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Dead of Night (Blu-ray)

Review by: 
Black Gloves
Release Date: 
1945
Studio: 
Studiocanal
Genre: 
Horror
Format: 
Blu-ray
Region: 
B
Aspect Ratio: 
1.33:1
Directed by: 
Basil Dearden
Alberto Cavalcanti
Robert Hamer
Charles Crichton
Cast: 
Mervyn Johns
Googie Withers
Michael Redgrave
Frederick Valk
Roland Culver
Movie: 
5
Extras: 
4
Bottom Line: 
4

Whilst the 1930s saw a flowering in the States of what became known and is known today as Horror cinema -- a genre codified under the auspice of Universal Pictures after its triumvirate of “Dracula”, “Frankenstein” and “The Mummy” -- Britain dealt only sporadically and reluctantly with matters of the macabre and the horrific in its movies until much later. It is a marker of the realist and anti-fantasy mind-set which informed the industry’s output at the time that supernatural phenomena would usually only crop up in a British-made product, if at all,  as material designed to be exploited for a perceived comedy potential or else as a highfalutin form of allegory, while more lurid matters were the domain of the work of Tod Slaughter, or the tastefully décored period Gainsborough melodramas of the type which, nevertheless, inadvertently provided an initial home for many of the architects of Hammer Horror come its Gothic turn in the late-1950s -- people such as cinematographer Jack Asher and director Terrence Fisher, for instance. Horror was, consequently, perceived to be merely a vulgar American import; a category quite alien to grown up, sophisticated British sensibilities and a genre of picture for which those who presided over the British Board of Film Censors conceived their ‘H’ for Horror rating specifically as a means of regulating its influence upon coarser, less refined intellects than their own (i.e. the working classes). Indeed, between 1942 and 1945, the BBFC and COI (Central Office of Information) banned the import and screening of all ‘H’ rated pictures; war providing an ideal opportunity for exercising even more control over a kind of fiction then deemed unsuited to the task of bolstering British morale during the country’s hour of need.

Almost as soon as that ban was lifted, though, “Dead of Night” went into production. And who should be found presiding over the work David Pirie calls in his study “A New Heritage of Horror (The English Gothic Cinema)”, ‘the most important English supernatural thriller prior to the 1950s’ than producer Michael Balcon and his Ealing Studios outfit. Famed for its postwar comedies and dramas which charted the social changes of a Britain in transition after the upheavals of its traumatic wartime experiences, Ealing under Balcon’s stewardship also provided a home to some of the most creative directorial talents of the era such as the Brazilian-born Alberto Cavalcanti, whose background in documentary making whilst working at the GPO brought an added realism to classics such as “Went the Day Well?” (1942), raising them well above their perfunctory propaganda intent to become potent chronicles of British hopes and fears on the home front; and Basil Dearden, who graduated from overseeing a series of wartime George Formby and Will Hay comedies to tackling grittier subjects in the 1950s, beginning with “The Blue Lamp” (1950) starring Jack Warner and including “The Violent Playground” (1958) with Stanley Baker. This strain of ‘social issue’ cinema culminated with films such as “Sapphire” (1959) (which tackled racism against Afro-Caribbean immigrants in 1950s London) and “Victim” (1961) the Dirk Bogarde-starring suspense thriller which became the first English language film to use the world ‘homosexual’ on screen and to deal with the subject in a sympathetic and non-sensationalist manner.

 “Dead of Night” was an anthology or portmanteau picture, possibly the first made in Britain, and its reputation as one of the most important early British horror movies rests upon its, for the time, unique evocation of the quaint traditional English ghost story tradition, which it infused with a heavier psychological noir emphasis, adding a much more profound sense of unease to its effects than anything which had been witnessed before in British cinema’s dealings with the supernatural. The anthology structure provided a format which was to become extremely popular later in the decade, perhaps because it brought to cinema screens something of the diverse entertainment experience that television had only recently given the British public a taste of for the first time. Consequently, one reason why “Dead of Night” excels so completely, and coheres in a satisfying way that later portmanteau horror films made by Amicus and others from the 1960s onwards seldom even attempted to replicate, was because it managed to bring so many of Ealing’s most talented professionals together under an essentially collaborative umbrella, while allowing their individual talents to flourish in the very act of contributing to the movie’s sense of an underlying unity. Writer John Baines provided the screenplay’s two most memorable stories, giving the talented Ealing directors Robert Hamer and Alberto Cavalcanti an elevated platform on which to create the most unnerving episodes yet seen in British cinema, collaborating with cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, who lends the entire film a dream-like radiance with his often eerie, shadowy lighting arrangements. Extra dialogue additions were made by Ealing’s T.E.B. Clarke and story ideas woven into the resultant fabric were derived from the ghost stories of E.F. Benson, with a smattering of ideas taken from H.G. Welles’ story “The Inexperienced Ghost”. Director Charles Crichton, meanwhile, oversaw the film’s controversial ‘comic’ golfing episode, which, although often dismissed as an unnecessary breach of the film’s tense atmosphere, is able to use its somewhat glib light relief to broach the thorny subject of English middle-class mores and postwar sexuality in an unusually frank manner.  

