Dead of Night (1945)
Critic Consensus: With four accomplished directors contributing, Dead of Night is a classic horror anthology that remains highly influential.
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Considered the greatest horror anthology film, the classic British chiller Dead of Night features five stories of supernatural terror from four different directors, yet it ultimately feels like a unified whole. The framing device is simple but unsettling, as a group of strangers find themselves inexplicably gathered at an isolated country estate, uncertain why they have come. The topic of conversation soon turns to the world of dreams and nightmares, and each guest shares a frightening event from his/her own past. Many of these tales have become famous, including Basil Dearden's opening vignette about a ghostly driver with "room for one more" in the back of his hearse. Equally eerie are Robert Hamer's look at a haunted antique mirror that gradually begins to possess its owner's soul, and Alberto Cavalcanti's ghost story about a mysterious young girl during a Christmas party. Legendary Ealing comedy director Charles Crichton lightens the mood with an amusing interlude about the spirit of a deceased golfer haunting his former partner, leaving viewers vulnerable to Cavalcanti's superb and much-imitated closing segment, about a ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) slowly driven mad when his dummy appears to come to life. Deservedly acclaimed and highly influential, Dead of Night's episodic structure inspired an entire genre of lesser imitators. … More
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as Maxwell Frere
as Walter Craig
as Joan Courtland
as Eliot Foley
as Mrs. Foley
as Dr. Van Straaten
as Mrs. Craig
as Joyce Grainger
as Mrs. O'Hara
as Hearse Driver
as Sally O'Hara
as Jimmy Watson
as Dr. Albury
as Peter Courtland
as Hugh Grainger
as Sylvester Kee
as Harry Parker
as George Parratt
as Larry Potter
as Mary Lee
as Maurice Olcott
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Critic Reviews for Dead of Night
Producer Michael Balcon turned each individual episode over to a different director and, told via flashback, they're equally good.
Nearly 60 years on, Ealing's compendium of spooky tales remains scary as hell.
Although the stories here related are probably familiar to all who are devotees of such mysticisms, they are tightly and graphically told.
The directorial contributions of Dearden and Hamer, the art direction (Michael Relph), lighting (Stan Pavey and Douglas Slocombe) and editing (Charles Hassey) combine to make this the smoothest film yet to come from an English studio.
Audience Reviews for Dead of Night
A super-psycho-natural flick. For a 1945 flick, the scripting seems quite advanced. Not the best, but definitely worth a watch (and maybe even more entertaining if you can resist looking for plot-holes).
Many of the reviews I've read over the years of "Dead of Night" seem to sideline the "Christmas Party" episode as being less successful and effective than the other stories involved. At first, I tended to agree with them; however, after a while it dawned on me that there was something rather unusual about the sequence that I couldn't quite place my finger on. Normally, in a ghost story, any part of the story containing the appearance of the ghost looks rather unreal in comparison with the everyday part to underline the supernatural aspect of the spectre's apparition. However, in this particular story, it's the (real) children's party that looks unreal, and the (supernatural) ghost that looks real. The party shows a massive house, with a roaring log fire, loads of toys, food, etc, and the children enjoying themselves enormously, without any adults present. It has the look of a fantasy of the perfect party any child would want. However, the meeting with the young boy seems more rooted in reality, and this is the irony of the story - that Constance Kent, the sister he mentions, actually did exist and did admit to killing her younger brother. In real life, the boy was actually a baby when he was murdered, but his age has obviously been changed so that Sally could talk to him. This gives an extra poignancy to the story, in that he likes Sally and presumably would have wanted her for his real sister, but instead had Constance, who killed him - the worst crime she could have committed against a helpless child.
I think it would be wrong to overlook this sequence as unworthy of comment, and reassess its value in "Dead of Night". It may not be as frightening as the famed ventriloquist story, but it does carry an emotional power which is perhaps its strongest point.
The best horror movie of 1945, maybe even of the whole decade! See it for yourself.
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