Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Dead of Night (1945)

U.S. release poster

          Dead of Night is a 1945 anthology (or portmanteau) film from Ealing Studios which remains one of the most influential and highly regarded horror films of its era. The film inspired a host of imitations, including multiple episodes of The Twilight Zone and several other horror or ghostly anthologies in both film and television, notable among which is the series of anthology films from Amicus Productions (Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, Asylum, From Beyond the Grave, etc.), an English outfit founded by the Americans Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky.

"The Framing Narrative"
         Dead of Night consists of five short tales of terror (and comedy) connected by a framing narrative which sees an architect named Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) visit a country house which mirrors the setting and situation from a recurring nightmare he has been experiencing. When Craig reveals this odd coincidence (as well as an uncanny ability of precognition) to the members of a small gathering at the house, it spurs each guest in turn to recount a strange incident from their lives. 
          Dead of Night is notable for being the first supernatural horror film to emerge from post-war British cinema. In the wake of such American horror films as Tod Browning's Dracula (1931) and Freaks (1932), James Whale's Frankenstein (1931), and other Pre-Code Hollywood offerings, the British Board of Film Censors, like its American counterpart the Production Code Administration, began actively discouraging the production and distribution of horror films by instituting such restrictive measures as the "H" certificate, introduced in 1932, which barred anyone under the age of 16 admission to horror films. Beyond the increasingly gruesome and sexualized content in Pre-Code (before July, 1934) horror films, there was also the perception that horror films produced a negative effect on the national psyche, a particular concern during the horrors of WWII. Universal Studios was eventually encouraged to continue its successful series of Frankenstein films, beginning with Son of Frankenstein (1939), after viewing the 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 the UK, beyond drawing room thrillers, supernatural comedies and dramas, and occasionally gruesome Tod Slaughter melodramas, a return to the production of supernatural horror films would not occur until immediately after the war with Dead of Night. Ealing Studios was noted for producing patriotic (and often grim) war films and, later, the “Ealing Comedy,” a type of darkly satirical film exemplified by Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and The Ladykillers (1955). Dead of Night was a way for Ealing to move away from the grim realism of their war-era output and approach subjects which were both recognizably British and something in a new direction. WWII, only very recently ended, is not mentioned a single time in Dead of Night and is conspicuous by its absence. A year before, in 1944, Ealing produced The Halfway House, in which a collection of people experiencing personal crises converge on a supernatural Welsh inn which is lost in time and which allows the characters to reexamine the course of their lives. The war is an ever-present specter in the film. The Halfway House was directed by Basil Dearden (director of "The Framing Narrative" and "The Hearse Driver" sequences in Dead of Night) and co-scripted by Dead of Night co-writer Angus MacPhail, both regular production members at Ealing. Ealing returned 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. The film shared two directors, Basil Dearden and Charles Crichton, and two writers, Angus MacPhail and T.E.B. Clarke, with Dead of Night. 

          Notable subsequent examples of the anthology horror film include Roger Corman’s Tales of Terror (1962), based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath (1964), the previously mentioned Amicus series of films (1965-1974), and Creepshow (1982), Stephen King's and George Romero's homage to the EC Comics of the 1950s (A course earlier taken by Amicus with Tales from the Crypt (1972) and The Vault of Horror (1973)). Dozens more appeared across the years, including numerous television efforts which 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 the success of a film like Dead of Night. Though there were anthology films which contained horror elements before Dead of Night (silent German cinema produced Richard Oswald’s Eerie Tales (1919), Fritz Lang’s Destiny (1921), and Paul Leni’s Waxworks (1924)) the Ealing film set a standard for format and quality which still influences filmmakers today. 

