Dead Of Night Review

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Architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) arrives for a weekend party at the home of a potential client, and astounds the company by claiming to have a recurring dream about the weekend which seems to be coming true. Each guest, in turn, recounts their own tale of the supernatural.

★★★★★

Still the greatest multi-story ghost/horror picture, this uncharacteristic Ealing film –directed by Robert Hamer, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden and Alberto Cavalcanti - came out in 1945 and can still spook audiences.

The least successful tale is Crichton’s token Ealing comedy, about golfing ghosts with Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, but the other four stories are near-perfect and there’s an unsettling wraparound about the genteel weekend party that gets scarier with each story.

Dearden directed the linking material and the opener, an anecdote often included in ‘true spook story’ anthologies in which a hospital patient has a precognitive dream involving jovially sinister undertaker Miles Malleson (‘room for one more inside, sir’). Cavalcanti directed a delicate, chilly little anecdote in which Sally Ann Howes runs into a ghost child during a game of hide and seek at a christmas party, but also the showstopper finale with Michael Redgrave (in an outstanding performance) as a ventriloquist whose dummy develops an independent personality and threatens to ditch him for a more outgoing partner.

Hamer contributes a nasty little anecdote about Googie Withers buying a haunted mirror which sometimes reflects a cluttered Victorian room rather than her smartly modern flat, and which influences her weak-willed husband (Ralph Michael) towards murderousness.

Each of the episodes has been endlessly imitated by later anthology movies and TV shows – the seeds of about a dozen Twilight Zone episodes alone can be found here. It’s terribly British, with crusts-cut-off politeness around the dinner table, but undercurrents seething in every barbed dialogue exchange and terrors growing in the shadows.

Still the greatest multi-story ghost/horror picture, this uncharacteristic Ealing film — expertly crafted by four directors — came out in 1945 and can still spook audiences.