Dead of Night – UK, 1945

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Dead of Night is a 1945 British anthology horror film made by Ealing Studios; the individual stories were directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden and Robert Hamer.

The film stars Mervyn Johns, Googie Withers and Michael Redgrave. It is probably best-remembered for the ventriloquist’s dummy episode with Redgrave.

Director Martin Scorsese placed Dead of Night on his list of the 11 scariest horror films of all time.

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Dead of Night stands out from British film of the 1940s, when few horror films were being produced in the country (horror films had been strongly discouraged from production in Britain during the war), and it had an influence on subsequent films in the genre.

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Architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) arrives at a country house party where he reveals to the assembled guests that he has seen them all in a dream. He appears to have no prior personal knowledge of them but he is able to predict spontaneous events in the house before they unfold.

The other guests attempt to test Craig’s foresight, while entertaining each other with various tales of uncanny or supernatural events that they experienced or were told about. These include a racing car driver’s premonition of a fatal bus crash; a light hearted tale of two obsessed golfers, one of whom becomes haunted by the other’s ghost; a ghostly encounter during a children’s Christmas party (a scene cut from the initial American release); a haunted antique mirror; and the story of an unbalanced ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) who believes his amoral dummy is truly alive.

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The framing story is then capped by a twist ending.

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Reviews:

“Nearly 60 years on, Ealing’s compendium of spooky tales remains scary as hell … Best of all, however, is the overall narrative arc, with the framing story finally taking a headlong rush into a nightmarish realm almost surreal in its weird clarity and familiarity.” GA, Time Out

 

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Related: Devil Doll (1964) | Magic (1978)

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