E.F. Benson
          Dead of Night was written by Angus McPhail and John Baines, with additional dialogue by T.E.B. Clarke, deriving its subject and tone from the literary tradition of the English ghost story. The film credits two literary sources, E.F Benson and H.G. Wells. E.F. Benson provides the inspiration for the framing narrative, directed by Basil Dearden, with his story “The Room in the Tower” (1912), which relates how a man’s visit to a country house causes a recurring nightmare to become horrifying reality. Benson's “The Bus-Conductor,” first published in the December, 1906 issue of The Pall Mall Magazine, inspired the first of the film's story segments, “The Hearse Driver,” also directed by Dearden. This tells of a race-car driver (Anthony Baird) who sees a deadly portent in the form of a hearse driver while recuperating in hospital following an accident on the track. Benson’s original story, particularly its haunting refrain, “room for one inside” (often reinterpreted as "room for one more"), has its roots in the folkloric tradition of tales concerning deadly premonitions. An earlier example in English can be found in In the Wrong Paradise and Other Stories by Andrew Land (1886). Benson's story inspired several other properties, including Rod Serling's second season Twilight Zone episode "Twenty-Two" (February 10, 1961). Benson (1867-1940) was a prolific author now best-known for the Mapp and Lucia series of novels (six volumes, 1920-1939), social comedies which inspired two television series. He is also known for having written many of the most chilling horror stories of the early twentieth century, including “Caterpillars” (1912), “The Horror-Horn” (1922), and “Mrs. Amworth” (1922), the latter of which was filmed in 1975 with Glynis Johns (daughter of Dead of Night's Mervyn Johns) and broadcast as part of the British/Canadian television series Classics Dark and Dangerous in 1977.+ Benson’s ghostly tales were 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. Another, lesser-known Benson story, "The Chippendale Mirror" (1915), may have provided the inspiration for the film's third segment. More on that later. 
          H.G. Wells nominally provided the material for the film's only comedic offering, “The Golfing Story,” the frequently derided fourth segment of the film directed by Charles Crichton. This darkly humorous play resembles the comedies for which Ealing later became known. It concerns two golfing friends who make a wager of life and death over the hand of a shared romantic interest. The loser, having taken his own life, returns to haunt the winner by spoiling the latter's efforts at golf and romance. The segment is nominally taken from Wells' “The Story of the Inexperienced Ghost” from the March, 1902 issue of The Strand Magazine. It is a segment most enjoyed by those open to a dose of black comedy with their horror and least likely to be enjoyed by those who feel that such a comedic intrusion spoils the carefully built tension of the film's preceding segments. "The Golfing Story" and "The Christmas Party" segments were excised from the initial U.S. theatrical release print of the film. See Notes at the bottom of the post for more information. 

         Besides the credits to Benson and Wells, the film presents the rest of the stories as original to the screenplay, although a closer look suggests additional source material. 

Playing Sardines at "The Christmas Party"
          The second segment, “The Christmas Party,” directed by Brazilian-born Alberto Cavalcanti, is told by a teenage girl, Sally (Sally Ann Howes) and concerns a Christmas party, a game of Sardines (a sort of reverse Hide-and-Seek in which one player hides and are sought out by a group), and the ghost of a long-ago murder. This segment was inspired by a real-life murder and very likely also by a popular ghost story of the time. The real-life murder was that 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). Francis was first discovered missing from the main house and later found in an outhouse with severe lacerations about his body, including a deep throat wound. Constance was not initially brought to trial because of class differences with the working-class detective who identified the girl as a suspect. Five years later, Constance made a confession to an Anglo-Catholic clergyman describing how she abducted young Francis from the house and then murdered him in the outhouse using a stolen razor. Constance was subsequently prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to death but the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, of which she served twenty years before immigrating to Australia, changing her name, and living to 100 years of age, dying one year before her crime was reworked for Dead of Night. Elements of this infamous murder were incorporated into many contemporary works of popular literature, including Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret (1862), Charles Dickens' unfinished final work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870), and Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone (1868). 
Constance Kent
          “The Christmas Party” also bears resemblance to the short story “Smee” by English author A.M. Burrage (1889-1956), first published in the December, 1929 issue of Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine. 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 antiwar memoir (War Is War) to many of the creepiest ghost stories of the time. “Smee,” one of Burrage's most oft-reprinted tales, was included in Burrage’s 1931 collection Someone in the Room (as by "Ex-Private X"), an excellent volume of supernatural tales which also contains “The Waxwork” (later adapted for the Lights Out television series and Alfred Hitchcock Presents) and two more of his finest stories, “The Sweeper” and "One Who Saw." Dennis Wheatley included “Smee” in his 1935 survey A Century of Horror Stories where, if it indeed provided the germ of the tale, the writers of Dead of Night likely encountered the story. It was reprinted in the U.S. in Alfred Hitchcock’s Fireside Book of Suspense Stories in 1947.
Alfred McLelland Burrage
“Smee” concerns a Christmas party, a variation of Hide-and-Seek, and the story of a young girl who previously died in the house by falling down a staircase and breaking her neck. The guests at the party decide to play “Smee,” the word being a degeneration 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. Burrage's work regularly found its way onto television in the early days of the medium. His 1927 story "Playmates" was adapted no less than three times, for Gruen Guild Theater and The Schaefer Century Theatre in 1952, and for The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse in 1954.     

