The Night Digger (The Road Builder) (1971)





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Movie Info

Adapted by Roald Dahl from a novel by Joy Crowley, The Road Builder is better known by its American release title: The Night Digger. Patricia Neal, then Mrs. Dahl, stars as the repressed middle-aged adopted daughter of blind and elderly Pamela Brown. Both women are drawn to Nicholas Clay, a seriously disturbed young handyman whom they shield from the authorities. Neal and Brown are particularly fascinated by Clay's mysterious nocturnal forays. When Neal decides to offer herself sexually to Clay, she learns to her horror just why Clay spends so much time outdoors at night. An eerie Bernard Herrmann score enhances the stomach-churning tension. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Drama , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:


Patricia Neal
as Maura Prince
Pamela Brown
as Mrs. Prince
Nicholas Clay
as Billy Jarvis
Bruce Myles
as Bank Clerk
Sibylla Kay
as Whore
Jean Anderson
as Mrs. McMurtrey
Graham Crowden
as Mr. Bolton
Sebastian Breaks
as Dr. Robinson
Brigit Forsyth
as District Nurse
Yootha Joyce
as Mrs. Palafox
Peter Sallis
as Rev. Palafox
Diana Patrick
as Mary Wingate
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for The Night Digger (The Road Builder)

All Critics (1)

I only felt the more miserable for seeing it.

Full Review… | January 23, 2011
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for The Night Digger (The Road Builder)


The Night Digger (Alastair Reid, 1971) These days, Alastair Reid's entry in who's-who-in-film is pretty much set in stone; he directed Traffik, the 1989 TV miniseries remade into a heavy-handed, almost entirely unwatchable movie by Steven Soderbergh eleven years later (and then remade yet again into another TV miniseries!). Thankfully, no one has thought to remake The Night Digger, the kind of just-this-side-of-cheesy mystery where all the stars were in alignment when someone worked it up: Reid directing, a script by Roald Dahl (Tales of the Unexpected) from a novel by Joy Cowley, one of New Zealand's most successful writers. And my god, what a cast. Patricia Neal, of course, who was married to Dahl at the time and worked on all his projects. Peter Sallis. Graham Crowden. Pamela Brown. Jean Anderson. Yootha Joyce. And I'm just scraping the tip of the iceberg. The plot is a simple one: Maura Prince (Neal) is a not-so-young-anymore woman who has devoted her life to taking care of her invalid mother (Cleopatra's Pamela Brown in one of her last roles). Her life is shaken up when a young stranger (Excalibur's Nicholas Clay) arrives and starts to woo her. Question is, is he the Night Digger, the serial killer who's been preying on lovely young things around the countryside? It's very low-key, and not very fast-paced, which pretty much guaranteed that it wasn't going to make a huge splash at the box office. But you put this caliber of cast together with the connections on the other end of the camera and you're bound to get something wonderful. Such is the case here. There is atmosphere galore, and the acting is about as you'd expect (which is to say if you're not a fan of Britcoms from the seventies, you might not find it as wonderful as I do). There's a plot twist at the end (which I understand is not in the original novel) that could have been done without, but it does fit and isn't completely out of the blue. Not easy to find these days, but definitely worth tracking down. Patricial Neal's performance is reason enough to watch this; everything else is a bonus. *** 1/2

Robert Beveridge
Robert Beveridge

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