Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"The Midnight Sun"

Betty Garde (left) and Lois Nettleton (right) struggle for survival during a solar apocalypse

“The Midnight Sun”
Season Three, Episode 75
Original Air Date: November 17, 1961

Norma Smith: Lois Nettleton
Mrs. Bronson: Betty Garde
Intruder: Tom Reese
Mr. Shuster: Jason Wingreen
Mrs. Shuster: June Ellis
Doctor: William Keene
Radio Announcer: Robert Stevenson

Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay)
Director: Anton Leader
Producer: Buck Houghton
Associate Producer: Del Reisman
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Phil Barber
Set Decoration: H. Web Arrowsmith
Assistant Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck
Editor: Jason H. Bernie
Story Consultant: Richard McDonagh
Sound: Franklin Milton and Bill Edmondson
Casting: Stalmaster-Lister
Music: Nathan Van Cleave

 And Now, Mr. Serling:
“Next week we see what will happen to a world that, with each passing hour, draws closer to the sun. This is a nightmare in depth in which we watch two doomed women spend their last hours struggling for survival against the fiery orb that moves over the top of a hot, still, deserted city. We call it ‘The Midnight Sun’ and we also recommend it most heartily.”
Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“The word that Mrs. Bronson is unable to put into the hot, still, sodden air is ‘doomed,’ because the people you’ve just seen have been handed a death sentence. One month ago the Earth suddenly changed its elliptical orbit and in doing so began to follow a path which gradually, moment by moment, day by day, took it closer to the sun. And all of man’s little devices to stir up the air are now no longer luxuries. They happen to be pitiful and panicky keys to survival. The time is five minutes to twelve, midnight. There is no more darkness. The place is New York City and this is the eve of the end, because even at midnight it’s high noon, the hottest day in history, and you’re about to spend it in The Twilight Zone.”

            Norma Smith, a young woman, is alone in her apartment, painting the scene outside her upper-floor window. She swoons in the heat, wiping sweat from her brow. A huge, monstrous sun looms in the sky, pouring heat and blinding light down upon a deserted New York City. Norma looks into the face of the sun and quickly turns away, wincing in pain. She moves to her small kitchen where she allows herself a small ration of drinking water from a container in the refrigerator.
            Norma hears movement outside the apartment and opens her door to see a small girl standing in the hallway. The girl looks weary and her eyes plead for a taste from the water glass in Norma’s hand. Norma bends to give the girl some water when suddenly Mr. Shuster, the girl’s father, comes rushing down the stairs, yelling for the girl not to take the lady’s water. No one can afford to give away water anymore, he explains, pulling the girl away. The man’s wife follows behind him. They are sweating heavily and carrying suitcases.
            Mrs. Bronson, the middle-aged landlady, opens the door to her apartment and enters the hallway. Mr. Shuster tells Mrs. Bronson that he’s gotten hold of twelve gallons of gas and is using it to take his family to Syracuse to eventually try and make it to Toronto, where it is cooler. Norma and Mrs. Bronson wish the family luck and watch them leave the building. Norma and Mrs. Bronson are now the only two tenants remaining in the building. Mrs. Bronson speaks of a scientist who came onto the radio to explain that the Earth’s orbit has altered, bringing it closer to the sun each day. The thought causes Mrs. Bronson to break down, unable to voice the fact that the human race is doomed.

            Norma arrives home the following day struggling with two bags of groceries. Mrs. Bronson helps her get the bags inside the apartment as Norma describes the chaos of looting the grocery store. Norma has managed to acquire two cans of grapefruit juice. Mrs. Bronson grabs greedily at the cans, dropping one. She falls to her knees and apologizes. Norma comforts Mrs. Bronson before picking up the can and pouring each of them a glass of juice. A radio announcer comes on to report the news and slowly breaks down into delirium before being removed from the air. Soon after, the electricity shuts off. It is now a severely rationed service.
            Norma attempts to sleep, struggling to do so in the suffocating heat and permanent daylight. She crosses the hallways and knocks on Mrs. Bronson’s door. They stand in the doorway of Mrs. Bronson’s apartment, talking, when suddenly they hear a crash from upstairs. Mrs. Bronson cannot remember whether or not she locked the door to the roof exit. The exit door slowly opens. The two women dash into Norma’s apartment and lock the door. 

            Heavy footsteps stop at Norma’s door. A man calls out to be let in. Norma rushes to a table and picks up a gun. She moves to the door and cocks the gun, threatening the man and telling him to leave. After a silence, the man acquiesces. Norma moves to the window to watch him leave by the front exit. Mrs. Bronson unlocks the door before Norma can stop her and the man, lying in wait, burst into the apartment, sending Mrs. Bronson sprawling. Norma points the gun at him but he rushes her and takes it away, pushing her to the floor.
            Norma stands up to the intruder but Mrs. Bronson continues to cower near the sofa. The man opens the refrigerator and drinks all of Norma’s carefully rationed water. He sees Norma’s paintings spread out near the window. This causes the man to break down. He explains that his wife liked to paint. She has recently died from the heat, he says, soon after giving birth to their only child, a boy, who also perished in the heat. The man drops the gun and apologizes to the women, begging forgiveness before slowly leaving the apartment. 

            Norma calls Mrs. Bronson’s attention to a new painting she has recently completed. It is a picture of a waterfall. Mrs. Bronson looks at the painting and slowly descends into hysterics, imagining water cascading down upon her. She moves to the blazing hot window and leans against it. She shutters in the brutal rays of the sun and collapses down upon the floor, dead.
            Norma cradles Mrs. Bronson in her arms as the heat quickly increases, melting the paint on the canvases and causing the thermometer to burst. Norma screams in pain and falls to the floor, her eyes wide and staring, the life leaving her body.
            It is night now. Heavy snow pelts the frost covered windows of Norma’s apartment. Norma lies upon the sofa, a doctor at her side. Mrs. Bronson stands nearby. The doctor tells Norma that she has suffered a very bad fever that has only just broken. Speaking privately to Mrs. Bronson, the doctor informs her that he won’t be able to come back again. He has decided to move his family south, to Miami, where it is warmer. The Earth has gotten colder and colder ever since its orbit has changed, moving it farther away from the sun with each passing day. 

            Norma tells Mrs. Bronson about her terrible dream of a burning hot sun and remarks how wonderful it is to have darkness and cold again.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“The poles of fear, the extremes of how the Earth might conceivably be doomed. Minor exercise in the care and feeding of a nightmare, respectfully submitted by all the thermometer watchers in The Twilight Zone.”