Peter Cortland (Ralph Michael) peers into "The Chippendale Mirror"
          Dead of Night's third segment, “The Chippendale Mirror," or, as it is more commonly known, "The Haunted Mirror,” directed by Robert Hamer, is considered by many to be the jewel of the film. It concerns an antique mirror which reveals a room from the past and suggests a malevolent occupant of the room who seems always hidden from view. The hidden occupant, a murderously jealous husband, begins to bodily possess the new owner of the mirror, a recently married man. The segment bears resemblance to another E.F. Benson story, also titled "The Chippendale Mirror." First published in the May, 1915 issue of Pearson's, it tells of a man who purchases an antique mirror from a junk shop only to discover that the mirror has recently become available since removed from a room in which a woman was horribly murdered. The mirror has recorded the murderous act and reveals the murderer to be someone close to the purchaser of the mirror. Benson's story remained uncollected until anthologist Hugh Lamb included the tale in Forgotten Tales of Terror (1978). 
From Beyond the Grave: "The Gatecrasher"

"The Chippendale Mirror" segment, with its idea of an antique object that visually reveals a horrible hidden past, was perhaps an influence on the 1974 Amicus anthology film From Beyond the Grave, based on four stories from English author R. Chetwynd-Hayes. That film contains two segments suggestive of the Dead of Night story. The first, entitled “The Gatecrasher” and based on Chetwynd-Hayes' story from The Unbidden (1971), concerns a man (David Warner) who purchases an antique mirror which houses an evil entity (possibly Jack the Ripper), played to eerie perfection by Marcel Steiner. After an impromptu séance awakens the spirit, it demands blood sacrifices before freeing itself from the mirror. The final segment of From Beyond the Grave, “The Door,” based on Chetwynd-Hayes' story from Cold Terror (1973), tells of a young man (Ian Ogilvy) who installs an antique door in his home only to discover it inexplicably opens onto a very old room that once belong to an evil sorcerer (Jack Watson) who remains trapped within.
         
Maxwell Frere (Michael Redgrave) and Hugo, "The Ventriloquist"
The final segment of Dead of Night, “The Ventriloquist,” or as it is more commonly known, "The Ventriloquist's Dummy," is directed by Alberto Cavalcanti and is likely familiar to most horror film fans, even those who have never seen the film, such is its reputation as a frightening segment and its influence upon subsequent cinematic treatments of the theme. A ventriloquist named Maxwell Frere (Michael Redgrave) is convinced that his dummy, Hugo Fitch, is alive and intent on causing him harm. When Hugo tricks the ventriloquist into shooting an American ventriloquist, Sylvester Key (Hartley 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.
          Though the intrinsically creepy quality of the ventriloquist dummy has been mined by horror writers since the emergence of the technique as performance art, this segment of the film was likely inspired by two sources. The first is the 1929 film The Great Gabbo, a melodrama concerning a ventriloquist (Eric von Stroheim) who becomes increasingly dependent on his dummy, Otto, 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. Although The Great Gabbo is not a horror film, it is of interest to horror film fans as it is likely the origin of the sub-genre of the possessive ventriloquist's 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, the latter of whom later appeared in Rod Serling's memorable first season Twilight Zone episode "The After Hours." 
Eric von Stroheim and Otto (The Great Gabbo)
          “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” segment from Dead of Night received its own radio adaptations, as well. “Dead of Night,” which utilized only the “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” segment of the film, was a one-off episode of Out of This World for February 28, 1947 and was performed again as the pilot episode of Escape! for March 21, 1947. Both shows featured Berry Kroeger and Art Carney, the latter of whom later appeared in Rod Serling's Christmas-themed Twilight Zone episode "The Night of the Meek."^
         
Gerald Kersh
The film segment may also owe its genesis 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, 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. Though some publications have claimed that the film segment's similarity to Kersh's story is coincidence, Kersh scholar Paul Duncan uncovered correspondence between the screenwriter of the segment and Kersh which finally establishes the truth of the film borrowing from the Kersh story. In "Dead of Night - The Mystery Solved," from the December 22, 1998 installment of Kershed, an online Gerald Kersh newsletter, Duncan writes: "The screenwriter sent his script to Kersh, saying that Kersh's story was his inspiration, but he had changed the story whilst retaining the spirit - would Kersh object?" Kersh, Duncan writes, "proceeded to grant the film writer permission to go ahead and use the script, saying that he would not sue and did not require screen credit." Duncan concludes: "Once again, the myth turns out to be the truth."  


             Additional works of interest include Margery Lawrence's "The Occultist's Story: Vlasto's Doll," which originally appeared in The Tatler for November 25, 1925. The story was collected in Lawrence's Nights of the Round Tale: A Book of Strange Tales (1926), an excellent collection of ghost stories which languished in obscurity until rescued by editor and bibliographer Richard Dalby in the late 1980s. Ash-Tree Press reprinted the book in 1998 (electronic book: 2013). Lawrence's book of stories (many of which were based on the author's own experiences with the supernatural) adopts a similar structure to that echoed in Dead of Night, in which a group of gathered guests recount strange events from their past experiences. 
             H. Russell Wakefield's 1940 short story "Nimbo and Nobby's Farewell Performance" (often reprinted simply as "Farewell Performance"), concerns a ventriloquist's dummy that exposes a murder committed by its operator. The story leaves unclear whether the dummy is actually imbued with supernatural life or is simply a conduit for guilt-transference. The story was first published in the author's collection The Clock Strikes Twelve (Herbert Jenkins, 1940), a volume reprinted in the U.S. in 1946 by Arkham House. Twilight Zone actors John Hoyt ("The Lateness of the Hour," "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 story 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.
         There have been a number of variations on the tale of a ventriloquist's dummy that is alive and either trying to take over the body of the ventriloquist or spur the ventriloquist to some nefarious 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 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 for the second season of HBO’s Tales from the Crypt series with Don Rickles as the ventriloquist and Bobcat Goldthwait as an unfortunate admirer. It aired on June 5, 1990.
          Related to the Dead of Night ventriloquist dummy story are segments of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which approached similar material in 1956 and again in 1957. Ray Bradbury, a frequent contributor to the Hitchcock series in its early seasons, adapted his 1953 short story “And So Died Riabouchinska” (The Saint Detective Magazine, June/July, 1953) for the first season of the series, broadcast on February 12, 1956. 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. The third season opener of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, “The Glass Eye,” which aired on October 6, 1957, was another memorable excursion into the world of ventriloquism. Based on a John Keir Cross story from 1944, from 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 Twilight Zone: "The Dummy")
The third season Twilight Zone episode “The Dummy” (May 4, 1962), written by Rod Serling and based on a story idea by Lee Polk, features a manic Cliff Robertson channeling his inner Michael Redgrave and can almost be viewed as a 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 Academy Award-winner William Tuttle. The series revisited the theme, far less effectively, in the fifth season episode “Caesar and Me” (April 10, 1964), based on a script by Adele T. Strassfield, the secretary of the show's final producer, William Froug. 
Anthony Hopkins and Fats (Magic)
          The 1964 British horror film Devil Doll features an evil ventriloquist and his dummy named Hugo. Anthony Hopkins starred as a troubled ventriloquist in the 1978 psychological suspense film Magic, adapted by William Goldman from his 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. 

          Dead of Night concludes with an expressionistic sequence in which Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) journeys through the nightmarish elements of each story, tying all of the tales into one whole, only to begin anew with the closing credits (allegedly created when the projectionist accidentally loaded the first reel again). The theme of the recurring dream as a 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 anthology series ‘Way Out, features a woman (Barbara Baxley (Twilight Zone's "Mute)) 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 or vision of premonition, much like that experienced by the architect in Dead of Night. Perhaps the most famous example of such a tale is the 1910 story "August Heat" from William Fryer Harvey. The story was collected in Harvey's Midnight House and Other Tales and has been reprinted numerous times. "August Heat" was adapted for television on four occasions, for Danger (1950), On Camera (1955), The Unforseen (1959), and Great Ghost Stories (1961). Other writers have approached the subject with success, including Agatha Christie ("In a Glass Darkly") and Daphne du Maurier ("Don't Look Now").
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 which followed in its wake owe the film a debt of inspiration. It has set a standard which has rarely been equaled.   

