Since I saw it for the first time way back when, I have always loved Dead of Night so the prospect of a Blu-Ray release from StudioCanal meticulously restoring it to its 1945 glory was enough to have me over joyed.
Having not seen it for a long stretch of time I was relived to find that it was just as frightening and effective as it had been all those years ago. Made up of several short stories all crafted by separate directors the framing story follows architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) who finds himself visiting a large country house on the request of its owner Eliot Foley (Roland Culver from Thunderball and The Legend of Hell House).
From the moment he arrives however Craig is captured by an immense sense of déjà vu allowing him to seemingly predict the future events of the evening before they happen much to the shock and intrigue of the gathered guests which includes skeptical psychologist Dr. Van Straaten (Frederick Valk).
Attempting to relive Craig’s agitation and explain his peculiar premonitions the other visitors each tell their own terrifying tales of supernatural occurrences varying from the slightly strange to a frightful farce to the psychiatrists’ vengeful vignette regarding a particularly disturbing ventriloquist’s dummy.
Made by Ealing Studios when very few horror films where being made in Britain Dead of Night is the perfect example of portmanteau movie which is a very challenging style of production frequently successful in horror throughout the ages from Creepshow to Tales from the Crypt all the way up to Trick ‘r‘ Treat and V/H/S.
All of the five stories are excellently directed with Basil Dearden opening procedings with an ominous deathly premonition in the Hearse Driver, Alberto Cavalcanti’s Christmas Party serving as a creepy kid filled appetizer to his latter much more disturbing section and Robert Hamer’s brilliant Haunted Mirror segment.
Staring the amazing Googie Withers as a woman whose husband becomes possessed by a violently jealous spirit inhabiting a room inside an antique mirror she gives him Hamer’s short is a powerful mood piece with great effects and packed with horrible hints of domestic homicide.
Interestingly the most throwaway section, a tale of two rival golfers on of whom haunts the other, is written and directed by the most famous pairing, H. G. Wells and Charles Crichton and even though it is the most dated story it still serves as light relief before the disturbing final tale and chaotic climax.
Cavalcanti returns with the brilliantly dark Ventriloquist’s Dummy featuring a stand out performance from the magnificent Michael Redgrave, is a great finale to the five stories paired perfectly with the wrap around directed by Basil Dearden.
Dead of Night serves up the scariest story last and when it ends it plungs the viewer into the stunning nightmarish finale which has been slowly simmering throughout the movie revealing the biggest horror of all to us and the doomed Mr. Craig.
Wonderfully atmospheric, every frame of Dead of Night seems infused with dread creating an extremely haunting experience both due to the films themes and its imagery which will stay with you long after the cleaver credits roll.
A perfect horror anthology that has most definitely lasted the test of time Dead of Night ranks among the best of British horrors inspiring generations of filmmakers since its release and hopefully with its re-release finding a whole new audience to spook and creatively stimulate.
No trailer just this great clip: