|Dead of Night|
by H.G. Wells, John Baines, E.F. Benson, Angus MacPhail
|Produced by||Michael Balcon|
|Cinematography|| Douglas Slocombe |
|Edited by||Charles Hasse|
|Music by||Georges Auric|
|Color process||Black and white|
|Distributed by||Eagle-Lion Films (UK) Universal Pictures (US)|
Dead of Night is a 1945 black and white British anthology horror film, made by Ealing Studios. The individual segments were directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden and Robert Hamer. It stars Mervyn Johns, Googie Withers, Sally Ann Howes and Michael Redgrave. The film is best remembered for the concluding story featuring Redgrave and an insane ventriloquist's malevolent dummy.
Dead of Night is a rare British horror film of the 1940s; horror films were banned from production in Britain during World War II. It had an influence on subsequent British films in the genre. Both of John Baines' stories were reused for later films and the ventriloquist dummy episode was adapted into the pilot episode of the long-running CBS radio series Escape .
While primarily in the horror genre, the film has shades of the comedy that would make the studio's name.
Walter Craig arrives at a country cottage in Kent, where he is greeted by his host Elliot Foley. Craig is an architect whom Foley has invited to his home to consult on some renovations. Upon entering the sitting room of the cottage, Craig tells Foley and his assembled guests that, despite never having met any of them, he has seen them all in a recurring dream.
Craig appears to have no prior personal knowledge of them, but is able to predict events in the house before they unfold. Craig partially recalls that something awful will later occur. Dr. van Straaten, a psychologist, tries to persuade Craig that his fears are unfounded. The other guests attempt to test Craig's foresight and entertain each other with tales of strange events they experienced or were told about.
Racing car driver Hugh Grainger recalls lying in hospital after an accident. One night, the peripheral noises of the ward cease and the time on his bedside clock changes. He opens the curtains to see that it is daytime, and a horse-drawn hearse is parked outside. The hearse driver calls up, "just room for one inside, sir". After being discharged from the hospital, Grainger waits for a bus. The bus conductor, who exactly resembles the hearse driver, tells him, "just room for one inside, sir". Grainger does not board the bus. As it drives away, the bus swerves and plunges down an embankment.
Sally O'Hara remembers attending a Christmas party at a mansion. During a game of hide-and-seek, Sally hides behind a curtain and is found by Jimmy, who tells her of a murder that once happened in the mansion. She finds a door which leads to a nursery, where she hears a young boy, Francis Kent, weeping. She consoles him and tucks him into bed. When she returns to the main room, she is told Francis Kent was murdered by his sister Constance.
Joan Cortland tells of an incident in which she gave her husband Peter a mirror for his birthday one year. Upon looking into it, he sees himself in a room other than his own. Joan learns that the mirror's previous owner, Francis Etherington, killed his wife on a suspicion of adultery, before slitting his own throat in front of the mirror. Peter, too, accuses Joan of being unfaithful and attempts to strangle her, but she breaks the mirror, returning Peter to his normal mental state.
Foley recounts two golfers, George Parratt and Larry Potter, who both fell in love with a woman named Mary Lee. They decide to play a round of golf for Mary's hand in marriage. Parratt wins by cheating, and Potter drowns himself in a nearby lake. When he next plays golf, Parratt is interrupted by Potter's ghost. Potter demands he give up Mary or else he will continue to haunt him, but finds he has forgotten how to vanish. On the night of Parratt and Mary's wedding, Parratt unwittingly causes himself to vanish, leaving Potter the opportunity to charm Mary.
Dr. van Straaten recollects interviewing ventriloquist Maxwell Frere, who performed with a dummy named Hugo. Upon meeting American ventriloquist Sylvester Kee, Hugo continually speaks about abandoning Frere and working with Kee instead. Frere attempts to silence Hugo, but Hugo bites his hand, drawing blood. Some time later at a hotel bar, Hugo insults a woman, and Frere is blamed. Kee brings Frere and Hugo to Frere's hotel room, placing Hugo on Frere's bed. The next morning, Frere accuses Kee of stealing Hugo, and finds Hugo in Kee's room. He shoots Kee and is arrested. Van Straaten arranges for Hugo to be brought to Frere's cell, where they have an argument that ends in Frere suffocating and smashing Hugo. Later, in an asylum, Frere speaks with Hugo's voice.