The structuring of the movie is cunningly designed to create the impression that each separate story related is ultimately part of one overarching narrative, rather than simply one of a bunch of unconnected ghostly tales told by a collection of hazily sketched characters who’re only artificially brought together for that purpose -- although it takes more than one viewing to see how the themes dealt with are enhanced, anticipated or reflected in the framing story. However, each writer and director engaged on the film devotes their respective efforts to pulling off this feat, the screenplay binding the framing narrative and the individual stories together with the aid of an elaborate matrix of foreshadowings, call-backs and a host of subtextual references that run throughout all five episodes. The cast is also cleverly composed of a particular group of British performers, many of whom would have been familiar to audiences of the day and who had appeared on screen together in a variety of previous Ealing Studio ventures, and would go on to do so again in subsequent years.

The framing story, simply but skilfully directed by Dearden, provides an initial intrigue which draws the viewer in immediately. As soon as Mervyn Johns’s shabbily tweed-clad and shifty architect Walter Craig turns up at his cheerful host Eliot Foley’s (Roland Culver) pleasant country cottage, and meets its disparate gathering of oh-so-English inhabitants, he has the weird presentiment of having encountered them all here before in a recurring dream. We’re embroiled in the film’s bewitching atmosphere of dread and foreboding as Craig struggles to recall elusive details of this dream, which then come true at unexpected moments throughout the picture, while disbelieving psychoanalyst Dr van Straaten (Frederick Valk) dismissively looks to ‘rational’ psychobabble to explain away Craig’s uncanny feeling of déjà vu, only to encounter more and more derision and ridicule from the other guests, whose own experiences with the supernatural predispose them to accepting Craig’s claims. It is their accounts which make up the main content of the film, with the man of science being more and more sidelined as he tries to account for each of the experiences of his companions in non-paranormal terms, until the climax of the movie puts him right at the centre of a disturbing series of events.

Van Straaten’s attempts to rationalise Craig’s claims come to seem increasingly desperate as more of the worried architect’s predictions appear to be coming true; and a sense of increasing uneasiness is fermented as those predictions, which are at first fairly benign in nature, also come to be more and more threatening and violent in their general tenor. The genius of this country house gathering set-up is that it never feels merely like a device for segueing into another story, but has a rhythm and a structure all of its own, which one can sense building to a resolution as the film goes on. Another clever piece of structuring sees the two shortest stories coming first in the sequence of five, so, to begin with, we are hardly ever away from the occupants of the cottage or from Walter Craig’s predicament for most of the first half of the movie, a fact that emphasises its importance to the meaning of the overall narrative.

The first tale, adapted from E.F. Benson’s 1906 short story “The Bus Conductor” is told by racing driver Hugh Grainger (Anthony Baird) who recalls a peculiar instance of the supernatural he experienced while invalided in hospital after a racing accident. Also directed by Dearden, this short tale of a warning from the beyond is simple and effective, cleverly introducing a sense of the uncanny by having Grainger draw back the curtains to his upper storey hospital room to be confronted with bright daylight after we’d had it established only moments before that the time of day was evening and that it should be dark outside. Miles Malleson’s ghostly horse-drawn hearse driver and his ominous call of ‘room for one inside’ as he looks up at Grainger from below provide the hook which leads to the story’s simple but satisfyingly macabre coda.

The second tale seems just as slight and anecdotal on first sight, but our trip into the otherworldly realm is this time just that little more pronounced, and, furthermore, comes seeded with a touch more unpleasantness at its core than the essentially friendly warning of providence exemplified by the first tale. While playing a party game of Sardines, cheery fourteen-year-old house guest Sally O'Hara (Sally Ann Howes) encounters a small boy crying by the fireside in an attic nursery room of a vast mansion lived in by the old school friend she’s staying with for Christmas in Summerset. Although the child is dressed in nineteenth century clothing, she thinks nothing of assuming a traditional mother role, putting him to bed and singing him to sleep only to discover later that the boy fits the description of someone called Francis Kent, who was murdered in the house by his half-sister back in the 1860s. This story by Angus Macphail, based on the true life Victorian murder case of Constance Kent (recently written about in a bestseller by historian Kate Summerscale and adapted for TV in the drama “The Suspicions of Mr Whicher”), is delicately shot and lit by Cavalcanti and Douglas Slocombe within a beguiling  latticework of filtered moonlight crisscrossed by Expressionistic shadow effects, which are used to provide an enchanted setting for Sally’s tentative romantic encounter with Jimmy (Michael Allan), one of the other young guests at the party, in the upstairs rooms of the mansion.

Both of these first two stories subtly juxtapose the supernatural with human desire and are bound up with consideration of female gender roles, intriguingly associating sexual tension with the crossing of boundaries separating layers and perceptions of reality: the first story, for instance, has Grainger’s encounter with Malleson’s affable harbinger of death occur immediately after a friendly flirtation with his nurse (Judy Kelly) who enters the framing narrative later as Grainger’s wife (another nice little touch which integrates the material and leads to another of Craig’s predictions coming true); while Sally’s experience of accidentally slipping into another time frame  happens just after the first glimmers of her sexual curiosity are aroused by Jimmy’s attentions when he becomes the first person to find her hiding upstairs during the game of Sardines. Sally’s later ghostly encounter with the child is presaged by an unusually morbid revelation casually related to her earlier by Jimmy when he resorts to trying to scare her during their brief courtship with the grisly details of the murder -- which turns out to have involved the victim being strangled and: ‘his head being half cut off’.

These two stories, although slight, nevertheless firmly establish a macabre atmosphere and set the scene for the first of the movie’s two most substantial segments, both written by John Baines. Directed by Robert Hamer, “The Haunted Mirror” is related to the group by the Googie Withers character, the well-dressed Joan Cortland -- a figure who is established as a dominant, independent woman by the confidence of her interactions with the other guests at the cottage way before she gets to tell her tale. This story builds on the foundations already laid by the first two anecdotes, and increases the film’s sense of its characters being poised on a threshold dividing normalcy from transgressive states that have their roots in sexual licence, but which now become more and more associated with conditions of mental collapse and the disintegration of identity, as the dreamlike recurring structure of the framing story reaches its deranged crescendo by incorporating Walter Craig’s character into each of the five separate but now surreally linked narratives.

Withers’ tale is about a typically complacent middle-class English couple who are making plans to marry and move out of their modern, starkly furnished Chelsea flat to take up residence in a larger and more comfortable town house. Joan buys a large 18th century gilt-framed Chippendale mirror from an antiques dealer (Esmé Percy) as a wedding present to her Fiancé Peter (Ralph Michael) but is bemused when he starts to claim that he sees reflected in it himself in a room other than their actual apartment whenever he gazes into the frame for too long: instead of their classy 1940s décor he sees a baroque, wainscoted room with an ornate four-poster bed and a silk screen. The illusion becomes more persistent, and Peter starts to sense a malevolent presence is attempting to claim him from inside this other reality. His personality starts to change after their marriage, and he becomes possessive, jealous and more and more resentful of Joan’s outgoing personality when the mirror is rehung in their new home, where it now overlooks the marital bed. Eventually Joan goes to see the dealer who originally sold her the antique, and discovers that the four-poster her husband has described actually still resides in his shop, and that both items used to belong to an 18th century gentleman called Francis Etherington who, after a riding accident crippled him and left him bedridden, began to grow frustrated and resentful of his young wife’s vigour. After falsely accusing her of infidelity his rage eventually results in his strangling her to death … in front of the very same gilt mirror now hanging before the Cortlands’ own bed! Peter is portrayed throughout the story as a curiously passive and etiolated individual; a subtext of impotence and emasculation attends the persona of this stay-at-home accountant which is in marked contrast to the active nature of Googie Withers’ character, who has a stronger and dominating feminine personality which overshadows that of her limp boyfriend. The mirror’s alluring alternate-period reality comes to seem far more romantic and colourful than Peter’s drab surroundings do and a pertinent point made in Pirie’s book is well taken in view of the themes being dealt with here: the décor of the ghost room which threatens to unleash repressed sexual violence and murderous emotions upon the Cortlands’ neatly ordered ‘40s bourgeois existence looks very much like the style which would become overly familiar to audiences of Hammer’s Gothic horrors of the late 1950s, where much the same return-of-the-repressed themes would be played out in a studio-created Mittel-Europe period setting.

The hysteria and emotional turmoil that are felt bubbling beneath the surface throughout this affecting segment of the film appear to be temporarily set aside in the next offering, which is usually thought of as the weakest link in the chain, dissipating the by now giddy atmosphere of dread which has been steadily building up to this point. Its comedy representation of the supernatural harks back to the British Cinema’s past dealings with the subject as something which is not to be taken too seriously. Stars Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford were a popular British comic actor duo of the day, first appearing together on screen as supporting characters in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1938 comedy thriller “The Lady Vanishes”, where they played cricket obsessed pals Charters and Caldicott. With their blinkered determination to get home in time to see England play at the Test Match (overriding their inadvertent involvement in international espionage) this double-act were the comedy relief in that film -- and Wayne and Radford went on to play the same roles (again starring alongside Margaret Lockwood) in Carol Reed’s “Night Train to Munich” in 1940, which was effectively an unofficial sequel to the Hitchcock film. The two then became known as these characters by screen persona if not always by name, and were able to base their subsequent careers around reprising the relationship in a whole slew of movies and BBC radio dramas which aired throughout the 1940s, their turn in “Dead of Night” being but one in this similar vein.

Here they are cast as clubbable, middle-aged bachelor golfing chums Larry Potter and George Parratt, whose friendly rivalry on the course is transferred to the bedroom when they simultaneously fall in love with the same woman, Mary Lee (Peggy Bryan). The tone in this part of the film is characterised by its whimsy and facetiousness, but although this constitutes an inappropriate interruption of the previously established dark mood, it does allow director Charles Crichton the freedom to get away with some risqué situations that provide wry commentary on British sexual mores other episodes in the film treat with more extreme wariness. Potter and Parratt initially solve their romantic conundrum by simply both dating Mary at the same time, a situation she appears to be perfectly happy to go along with within the parameters established by this story’s absurdist universe. The male duo’s inveterate sporting rivalry eventually asserts itself over the arrangement however, and they hold a golfing competition to decide who gets the girl, it apparently never occurring to either of them to actually ask her which one she prefers. But then again, Mary actually doesn’t appear to care … and proves quite willing to accept the result whatever her suitors’ sporting efforts decide it should be. But George cheats in order to claim the ultimate trophy, and losing causes his lovelorn pal to commit suicide in despair by walking into a lake and drowning! It gives some indication of this tale’s sense of the ludicrous that a suicide scene is played as a stylised comic episode, with Naunton Wayne’s character affecting a silent funeral march towards his watery doom. Parratt soon pays the ultimate price for his deception, though; his handicap plummets as the ghost of his former pal returns and sets about interfering with his golfing stroke through supernatural intervention!

The joke here is that the ghostly friend is more outraged by Parratt’s sporting corruption, which is deemed to have brought shame upon the good name of their club, than he is by his loss of Mary; but when the spirit golfer materialises in an earthly form that only Parratt can see in order to enact his punishment, but then forgets the special ‘angelic’ hand signals which allow him to return to the spirit realm, the tale becomes an especially risqué comic farce in which George and Mary’s marriage looks to have been permanently augmented by Larry’s constant ghostly presence, since -- according to the rules of the afterlife -- a ghost is never allowed to be more than six meters away from the person he/she is haunting! This leads to all sorts of further complications when it comes to the conduct of the happy couple’s wedding night, of course – a complex situation which is eventually resolved by even more outlandish means.

It seems hard to reconcile how such a clearly fabricated tale, which treats its supernatural element as one big joke, could fit into the set-up previously established by the framing story, in which each of the guests is attempting to support a belief in the existence of paranormal phenomena in the face of Dr Van Straaten’s scepticism by relating authentic tales which have happened to them or people they know. It turns out that this one, which is being told by the cottage owner and host of the gathering, Eliot Foley, has been made up in order to lighten the mood and persuade Walter Craig -- who has become convinced something terrible is about to happen -- not to leave! Bizarrely, Foley’s tale of ghostly threesomes does the trick, and allows the disbelieving psychoanalyst Dr van Straaten to conclude the quintet of terror tales by recounting one of his own case histories, the episode for which the film has become best known since and, ironically given van Straaten’s role in it as ‘the voice of reason’, the most terrifying story of the lot!

Actually, most of the story, which was the second directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, this time from a story by John Baines, is told by Sylvester Kee (Hartley Power) -- an American ventriloquist whose testimony comes from a witness statement given to van Straaten after the psychiatrist is called in by a police doctor to assess the mental health of one Maxwell Frere (Michael Redgrave); a stage performer and rival to Kee whose act teams him up with a wise-cracking dummy called Hugo. Although it’s often interrupted by regular musical cabaret interludes courtesy of British-based African-American jazz singer and performer Elisabeth Welch, this final segment is well regarded for its convincing psychological portrayal of a split personality and one man’s descent into a madness that is possibly supernatural in origin. One can only speculate as to how Redgrave’s own hidden conflict over his secret bisexuality might at the time have also been a contributing factor in guiding and informing the sheer intensity of his performance, which is played convincingly seriously throughout. Certainly, this is the part of the film which still has the capacity to create some genuine shudders. A key part of its appeal comes from the fact that, out of all the stories here, it is the one which relies most on ambiguity; as Redgrave’s character seems to become more and more browbeaten by the Hugo dummy, so the two feel more and more distinct as personalities, until both the audience and the other characters in the story completely buy into their relationship. Only a handful of details are susceptible to an overtly supernatural reading, yet one is inclined to accept the idea because of the sheer haunted persuasiveness of Redgrave’s performance.

We get the impression that something is not quite right from the first time we see Frere and Hugo working the room during a high society cabaret evening; Maxwell seems genuinely embarrassed by his wooden partner’s put-downs and when Kee goes to follow-up on Hugo’s onstage ‘request’ to see him after the show to discuss a change of partnership, it’s hard not to ascribe an agency to the puppet since any alternative only cast’s Redgrave’s character in too worryingly an unstable light for any other idea to be readily palatable. When he later attacks and injures Klee after discovering the dummy in his rival’s hotel room, Frere’s mental disintegration is complete; yet still others can’t help themselves when it comes to believing in Hugo as a figure who has an independent existence; for when Maxwell attacks the dummy in his cell, and smashes it to sawdust on the stone floor, van Straaten and the prison guard unthinkingly rush in as if making to save the ‘victim’ from harm!

The final scenes of Redgrave in his hospital bed, now having been totally consumed by the personality of his destroyed dummy, play uncannily like the final moments of Hitchcock’s “Psycho” -- and indeed the relationship between Maxwell and Hugo very much anticipates that which also characterised Norman Bates and his dead mom, right down to the incestuous overtones. This psycho-drama seems to bring all the sexual undercurrents informing the four other stories together in one package which combines story elements of them all in being the tale of yet another repressed and emotionally stunted man who becomes dominated by a singular personality and thus drawn into a sort of love triangle relationship, this time with another man, after Hugo sets out to dump Maxwell and replace him with his rival Klee. The Freudian undercurrents here hardly need mentioning, and the coded closet homosexual reading appears to be not without some foundation.

This dark tale of twisted psychology leads perfectly into the movie’s final twist-of-the-knife coda, as Walter Craig’s own madness is now brought to the fore and he finds himself plunged into a hallucinogenic nightmare after the lights in the cottage go out and the act he has been drawn here to perform is made finally clear to him as the inhabitants of all five of the stories crowd in on his thoughts at once, as his mind begins to crack. With its insane melange of surrealistic images, this climactic finale represents the breakdown of barriers between the rational and the irrational worlds -- with all repressed, violent psycho-sexual impulses released in one last act of terror before the whole process begins again after Walter wakes and receives the phone-call from Eliot inviting him to the cottage. As the first images of the movie repeat themselves, the dream narrative will doubtless play out again, perhaps this time for real?      

A new HD restoration for Blu-ray provides this classic cornerstone of the postwar British horror picture with a lovely new sheen of clarity, adding deeper black levels to the image while subtracting damage in the form of scratches and tears which have built up over the years. The only drawback is that the audio has not weathered so well, and is still slightly tinny sounding and features occasional brief dips in sound levels. The results of the restoration are lent further context in a ‘side by side’, before and after scene comparison featurette, included to accompany the theatrical trailer and behind-the-scenes production stills gallery as disc extras. Also billed as a featurette, but, with a running time of 75 minutes it obviously constitutes consideration as much more than that, is “Remembering Dead of Night” – a video piece in which a group of cultural critics and film historians (familiar names like Kim Newman and Matthew Sweet among them) discuss various aspects of the movie and its place in British film culture.

Keith M. Johnston, film critic and lecturer in Film & Television at the University of East Anglia, talks about how the film was an attempt at experimentation on behalf of Michael Balcon’s Ealing Studios, which was better known at the time for its wartime documentary approach to drama. Film critics Danny Leigh and Kim Newman explain how Ealing attempted to move beyond the strict realism it had become known for by taking on the English ghost story traditions of M.R. James and Algernon Blackwood, while Matthew Sweet looks at how, although there was not much precedent for ‘horror’ in British cinema up to this point with the genre being generally considered an American import, the  anthology picture became quite popular at the time, and can be seen as the cinema’s way of introducing some of the diversity of television into its approach to entertainment. The content of the film is discussed in detail, and Newman notes how most of the episodes that are best remembered are actually original material, conceived by the film’s team of writers, despite that fact that H.G. Welles and EF Benson are prominently credited as contributors alongside Angus MacPhail and John Baines.

Benson’s short story “The Bus Conductor” is the most substantial element to be contributed from outside: a story which also spawned a Twilight Zone episode and even became the source of an urban legend; it was often reprinted as a true story in numerous collections of supernatural accounts. H.G. Welles’ contribution amounts to little more than a few ideas taken from his story “The Inexperienced Ghost” and which work their way into Charles Crichton’s comedy Golfing segment. Other elements of the film are discussed by critic Jonathan Romney and film director and fan John Landis (who is the only participant not to be filmed against a featureless black backdrop) including Basil Dearden’s linking narrative section, which is based around the familiar device of assembling a selection of people who belong to different echelons of British society in order to provide some sort of commentary on the state of the nation. Dearden’s previous film “The Halfway House” had been based around the same idea. Here, the contributors exam how the wraparound story never seems extraneous, as it often could do in later Amicus portmanteau pictures, for instance. Each story is assessed by the participants (who also include comic actor and writer Reece Shearsmith) with Newman and Sweet going against the grain to stand up for the comedy golfing segment, reading this polite, whimsical tale of sexual manners as a risqué delve into the worlds of wife-swapping, suicide and sexual repression. Sweet also speculates that the reason this story was cut out of American prints of the film was that it was simply too racy for US audiences of the day.

The final segment about the Ventriloquist's dummy is still rightly considered the most successful portion of the movie. The contributors discuss Michael Redgrave’s performance, noting how the actor’s troubled personal life at the time may have contributed to its success and also mentioning how Redgrave considered this to be the finest role he was ever given to play on film. The film’s gender politics, its linking of the supernatural to elements of sexuality and its use of the uncanny are discussed, as well as the much more sceptical position it adopts in relation to its representation of the authority figure of the psychoanalyst in comparison to Hitchcock’s “Spellbound”, which was released the same year and was also scripted by Angus MacPhail. Finally, the contributors look at how the film’s eerie circular structure came about after the projectionist is said to have accidentally reloaded the first reel of the film during post-production editing, thus providing the producers with the idea of returning to the start of the film and running the end credits over what had been the opening scenes in order to emphasis the endlessly recurring nature of the protagonist’s predicament.

This in-depth look at the film’s history and subsequent influence on the horror genre is presented without titles, narration or illustrative clips and merely cuts back and forth between the participants, but it is engrossing enough without any of this kind of production sheen thanks to the knowledgeable input of the assembled participants.

“Dead of Night” is a massively influential picture in terms of the development of British horror, seeding both the Gothic turn later taken by Hammer and anticipating elements of the psycho-drama as it came to be essayed by Hitchcock in “Psycho” thanks to its unique handling of themes of psychological disturbance and imbalance, sexual repression and the depiction of an ordered sense of reality unravelling and fracturing. More than that, it is beautifully made by a team of top craftsmen an artists working at the top of their game, which is why it continues to weave its unnerving spell of unease when encountered by modern audiences today. An essential addition to the British horror fan’s collection.

 

Read more from Black Gloves at his blog, Nothing but the Night!

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