-JP


UK release poster; art by Leslie George Hurry

Dead of Night (UK release: 09/04/1945)
(U.S. release: 06/28/1946)
 Ealing Studios (production), Eagle-Lion (J. Arthur Rank; distribution)                           Universal Studios (U.S. distribution), 105 minutes

Producers: Michael Balcon
                  Sidney Cole (associate)
                  John Croydon (associate)
Directors: Basil Dearden (framing narrative & "The Hearse Driver")
                 Alberto Cavalcanti ("The Christmas Story" & "The Ventriloquist")
                 Robert Hamer ("The Chippendale 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  
               -"The Bus-Conductor" by E.F. Benson 
               -"The Inexperienced Ghost" by H.G. Wells  
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 to:

Michael Felsher for his article on the film from the liner notes on the 2003 Anchor Bay DVD release of the film.

Jack Seabrook for his article, "Ray Bradbury on TV Part Two: Alfred Hitchcock Presents 'And So Died Riabouchinska.'"Bare Bones E-Zine (barebonesez.blogspot.com), August 23, 2012. Accessed: May 6, 2016. 

 +There is little reliable 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 tvarchive.ca (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 (isfdb.org) provided bibliographic details.

-"The 'H' Certificate" by Michael Brooke (BFI Screenonline) 

-"Remembering Dead of Night," documentary feature on the Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber. 

-A special thanks to Ramsey Campbell. 

Notes:   
 -The initial U.S. theatrical 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 or to remove implied sexuality. The U.S. print was edited for a more manageable running time, customary for a period in which U.S. audiences were believed to have less patience for a longer and more deliberately paced film. The two mildest segments of Dead of Night, "The Christmas Story" and "The Golfing Story," were cut from the initial U.S. print. Some commentators have pointed out the essential error in editing Dead of Night, particularly in removing entire segments, and this is that the final sequence will not make sense to the audience. 

-“Dead of Night,” or some variation of, 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 (directed by Bob Clark, written by Alan Ormsby, and featuring 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.


Australian release poster

6 comments:

  1. Great article! I have always liked this film. I was first turned on to it by the stills in Leslie Charteris's Filmgoer's Companion. I did not realize it was not available in the US.

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  2. It's out of print now, and very expensive, which is unthinkable these days. I'm hoping that changes soon. It really is an excellent film and incredibly influential. I was astounded to find how much Serling and Beaumont, consciously or not, borrowed from it for the Zone. You know I searched and couldn't find where Bradbury first published his story until I remembered your series of articles, which also had the great info on the radio adaptation, so thank you for that, Jack. I know you and Peter know the mystery digests well.

    I've always found it odd which stories Bradbury chose for adaptation on Hitchcock's show. I would have loved to see "The October Game" or "The Small Assassin" but perhaps that was too strong of stuff for the mid to late '50s. EC Comics did some fantastic Bradbury adaptations, not all authorized, including both of those stories and my personal favorite, "There Was an Old Woman," illustrated by Graham Ingels. I'll look for them when you get to those issues on Bare Bones.

    If I'm not mistaken the Filmgoer's Companion was by that other Leslie, Leslie Halliwell. He also wrote a volume dedicated to the spooky stuff titled The Dead that Walk, and it's a pretty fun volume, though it's obvious he was a film fan and not a film historian and that horror and science fiction were not his preferred genres.

    Thanks for reading!

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  3. Halliwell! Of course. I got my Leslies mixed up.

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  4. Some years ago I bought a 2 disc DVD collection from Anchor Bay which has "Dead of Night" and "Queen of Spades". Very good quality video. Really great stories. I didn't know these videos are hard to get now.

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    1. Not exactly hard to get as there are several for sale online but always at a very high price. At the time of this writing the lowest priced listing on Amazon is $70. Keeping this classic film out-of-print in the U.S. is driving up the price of earlier editions.

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    2. Update: Kino Lorber has released a new Blu-ray and DVD edition of Dead of Night, remastered and containing a commentary by film historian Tim Lucas and a documentary, "Remembering Dead of Night." Grab it while it lasts.

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