Hammer films a few decades later. In many respects, 'Dead Of Night' might seem comparatively gentle. A man being forewarned that to avoid an accident by not getting on a bus (the crash itself is actually model work incidentally) is as tame as the girl comforting a sick boy in an unknown part of a school although both elements are used in the final sequence with great effect. However, the mirror story with Googie Withers and the more humorous golf rivalry skit up the stakes. Paydirt is more with the Michael Redgrave story as he plays the schizo-ventriloquist showing his deterioration into insanity and attempted murder had been borrowed for several films since. See the original and realise it was filmed over 55 years ago.

The nightmare ending is seen through a fisheye lens drawing on elements from the other stories and a warning of to be careful of whom you share your prison cell with as it gets its stranglehold on you.

All right, so some elements might appear twee today but in its day, this would have been considered quite racey. It is still however a film that will keep your attention and that is always important. Don't go re-living your dreams or thinking you can change anything. A classic of its time.

GF Willmetts

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