            “The Midnight Sun” can be considered Rod Serling’s coda to his earlier episode, “The Shelter.” He substitutes the threat of nuclear annihilation with the threat of extreme natural disaster, yet both episodes function in relatively the same manner, as a lens through which to view the unpredictable methods in which human individuals maintain or lose their basic humanity in the face of imminent doom.
            What Serling achieves with “The Midnight Sun,” however, is clearly the opposite of what he set out to illustrate in “The Shelter.” With “The Shelter,” Serling attempts to display how quickly individuals can descend into violence and savagery when faced with a crisis. “The Shelter” functions to drive home the undeniable principle of social behavior that the person we are in public is not, to varying degrees, the person we are in private. He uses the catalyst of a life and death situation to show the ugly side of our hidden personalities, areas filled with suppressed prejudices. “The Shelter” uses hateful rhetoric and sudden, shocking acts of violence to drive this point home, with all of the action taking place between supposedly friendly neighbors.
            “The Midnight Sun” takes an entirely different approach to a similar situation by focusing on a more humanistic reaction to crisis. “The Shelter” is, perhaps unfairly, dismissed, or at least disliked, because of the pessimistic leanings of its narrative. Generally speaking, the negative response it generates in many viewers is evidence of its power and effectiveness. In other words, this is exactly the reaction Serling was looking for in his audience. He wanted people to be horrified by the behavior exhibited in the episode. However, for viewers that disliked the earlier episode, “The Midnight Sun” remedies this by presenting a small group of individuals that retain their basic humanity in the face of calamity. It is an episode that presents an optimistic view of ourselves, in its way as unbelievable in its extremes as is the behavior in “The Shelter.” Interesting to note is that, with “The Midnight Sun,” it is not until the final act and the end of Norma’s nightmare that any violence or death is shown on-screen. It is not until the climatic confrontation with a violent intruder, who eventually leaves begging forgiveness from those he has harmed, that the viewer is confronted with tangible evidence of society’s descent into chaos outside Norma’s apartment. Of course, the situation is eventually revealed to be a dream and when Norma awakens we are returned to a calm, collected setting despite the persistence of a deadly threat. The characters in “The Shelter” may have escaped the misfortune which is certain to befall the characters in “The Midnight Sun,” but their failure to maintain basic civility in the face of disaster indicates that these characters will never again possess a meaningful relationship among themselves. Serling stresses in both episodes that we can destroy ourselves without the need of any physical disaster.
            The viewer can assume that some of the residents of Mrs. Bronson’s apartment building died because of the heat, likely in a horrible state. Yet, we are never given evidence of this. The radio announcer speaks of maniacs, allowing the viewer to imagine the varied horrors individuals are inflicting upon one another in the lawless streets. Again, Serling never shows us any of this, or even a hint of it. Instead of showing the chaos of Norma’s grocery store trip, for instance, he merely has her speak of it after it is over. She does not appear to be physically harmed and she speaks of the experience not in a frightened way but rather in a sad, mournful manner, as though her experience left her feeling pity rather than fear.
            It aids the episode that Serling has no discernable political message to convey as he had in “The Shelter” or in the similarly themed “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.” This allows Serling to concentrate solely on developing character, clearly his strongest talent as a writer. It is character which drives the episode along, aided by a strong central performance and serviceable support. It is important that Serling paid such close attention to character development as he is certainly not breaking new conceptual ground with “The Midnight Sun,” as tales of natural apocalypse have been a regular theme of popular science fiction since the early 19th century (for examples see editor Michael Kelahan’s 2010 compilation The End of the World (Fall River Press), which collects apocalyptic science fiction from 1816-1920). 

            Initially, Serling included two additional characters in his teleplay that did not make into the finished episode. Shortly after the Shuster family departs, a refrigerator repairman finishes repairing Mrs. Bronson’s refrigerator. This excised scene was placed into the teleplay to show how desperate times have become for the remaining citizens of the city. When the repairman tells Mrs. Bronson that the job will cost her $100 and he can only accept payment in cash, Mrs. Bronson, who uses a charge account, offers her wedding ring as payment, which the repairman declines on principle. Interesting to note here is that the wedding ring calls direct attention to the fact that Mrs. Bronson is or was married, something otherwise left out of the finished episode if one is not paying close attention to the Mrs. in her name. If left in the episode, it leaves a wide spectrum of possibilities as to the fate of her husband. Has he been dead for years? Did he die earlier in the heat? Did he abandon her when she refused to leave her apartment building? Was he killed by some maniac? It is clear to see that the repairman character was unnecessary to move the narrative forward but it is still an interesting exchange that adds gravity to the situation.
            The second excised character is that of a policeman that arrives after Norma’s grocery trip. He appears in the doorway of her apartment in a tattered police uniform and explains that the police are making rounds to all those left in the city to inform them that the police are disbanding and that no more help will be available from the civil force. More importantly, it is this character that gives Norma the gun she later attempts to use to get rid of the intruder. When the policeman determines that the two women have no protection against any psychopath that may come into the building, he gives Norma his service revolver.
            For viewers that would like to read the excised scenes with these characters, Serling includes them in his adaptation of the teleplay for his 1962 collection, New Stories from the Twilight Zone, a book that has been reprinted dozens of times since. The decision to cut the two scenes resulted from Associate Producer Del Reisman’s concerns about both budget and time constraints. Ned Glass portrays the repairman and John McLiam portrays the policeman, with the scenes excised in post-production. 

            Interesting as these scenes are, however, it was probably wise to cut them for no other reason than logic, as it is highly unlikely that members of any occupation would still be making service rounds at this late date in the crisis. After showing scenes of completely deserted city streets, the idea that a refrigerator repairman would be out making services rounds and presumably leaving his family at home is preposterous. Especially if the streets are as dangerous as the radio announcers indicates. The refrigerator repairman also states that he is trying to get his family north, not only reinforcing the notion that it is absurd he would be out making service rounds but adding another mirrored juxtaposition to the doctor’s journey south at the end of the episode, a parallel which was previously established by the northern journey of the Shusters. The policeman continuing to do his job is a bit more believable but his character appears only to say that he won’t be around any longer.
            Serling’s adaptations of his teleplays often allowed him to elaborate and expand upon dialogue, setting, and characters with little of the space limitations of the television series. In his adaptation of “The Midnight Sun,” Serling presents extended dialogue sequences, including a harrowing extension of the radio announcer’s on-air breakdown, as well as more subtle changes, such as the fact that the Shusters are traveling to Buffalo and not Syracuse, as in the episode. Serling also ramps up the violence and impact of the situation in his adaptation. One memorable scene is that of Mrs. Bronson’s death, describing how portions of the woman’s face are burned away onto the scorching hot glass of the apartment window as she presses against it. The intruder is also a bit more violent in the adaptation, going so far as to slap Norma across the face during their encounter. Interestingly enough, Serling’s adaptation of “The Shelter” is also included in New Stories from the Twilight Zone and presents a fascinating juxtaposition of the two similarly theme stories.
            “The Midnight Sun” was directed by Anton M. Leader, born in Boston in 1913, who began his directing career in New York radio, at the helm for several memorable episodes of Suspense (1942-1962), working with many Golden Age Hollywood stars. Leader moved to Los Angeles in 1948 and began to work in the burgeoning television medium, where he was directing by 1954 with his first credit for the mystery anthology series The Web (1950-1954; 1957). He continued to work on anthology series in the 1950s, including work on Celebrity Playhouse (1955-1956), Four Star Playhouse (1952-1956), and The Ford Television Theatre (1948-1957). Leader could hardly avoid the flood of western television programs that descended upon the small screen in the 1950s and 1960s, helming episodes of The Adventures of Jim Bowie (1956-1958), Rawhide (1959-1966), and The Virginian (1962-1971). His science fiction and fantasy credits include episodes of Lost in Space (1965-1968), Tarzan (1966-1968), and Star Trek (1966-1969).
            Leader previously directed the excellent first season Twilight Zone episode "Long Live Walter Jameson" and, like that technically challenging episode, he again displays his directing skills behind the camera. Aided by Emmy Award-winning cinematographer George T. Clemens, Leader manages to convey the inherent suffocating atmosphere of the episode with an effective number of subjective camera shots. In one particularly memorable shot, Leader focuses down on Norma as she awakens from sleep with a long shop from the ceiling of the apartment. As she comes awake, Leader brings the camera swooping down to a close shot of her confronting an empty water glass. It is a marvelous shot and one which Leader managed to expertly employ in an episode otherwise devoid of opportunities for camera flourishes.
            Adding verisimilitude to the atmosphere is the fact that the episode was filmed in summer on a set without air conditioning. Though the actors were continually spritzed with water, much of the sweat and weariness in their performances is authentic. Leader even went so far as to occasionally have the temperature brought up on set to simulate the setting of the episode.  
            Leader is perhaps best known for directing the film Children of the Damned three years later in 1964. This film was the sequel to the classic 1960 science fiction thriller Village of the Damned, taken from John Wyndham’s 1957 novel, The Midwich Cuckoos. Children of the Damned, though greatly different in tone than its predecessor, has gained a loyal following in the years since its release and is a fine film in its own right. Leader died in Los Angeles on July 1, 1988, aged 74 years.
            Although ably supported by Betty Garde and Tom Reese, both of whom perhaps succumb a bit too much to melodramatic acting, the episode relies heavily upon the performance of Lois Nettleton, here playing Norma Smith. Nettleton brings to the role a calm, steely reserve, giving a highly effective and unusual performance during a time in which women were mostly cast in a science fiction play to panic and scream. She does get the one ringing scream off but it comes as the fever subsides and the nightmare breaks down.
            Nettleton was born in 1927 in Oak Park, Illinois. She was a former beauty queen (Miss Chicago 1948) who began an acting career at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and made her Broadway debut in 1949 in Dalton Trumbo’s comedy The Biggest Thief in Town, using the stage name Lydia Scott. Nettleton remained committed to stage work, appearing on stage well into her seventies. Although she did not make her official film debut until 1962, for Period of Adjustment, Nettleton quickly moved from the stage to the television screen, making an early appearance in an episode of Captain Video and His Video Rangers (1949-1955) in 1954. Her genre television credits include an adaptation of Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White (1859) for The Dow Hour of Great Mysteries (1960), an adaptation of Conrad Aiken’s 1931 short story “Mr. Arcularis” for Great Ghost Tales (1961), The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962-1965) (in Alec Coppel’s “The Dark Pool”), and Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (1969-1973) (for an adaptation of Rene Morris’s 1966 short story “I’ll Never Leave You-Ever”). Nettle went on to win two Daytime Emmy Awards for her portrayal of Susan B. Anthony in The American Woman: Profiles in Courage (1976) and in 1983 for “A Gun for Mandy,” an episode of the Roman Catholic anthology series Insight (1960-1983). Nettleton was nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards. She died on January 18, 2008 in Woodland Hills, California, aged 80 years.
            I ultimately feel that “The Midnight Sun” is an underrated episode, one of the efforts well above average that warrants a repeated viewing to fully appreciate the nuances of directing and acting on display. Anton Leader only directed two episodes of the series and both are outstanding scripts (one from Charles Beaumont, one from Serling) that Leader manages to effectively frame in a stylized array of subjective camera shots which enhance both the performances and the carefully realized settings and effects. “The Midnight Sun” remains an episode perhaps remembered for its unexpected ending but certainly not an episode which fully relies upon it. And this is what separates it from the less successful episodes of a similar type. It comes recommended. 

Grade: B

-Anton Leader also directed the first season episode “Long Live Walter Jameson.”
-Betty Garde also appears as a passenger in the second season episode, “The Odyssey of Flight 33.”
-Jason Wingreen also appears in the first season episode “A Stop at Willoughby” and (uncredited) in the fourth season episode “The Bard.”
-June Ellis also appears (uncredited) in the first season episode “What You Need.”
-William Keene also appears (uncredited) in the second season episode “The Prime Mover.”
-Rod Serling adapted “The Midnight Sun” into a short story for New Stories from the Twilight Zone, first published in May, 1962 by Bantam Books.
-“The Midnight Sun” was adapted into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama, starring Kim Fields.
-“The Midnight Sun” was adapted into a graphic novel by Mark Kneece (writer) and Anthony Spay (illustrator), first published in May, 2009 by Walker.
-The waterfall of which Mrs. Bronson speaks is The Taughannock Falls in Taughannock Falls State Park, located in Ulysses, New York, in Tompkins County. The park is northwest of Ithaca, which is the county seat.
-The effect of the melting paint was achieved by painting wax onto a hot plate, which could then be heated up to melt the wax.

--Jordan Prejean            

Friday, July 8, 2016

"Deaths-Head Revisited"

Captain Gunther Lutze (Oscar Beregi, Jr.) is haunted by former
Dachau prisoner Alfred Becker (Joseph Schildkraut).

“Deaths-head Revisited”
Season Three, Episode 74
Original Airdate: November 10, 1961

Captain Gunther Lutze (aka Mr. Schmidt): Oscar Beregi, Jr.
Alfred Becker: Joseph Schildkraut
Hotel Clerk: Karen Verne
Doctor: Ben Wright
Taxi Driver: Robert Boon

Writer: Rod Serling (Original Teleplay)
Director: Don Medford
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: Jack Swain
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Phil Barber
Set Decoration: H. Web Arrowsmith
Assistant Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck
Editor: Bill Mosher
Story Consultant: Richard McDonagh
Sound: Franklin Milton and Bill Edmondson
Casting: Stalmaster-Lister
Music: Stock

And Now, Mr. Serling:
“This is the lobby of an inn in a small Bavarian town, and next week we’ll enter it with a former SS officer. It’s the first stop on his road back to relive a horror that was Nazi Germany. Mr. Joseph Schildkraut and Mr. Oscar Beregi demonstrate what happens to the monster when it is judged by the victim. Our feeling here is that this is as stark and moving a piece of drama as we have ever presented. I very much hope that you’re around to make your judgement.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:

“Mr. Schmidt: recently arrived in a Bavarian village which lies eight miles northwest of Munich. A picturesque, delightful little spot onetime known for its scenery, but more recently related to other events having to do with some of the less positive pursuits of man. Human slaughter, torture, misery, and anguish. Mr. Schmidt, as we will soon perceive, has a vested interest in the ruins of a concentration camp. For once, some seventeen years ago, his name was Gunther Lutze. He held the rank of captain in the SS. He was a black-uniformed, strutting animal whose function in life was to give pain. And like his colleagues of the time, he shared the one affliction most common amongst that breed known as Nazis: he walked the Earth without a heart. And now former SS Captain Lutze will revisit his old haunts, satisfied perhaps that all that is awaiting him in the ruins on the hill is an element of nostalgia. What he does not know, of course, is that a place like Dachau cannot exist only in Bavaria. By its nature, by its very nature, it must be one of the populated areas…of the Twilight Zone.”

            Former SS Captain Gunther Lutze, under the handle of “Mr. Schmidt,” decides to revisit his past on a trip to Bavaria. It’s been seventeen years since the Dachau concentration camp ceased operations as a haven of misery and anguish. Captain Lutze, craving the power and pleasure of his former life as an SS camp guard, decides to visit the abandoned facility and recapture his former glory.
            He walks the grounds and admires the lynch posts. He strolls through the barracks and imagines rooms full of weak, half-starved prisoners at his mercy.
            While reminiscing about happier days Lutze encounters a man dressed in prison rags. Startled, he decides to leave but finds the entrance gate locked. So he turns his attention back to the stranger. He realizes that he knows this man. His name is Alfred Becker. He was a prisoner here. Lutze assumes Becker to be the camp caretaker now. He tries to make small talk but Becker immediately launches into a verbal assault, telling him that he was a monster seventeen years ago and that he is a monster still. He tells him that his crimes cannot be expunged by simply stripping off a uniform or changing a name. But now, Becker tells him, he shall be judged for his crimes accordingly.
Lutze attempts to leave again but instead finds himself inside the prisoners barracks surrounded by men that were once the subjects of his madness. They are his jury. And they find him guilty of unspeakable crimes against his fellow man. The punishment, Becker says, is his sanity. For the rest of his life Captain Lutze will live with the pain and the memories of those that died by his hands. Outside again, he tumbles to the ground, begging Becker to have mercy on him. But mercy does not come.
            Two men, a doctor and a taxi driver, kneel over the sedated body of Captain Gunther Lutze. The driver says he dropped Lutze off only two hours ago and he seemed fine. The doctor seems equally puzzled. He looks at the empty buildings as if they might hold the answers. “Why do they allow this place to remain standing?” He asks the driver. But the driver doesn’t have an answer. So they sit in silence, listening to the wind softly whistling through the abandoned ruins of a Hell once known as Dachau.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“There is an answer to the doctor’s question. All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes. All of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the grave diggers. Something to dwell on and to remember, not only in the Twilight Zone, but wherever men walk God’s Earth.”

            It’s no secret that Rod Serling possessed a special brand of hatred for abusive authority figures for it is featured prominently throughout his writing and is the main reason he created The Twilight Zone. He wanted an open platform for social criticism without the interference of network censorship. What often got Serling in trouble with networks and advertisers during his years as a writer of live dramas were his thinly-veiled interpretations of real events. Two famous examples are his 1956 script, “Noon on Doomsday,” filmed for The United States Steel Hour, and his 1958 Playhouse 90 script “A Town Has Turned to Dust” (directed by John Frankenheimer and featuring Williams Shatner). Both scripts were based on the 1955 murder of Emmet Till, a black teenager who was lynched in Mississippi and whose killers were eventually acquitted. Both stories received unyielding disapproval from sponsors. So the networks, ABC and CBS respectively, took measures to set the sponsors at ease by altering the script and eliminating any similarities to actual events or people. The result both times was a story so far removed from Serling’s intended idea that he could hardly take credit for it.
            On The Twilight Zone Serling had full creative control so if the network didn’t like a particular script they couldn’t alter it without his permission. But because it was a fantasy program the show oddly received little opposition from either the sponsors or CBS despite the fact that many episodes—mostly Serling’s—are overtly political. Many are even based on current events of the time.
Serling had already touched on the recent Cuban Revolution earlier in Season Three in “The Mirror” which features a fictionalized but deliberate depiction of a young Fidel Castro. Actor Peter Faulk gives a brilliant but highly unflattering portrayal of the controversial dictator and Serling’s script is filled with violence, corruption, betrayal, cowardice, and the murder of the fictional dictator’s chief officers (most of whom were based on real political figures). At the end of the episode the Castro lookalike commits suicide. It was a bold choice in 1961 to say the least.
In “Deaths-Head Revisited” he comments on the recent capture and on-going trial of Adolf Eichmann, a former German Schutzstaffel (SS) lieutenant colonel and head of the Gestapo Office of Jewish Affairs who directly oversaw the mass deportation of European Jews into ghettos and extermination camps. He is considered by many to be the most significant figure of the execution of the Holocaust. After the war he was captured by the United States military but managed to escape and eventually took refuge in Argentina under the alias Ricardo Klement. He was captured by Israeli forces in 1960 and executed for war crimes in 1962. His trial was widely covered in the media.
It seems appropriate that Serling, a Jewish-American war veteran, would have felt a connection to this story. It feels very much like a Rod Serling script with Eichmann, the man credited with the concept of extermination camps, as a standard Serling villain who almost gets away with his crimes but ends up at the mercy of a court of Jewish Israeli officials. In Serling’s version Captain Lutze follows a similar path. Serling’s proclivity for turning current events into television scripts was his way of making a statement that was relevant to his audience but would also capture the atmosphere of the time for subsequent generations. Because Serling wrote the script as the trial was taking place he was basically commenting on a piece of history as it happened, one that was still a sensitive subject even in 1961.
Serling would return to the Eichmann story several years later in a prose piece called “The Escape Route.” It was first published in a collection of novellas called Seasons to be Wary (Little, Brown, 1967). It tells the story of Josef Strobe, a Nazi war criminal secretly living in Argentina. His life after the war has been a miserable one spent constantly on the run for the crimes of his past. He walks into an art gallery one day and becomes engrossed in a painting in which he sees his face on the body of a fisherman. The scene is a peaceful one and Strobe closes his eyes and imagines himself in it. To his surprise he is briefly transported into the painting where he can feel the sun on his face and the water beneath his fishing boat. He returns to the gallery several more times attempting to transport himself into the painting permanently, each day getting closer and closer. Later in the story Strobe’s cover is blown by a former Auschwitz prisoner who recognizes him. When the elderly man refuses to stop antagonizing Strobe he drunkenly strangles him to death. With Israeli agents closing in on him Strobe breaks into the gallery. It’s dark inside. He prays to God to place him into the picture and then vanishes. It is later revealed that the painting of the fisherman has been replaced by one featuring a giant wooden crucifix at a concentration camp. On the crucifix hangs Joseph Strobe, formerly of the German Third Reich, his face screaming in agony for all of eternity. While “Deaths-Head Revisited” focuses on Eichmann’s trial, “The Escape Route” concerns itself with Eichmann’s life on the run in South America, eliminating many of the plot conveniences present in the earlier version. Serling later adapted this story into the final segment of the pilot episode for Night Gallery which first aired on NBC on November 8, 1969. It was directed by Barry Shear and features remarkable performances from Richard Kiley and Sam Jaffe. This later, often overlooked, story comes highly recommended for those who enjoy “Deaths-Head Revisited.”
            Historians often note the widespread media coverage of the Eichmann trial for awakening public interest in the Holocaust, details of which were still largely unknown. It is also credited with exposing South America, particularly Argentina, as a postwar refuge for former members of the German military seeking to escape prosecution. Former Argentine President Juan Peron lived in Italy for a short time and was a fascist sympathizer and admirer of Benito Mussolini. In the years after the war, with the help of various officials in the Roman Catholic Church, he secretly organized a system of “ratlines” out of Europe. It is estimated that he supplied refuge for thousands of Nazi war criminals. Many of these individuals were never caught including Dr. Josef Mengele who conducted unspeakable experiments on prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Several other socialist-leaning South American countries including Brazil, Chile, and Paraguay also provided asylum for former Nazi officials. It should be noted, however, that most of these countries remained neutral during the war and were also a safe haven for Jewish refugees and other Europeans fleeing Hitler’s dictatorship such as Oscar Beregi, Jr.
A German SS officers hat featuring the Totenkopf or
"death's-head" emblem.

The term “death’s-head” is the English translation of the German word Totenkopf which refers to the skull and crossbones insignia that appeared on the uniforms of various German officers including the Schutzstaffel. It’s a German military tradition that dates back to the eighteenth century.
Despite the fact that setting the story at the Dachau concentration camp presents certain problems with plot structure the ghostly camp setting is still quite effective. The set that doubled for Dachau was a building on the MGM backlot that was often used for westerns. Although Eichmann was briefly stationed at Dachau for military training early in his career he was never a guard there or at any other German military camp. The Dachau concentration camp, located in Bavaria in Southern Germany not far from the town that shares its name, was opened in 1933 and was the first Nazi concentration camp in existence. It became the model for all other concentration camps. It was liberated by American troops in April, 1945. In the years immediately following the fall of the Third Reich the camp was, ironically, used to house political prisoners including hundreds of former SS officers. It was officially converted into a war memorial in 1965.
Serling manages to deliver a script that is both compelling and historically significant with “Deaths-Head Revisited” but it is certainly not without flaws. It’s an episode that packs a heavy dramatic punch initially—via the ghostly imagery and compelling dialogue—but in subsequent viewings the weak plot structure becomes increasingly noticeable. It seems highly unlikely—almost unthinkable—that a Nazi war criminal on the run for his life would revisit one of the most notorious concentration camps of World War II—which, in reality, would be heavily guarded by Allied forces. It also seems unlikely that Lutze would recognize Becker so quickly but not remember murdering him until the end of the episode when it is most convenient for the plot. It feels as if Serling wanted to comment on the atrocities of the holocaust but also mirror the events of Eichmann’s trial at the same time. The resulting plot seems weak at times which unfortunately overshadows a strong political message and superb dialogue.
Serling should be commended, however, for creating compelling characters that basically represent the two ideological sides of the holocaust which is surely no easy task. Gunther Lutze is the malevolent face of Nazi Germany as Eichmann was to the general public in 1961. And like Eichmann he attempts to justify his crimes, claiming that he was only following orders. Alfred Becker is the voice of every victim of the holocaust and of the growing public sentiment as the Eichmann trial drew more and more attention. Becker’s dialogue is uniquely compelling and is some of the best Serling ever penned for the show. These characters are brilliantly brought to life by Oscar Beregi, Jr. (1918 – 1976) and Joseph Schildkraut (1896 – 1964). Despite being on opposing sides in this episode the two Hungarian-born actors were actually close friends and had known each other for many years. Beregi left Hungary (along with his father, actor Oscar Beregi, Sr.) in 1939 as Hitler’s forces began to spread across Europe. He settled for a time in Chile before moving to the United States. Given his physical stature and thick Hungarian accent he was frequently cast as a Nazi. Schildkraut (son of an actor Rudolph Schildkraut) was a veteran of stage and screen. In 1937 he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Secret Life of Emile Zola. He also famously portrayed Otto Frank in both the stage (1955) and screen (1959) versions of The Diary of Anne Frank. Although most of his well-known roles were sympathetic characters he usually gravitated towards villains and devious characters. His performance as Alfred Becker is remarkable.
While “Deaths-Head Revisited” has its setbacks it remains an important episode of the show and one of Rod Serling’s personal favorites. Serling’s combat experiences during World War II influenced his writing considerably throughout his career and the social repercussions of war and of the holocaust are featured prominently in his work. He felt that every creative medium, especially television, had an obligation not only to entertain but to discuss complex political topics that were often avoided by networks and advertisers. By keeping his finger on the pulse of social consciousness he was able to capture specific moments in time with a dramatic flair that was uniquely his. “Deaths-Head Revisited” should serve as a historical television benchmark and a testament to Serling’s stand on intolerance and his belief in the basic human rights of all people.

Grade: B

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following:
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

--Oscar Beregi, Jr. also appeared in the second season episode, “The Rip Van Winkle Caper,” and the fourth season episode, “Mute.”
--Joseph Schildkraut also appeared in the third season episode, “The Trade-Ins.”
--Ben Wright also appears in the first season episode, “Judgement Night,” and the third season episode, “Dead Man’s Shoes.”
--Don Medford directed four other episodes: Season One’s “The Passage for Trumpet,” Season Two’s “The Man in the Bottle,” Season Three’s “The Mirror,” and Season Four’s “Death Ship.”
--“Deaths-Head Revisited” was adapted into a graphic novel by Mark Kneece with art by Chris Lie as part of a series developed by the Savannah College of Art and Design (Walker Books, 2009). You can also listen to the Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring H.M. Wynant.

--Brian Durant

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Dead of Night (1945) Revisited

by Jordan Prejean

          Dead of Night, the 1945 horror anthology film from Britain’s venerable Ealing Studios, is one of the most influential and highly regarded horror films of the classic era. The film’s reputation for terror rests primarily with the fifth, and final, segment of the film, “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy,” one of the most imitated of all short horror films. The film has inspired a host of imitations and homages, including several episodes of The Twilight Zone, as well as many other horror anthologies on both film and television. 

          Unfortunately, the film has never been readily available in the United States. It is crying out for attention from the folks at the Criterion Collection or Kino Lorber. Those that have not seen the film may catch an infrequent screening on Turner Classic Movies or send for an expensive, out-of-print double feature DVD from Anchor Bay in which it is paired with the exceptional but thematically unrelated 1949 dark fantasy film The Queen of Spades (based on the 1934 short story by Alexander Pushkin). Those with a region-free Blu-ray player can send for the 2014 Blu-ray release from StudioCanal, which features a restoration of the film from the British Film Institute and a 76-minute documentary, “Remembering Dead of Night.”
          For the uninitiated, the film consists of five short tales of supernatural horror (and comedy) connected by a framing narrative which sees an architect (Mervyn Johns) visit a country manor house that exactly mirrors the setting and events of a recurring dream he has been having. When the architect reveals this odd coincidence, as well as an uncanny ability of precognition, to the members of a small social gathering at the house, it spurs each guest in turn to recount a strange incident in their own lives. 
          Dead of Night is notable for being the first full-blooded horror film to emerge from the post-war era of British filmmaking. Since 1936, the British Board of Film Censors, much like its American counterpart the Production Code Administration, began actively discouraging the production and distribution of horror films. Beyond the increasingly gruesome and sexualized nature of horror films during the Pre-Code era (before July, 1934) was the perception that horror films produced a negative effect on the national psyche during a time of war. Universal Studios was eventually encouraged to continue its successful series of Frankenstein films, with Son of Frankenstein (1939), only after viewing the surprisingly high returns from a triple feature re-release of Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), and Son of Kong (1933) at the Regina Theater in Los Angeles in the summer of 1938.
          In Great Britain, beyond drawing room thrillers, supernatural comedies, and the occasional Tod Slaughter melodrama, a return to the production of supernatural horror films would have to wait until 1945 and Dead of Night. Ealing Studios was notable for producing patriotic war films to boost public morale and would later become famous for the “Ealing Comedy,” a type of darkly satirical film exemplified by Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), Whiskey Galore! (1949), The Man in the White Suit (1951), and The Ladykillers (1955). It was unusual, then, that Ealing would utilize its talented stable of actors and technicians to produce a horror anthology, albeit one with several moments of dark comedy. Ealing would return to the anthology format with 1949’s Train of Events, a drama with dark undercurrents but nothing approaching the outright terror of Dead of Night. 

          At this point, the anthology format should be very familiar to horror film fans as everything from Roger Corman’s Tales of Terror (1962) to Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath (1964) to the Amicus films (1965-1974) to Creepshow (1982) to Trick ‘r Treat (2007) to a hundred more in-between, including numerous television efforts, have utilized the format in different and interesting ways. In 1945, the horror anthology film was still in its infancy and there was little precedent for success. Though there were anthology films which contained horror elements before Dead of Night (silent German cinema gave us Richard Oswald’s Eerie Tales in 1919, Fritz Lang’s Destiny in 1921, and Paul Leni’s Waxworks in 1924) the Ealing Studios film set a standard for format and quality which still influences filmmakers today. 

E.F. Benson (via ISFDB)
          Dead of Night was written by Angus McPhail, John Baines, and T.E.B. Clarke, deriving its subject and tone from the literary tradition of British ghost stories. Despite the variety of the subject’s treatment, the film credits only two literary sources. E.F. Benson provides the inspiration for the framing narrative with his story “The Room in the Tower” (1912), which also relates how a man’s recurring dream becomes reality with horrifying results. Another Benson story, “The Bus-Conductor,” first published in the December, 1906 issue of Pall Mall Magazine, inspired the first of the five principle segments, “The Hearse Driver,” directed by Basil Deardon. It tells of a race-car driver (Anthony Baird) who sees a deadly portent in the form a hearse driver while recuperating in the hospital following an accident on the track. Benson’s story, and its haunting refrain, “room for one more,” have nearly become apocryphal. The story has gone on to inspire a host of other properties, including the second season Twilight Zone episode "Twenty-Two" (February 10, 1961) and a story, “Room for One More,” in Alvin Schwartz’s much loved and often banned collection of folktales, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (J.B. Lippincott, 1981). Benson is the author of the Mapp and Lucia series of novels (six volumes, 1920-1939), an upper-class comedy of manners which has inspired two television series. He is also well-known for having written many of the most chilling stories of the post-Edwardian era, including “Caterpillars” (1912), “The Horror-Horn” (1922), and “Mrs. Amworth” (1922), this latter tale being memorably filmed in 1975 with Glynis Johns and broadcast as part of the British/Canadian television series Classics Dark and Dangerous in 1977.+ Benson’s ghostly tales are collected in The Room in the Tower and Other Stories (1912), Visible and Invisible (1923), Spook Stories (1928), and More Spook Stories (1934). His Collected Ghost Stories appeared in 1992 from Robinson (U.K.) and Carroll & Graf (U.S.).  
          The film also credits H.G. Wells for “The Golfing Story,” the comical, and much derided, fourth segment of the film directed by Charles Crichton. This darkly humorous segment most closely resembles the comedies for which Ealing would soon become well-known. The segment is nominally taken from Well’s “The Story of the Inexperienced Ghost” from the March, 1902 issue of The Strand Magazine. Besides these two credits, the film presents the rest of the stories as original to the screenplay.
          The second segment, “The Christmas Party,” directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, is told by a teenaged girl (Sally Ann Howes) and concerns a Christmas party, a game of hide-and-go-seek, and the ghost of a long-ago murder. This segment was likely inspired by two sources. The first is the real-life murder of three year old Francis Kent by his sixteen year old half-sister Constance Kent in 1860 in the village of Road in Wiltshire (now Rode in Somerset). Young Francis was first discovered missing from the main house and later found in an outhouse with severe lacerations about his body, including a severe throat wound. Constance was not initially brought to trial because of class differences with the working-class detective that first targeted the girl as a suspect. Five years later, Constance made a confession to an Anglo-Catholic clergyman describing how she first abducted young Francis from the house and then killed him in an outhouse using a stolen razor. Constance was subsequently sentenced to death but this was quickly commuted to a life sentence, of which she served twenty years before immigrating to Australia and living to a ripe 100 years. Elements of this famous murder were later incorporated into many contemporary works of popular literature, including Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret (1862), Charles Dickens's unfinished final work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870), and Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone (1868). 
Constance Kent (via Wikipedia)
          “The Christmas Party” also bears resemblance to the short story “Smee” by English author A.M. Burrage, a story first published in the December, 1929 issue of Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine. For years the story would be reprinted under Burrage’s pseudonym “Ex-Private X.” Burrage was a prolific writer specializing in short fiction for the crowded magazine market of the day, covering everything from boy’s adventure fiction to a scathing anti-war memoir to many of the creepiest ghost stories of the time. “Smee” was reprinted in Burrage’s 1931 collection Someone in the Room, an excellent volume of supernatural tales that also contains “The Waxwork,” adapted for the fourth season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and one of his finest stories, “The Sweeper.” Dennis Wheatley included “Smee” in his massive 1935 survey A Century of Horror Stories and it was later included in Alfred Hitchcock’s Fireside Book of Suspense Stories in 1947, the fifth volume in a long line of horror and mystery anthologies to bear the director’s name.
A.M. Burrage
“Smee” also concerns a Christmas party and a game of hide-and-go-seek as well as the story of a young girl who previously died in the house by falling down a dark staircase and breaking her neck. The guests at the party decide to play a variation of hide-and-go-seek called “Smee,” the word being derivative of “It’s me.” Since the object of the game is to roam around a large, dark house attempting to find the player labeled “Smee,” it is easy to imagine how the story ends, especially when one considers the girl with the broken neck and how that sort of nasty accident might produce a ghost.  
          The third segment, “The Haunted Mirror,” directed by Robert Hamer, concerns an antique mirror which reveals a malevolent room and suggests an occupant who seems always to be hidden from view. It is a reasonably original treatment of a concept, the haunted or enchanted mirror, which harkens back to tales of antiquity. It is interesting to note that “The Haunted Mirror” segment, with its idea of an antique object that visually reveals a horrible hidden past, was likely an influence on the 1974 Amicus film From Beyond the Grave, a film based on four stories by English author R. Chetwynd-Hayes. That film contains two segments suggestive of the Dead of Night haunted mirror story. Milton Subotsky, one half of the Amicus production team, was a great admirer of Dead of Night and became a prolific writer and producer of horror anthology films modeled on a formula largely established by the Ealing film, this being three to five short segments with a narrative framing story. 

          The first segment of From Beyond the Grave, “The Gatecrasher,” concerns a man (David Warner) who purchases an antique mirror that houses an ancient, evil entity, played to eerie perfection by Marcel Steiner. After an impromptu séance awakens the spirit, it first demands blood sacrifices from its helpless subject before pulling a switcheroo to free itself from the mirror. The final segment of the film, “The Door,” tells of a young man (Ian Ogilvy) who installs an antique door in his home only to discover the door opens to reveal a very old room that once belong to an evil sorcerer (Jack Watson) who happens to still be around.
Michael Redgrave and Hugo
The final segment of Dead of Night, “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy,” also helmed by Alberto Cavalcanti, is likely familiar to every horror film fan, even those who have never seen the film, such is its reputation as a frightening segment. A ventriloquist, Maxwell Frere (Michael Redgrave), is convinced that his dummy, Hugo, is alive and malevolent. When Hugo tricks the ventriloquist into shooting a rival for the dummy’s affections (Harley Power), Maxwell snaps and destroys the dummy. Hugo gets the last laugh, however, as the confrontation has destroyed Maxwell’s mind in a most disturbing way.
          This segment was likely inspired by two sources. The first is the 1929 film The Great Gabbo, a musical melodrama concerning a ventriloquist (Eric von Stroheim) who becomes increasingly dependent on his dummy for expression as he descends into madness. The Great Gabbo was adapted from the short story “The Rival Dummy” by Ben Hecht, first published in Liberty Magazine on August 18, 1928. Though The Great Gabbo is not a horror film, it is of interest to horror film fans as it appears to be the origin of the subgenre of the evil ventriloquist dummy. “The Rival Dummy” was adapted for radio, on the Mollé Mystery Theatre for November 1, 1946, starring Walter Slezak, and for television on Westinghouse Studio One on September 19, 1949, starring Paul Lukas and Anne Francis. 
Eric von Stroheim and dummy
          “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” segment received its own radio adaptations. “Dead of Night,” which utilized only the “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” segment of the film, was the one-off episode of Out of This World for February 28, 1947 and was again performed as the pilot episode of Escape! for March 21, 1947. Both shows featured Berry Kroeger and Art Carney.^
Gerald Kersh (via Wikipedia)
The segment also owes a debt to Gerald Kersh’s 1939 story, “The Extraordinarily Horrible Dummy.” Kersh’s story concerns a ventriloquist driven mad by a dummy he believes to be alive and possessed by the spirit of his dead father, who, when alive, was an overbearing taskmaster. Kersh’s story was first published in Penguin Parade #6 and was included in the author’s 1944 collection The Horrible Dummy and Other Stories. It was twice adapted and performed as “The Whisper” for the Lights Out television series, first on September 23, 1949 and again on July 3, 1950.  

      Ramsey Campbell, preeminent author of modern British horror fiction, suggests that H. Russell Wakefield's short story of a horrible ventriloquist's dummy, "Farewell Performance," first published in 1940 for the author's collection The Clock Strikes Twelve (Herbert Jenkins Publisher, UK), be considered an influential work on a theme similar to that presented in "The Ventriloquist's Dummy" segment. The Clock Strikes Twelve was reprinted in 1946 by Arkham House, Wakefield's first book printed by the legendary small press. Ramsey Campbell's own work in relation to tales of horrible dolls and dummies is explored in Leigh Blackmore's fascinating essay, "A Puppet's Parody of Joy: Dolls, Puppets, and Mannikins as Diabolical Other in Ramsey Campbell," collected in Ramsey Campbell: Critical Essays on the Modern Master of Horror (ed. Gary William Crawford, Scarecrow Press, 2013). The essay is exceedingly useful in directing curious readers to a number of horror and fantasy stories on a similar theme. Twilight Zone actors John Hoyt ("The Lateness of the Hour" and "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?") and Alan Napier ("Passage on the Lady Anne") were joined by Joan Shawlee in a television adaptation of  Wakefield's "Farewell Perfomance" for Pepsi-Cola Playhouse on January 22, 1954. The story was adapted by writer W.J. Stuart and director John English, and re-aired as an episode of the mystery/thriller anthology series Moment of Fear on July 20, 1965, upon which basis editor Peter Haining included the tale in his 1993 compilation, The Television Late Night Horror Omnibus. 
    “The Ventriloquist's Dummy” segment has itself inspired countless variations on the tale of a ventriloquist dummy that is alive and either trying to take over the body of the ventriloquist or spur the ventriloquist to some ill-advised action. One memorable example is “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy!” from issue #28 of the EC Comics title, Tales from the Crypt (Feb/Mar, 1952). Written by Al Feldstein and illustrated by “Ghastly” Graham Ingels, it tells of a ventriloquist whose dummy is imbued with life not by a supernatural source but rather through a hideous birth defect. The tale was adapted on June 5, 1990 for the second season of HBO’s Tales from the Crypt series with Don Rickles as the ventriloquist and Bobcat Goldthwait as an unwary admirer.
          Ostensibly inspired by the Dead of Night segment, Alfred Hitchcock Presents approached similar material in 1956 and again in 1957. Ray Bradbury, a frequent contributor to the Hitchcock series in its early years, adapted his 1953 short story “And So Died Riabouchinska” (The Saint Detective Magazine, June/July, 1953) for the first season of the series, on February 12, 1956, with uninspiring results. Even the presence of Claude Rains as a ventriloquist who has fallen in love with his dummy and Charles Bronson as a detective investigating a murder tied to the ventriloquist cannot save the episode from its flimsy story foundation. Bradbury previously sold the story as a radio play to the CBS radio series Suspense in 1947, where it was adapted by writer Mel Dinelli and broadcast on November 13th of that year.* Bradbury subsequently adapted the story for the second season of The Ray Bradbury Theater on May 28, 1988.  
          Much more successful was the third season opener of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, “The Glass Eye,” which aired on October 6, 1957. Based on the John Keir Cross story from 1944, taken from his excellent collection The Other Passenger, it concerns a woman (Jessica Tandy) who becomes obsessed with a ventriloquist (Tom Conway) who harbors a disturbing secret concerning his identity.
Cliff Robertson and Willy
The third season Twilight Zone episode, “The Dummy” (May 4, 1962), features a manic Cliff Robertson channeling his inner Michael Redgrave and is nearly a direct remake of the Dead of Night segment. The episode remains highly effective, however, and ups the ante on the horror of the final twist in the tale with disturbing makeup effects from future Academy Award winner William Tuttle. The series revisited the theme, much less effectively, in the fifth season episode “Caesar and Me” (April 10, 1964).
          The otherwise uninteresting 1964 film Devil Doll also contains an evil dummy named Hugo. Anthony Hopkins stars as a troubled ventriloquist in the disturbing 1978 psychological suspense film Magic, adapted by William Goldman from his bestselling 1976 novel. Goosebumps author R.L. Stine has derived a lot of mileage from the concept beginning with Night of the Living Dummy in May, 1993 and continuing on through a slew of sequels and spin-offs. 
Anthony Hopkins and Fats the Dummy
          Dead of Night finishes its quintet of tales with a nightmarish montage tying all the stories into one whole, only to begin anew with the closing credits. The theme of the recurring dream as deadly omen has also been borrowed from the film. Twilight Zone writer Charles Beaumont used the concept for two of his finest contributions to that series, the first season’s “Perchance to Dream” (November 27, 1959), starring Richard Conte and John Larch, and the second season’s “Shadow Play” (May 5, 1961), starring Dennis Weaver and Harry Townes. “The Overnight Case,” the tenth episode of the excellent but short-lived 1961 horror anthology series ‘Way Out, features a woman (Barbara Baxley) who is unable to wake up from a nightmare within a nightmare. One of the frequent story elements of Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond (1959-1961) was the dream of premonition, much like that experience by the architect in Dead of Night.
Dead of Night remains a horror film which casts a long shadow of influence and one which can be repeatedly examined to reveal new layers of insight. The numerous horror anthology films to follow in its wake owe the film a debt of inspiration. It has set a standard which has rarely been equaled. It is long past time for this film to receive an accessible home video treatment in the U.S.  

Dead of Night (09/04/1945)
(U.S. release: 06/28/1946)
Great Britain: Ealing Studios (production), Eagle-Lion (J. Arthur Rank)                                                (distribution), Universal Studios (U.S. distribution), 105 minutes
Five Stories: "The Hearse Driver," "The Christmas Story," "The Haunted                                             Mirror," "The Golfing Story," "The Ventriloquist's Dummy," and a                                 "Framing Narrative"
Producers: Michael Balcon
                   Sidney Cole (associate)
                   John Croydon (associate)
Directors: Basil Deardon ("Framing Narrative" and "The Hearse Driver")
                  Alberto Cavalcanti ("The Christmas Story" and "The Ventriloquist's                               Dummy")
                  Robert Hamer ("The Haunted Mirror")
                  Charles Chrichton ("The Golfing Story")
Editor: Charles Hasse
Screenplay: John V. Baines, Angus MacPhail, T.E.B. Clarke
Sources: -"The Room in the Tower" by E.F. Benson (Pall Mall Magazine,                                    January, 1912) for "Framing Narrative." 
               -"The Bus-Conductor" by E.F. Benson (Pall Mall Magazine,                                          December, 1906) for "The Hearse Driver" segment.
               -"The Inexperienced Ghost" by H.G. Wells (Twelve Stories and a                                    Dream, 1903) for "The Golfing Story."  
Photography: Douglas Slocombe
Art Direction: Michael Relph
Music: Georges Auric (comp.), Ernest Irving (cond.), Frank Weir and his Sextet
Sound: Eric Williams
Costumes: Marion Horn, Bianca Mosca
Makeup: Tom Shenton
Visual Effects: Lionel Banes, Cliff Richardson
Featuring: Mervyn Johns, Roland Culver, Mary Merrall, Googie Withers, 
                  Frederick Valk, Anthony Baird, Sally Ann Howes, Robert Wyndham,                             Judy Kelly, Miles Malleson, Michael Allan, Barbara Leake, Ralph                                 Michael, Esme Percy, Basil Radford, Naunton Wayne, Peggy Bryan,
                  Allan Jeayes, Michael Redgrave, Elisabeth Welch, Hartley Power,
                  Magda Kun, Garry Marsh, Renee Gadd
*Grateful acknowledgement is made to Jack Seabrook for his article, "Ray Bradbury on TV Part Two: Alfred Hitchcock Presents 'And So Died Riabouchinska.'"Bare Bones E-Zine (, August 23, 2012. Accessed: May 6, 2016. 

 +There is little consistent information about Classics Dark and Dangerous, with some sources citing a production date as early as 1971. Date of production used herein was taken from Un-Dead TV: The Ultimate Guide to Vampire Television by Brad Middleton (Light Unseen Media, 2012). Broadcast information was taken from (an information database of classic Canadian television programs). 

^The Digital Deli Too provided information concerning the radio adaptations of "The Rival Dummy" and "Dead of Night" 

The Internet Speculative Fiction Database ( provided bibliographic details.

    -The initial U.S. release print of the film was edited down from 105 minutes to 77 minutes not, as some sources have suggested, to make the film less frightening for U.S. audiences but rather for a more manageable running time, customary of the time. "The Christmas Story" segment and "The Golfing Story" segment were cut entirely from the film. The film has been permanently restored to its original running time. 

-“Dead of Night,” or some variation thereof, is the title of several other horror properties, most notably a 1972 BBC2 horror anthology television series, a 1974 horror film more commonly known by the alternate title Deathdream, which was directed by Bob Clark, written by Alan Ormsby, and featured the first professional makeup work of industry legend Tom Savini, and the 1977 television anthology film directed by Dan Curtis and written by Twilight Zone writer Richard Matheson.