In the country home, Craig strangles Dr. van Straaten. Craig then hallucinates about the stories told by the other guests, before awakening in his bedroom as a phone rings. He receives a call from Elliot Foley, inviting him to his country home to consult on some renovations. Craig's wife suggests that spending a weekend in the country might help him get rid of his nightmares. Craig then drives up to Foley's cottage in Kent as in the start of the film.
(Directed by Basil Dearden)
(Directed by Basil Dearden; based on "The Bus-Conductor" by E. F. Benson, published in The Pall Mall Magazine in 1906)
(Directed by Alberto Cavalcanti; story by Angus MacPhail)
'Christmas Party' is based on the 1860 murder of Francis Saville Kent, for which his half-sister Constance Kent was convicted in 1865.
(Directed by Robert Hamer; story by John Baines)
(Directed by Charles Crichton; based on "The Story of the Inexperienced Ghost" by H. G. Wells)
Parratt and Potter, as portrayed by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne in the golfing story, are derivative of the characters Charters and Caldicott from Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938). The double-act proved to be popular enough for Radford and Wayne to be paired up as similar sport-obsessed English gentlemen (or occasionally reprising their original roles) in a number of productions, including this one.
(Directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, story by John Baines)
The film opened at the Gaumont Haymarket cinema in London on 9 September 1945.
According to Kinematograph Weekly the film performed well at the British box office in 1945.The 'biggest winner' at the box office in 1945 Britain was The Seventh Veil, with "runners up" being (in release order), Madonna of the Seven Moons, Old Acquaintance, Frenchman's Creek, Mrs. Parkington, Arsenic and Old Lace, Meet Me in St. Louis, A Song to Remember, Since You Went Away, Here Come the Waves, Tonight and Every Night, Hollywood Canteen, They Were Sisters, The Princess and the Pirate, The Adventures of Susan, National Velvet, Mrs. Skefflington, I Live in Grosvenor Square, Nob Hill, Perfect Strangers, Valley of Decision, Conflict and Duffy's Tavern. British "runners-up" were They Were Sisters, I Live in Grosvenor Square, Perfect Strangers, Madonna of the Seven Moons, Waterloo Road, Blithe Spirit, The Way to the Stars, I'll Be Your Sweetheart, Dead of Night, Waltz Time and Henry V.
From a contemporary review, the Monthly Film Bulletin praised the tale of the ventriloquist, stating that it was "perhaps the best" and that it was perhaps Cavalcanti's "most polished work for many years".The review praised Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne for "providing excellent comic relief", and concluded that the art direction (Michael Relph), lighting (Stan Pavey and Douglas Slocombe) and editing (Charles Hassey) combine to make the smoothest film yet to come from an English studio". Film critic Leonard Maltin awarded the film 4 out of a possible 4 stars.
Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports an approval rating of 93% based on 42 reviews, with a rating average of 8.22/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "With four accomplished directors contributing, Dead of Night is a classic horror anthology that remains highly influential."
The circular plot of Dead of Night inspired Fred Hoyle's steady state model of the universe, developed in 1948.Mario Livio in Brilliant Blunders cites the impact of a viewing of Dead of Night had on astrophysicists Fred Hoyle, Hermann Bondi, and Thomas Gold. "Gold asked suddenly, "What if the universe is like that?' meaning that the universe could be eternally circling on itself without beginning or end. Unable to dismiss this conjecture, they started to think seriously of an unchanging universe, a steady state universe.
In the early 2010s, Time Out conducted a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre to vote for their top horror films.Dead of Night placed at number 35 on their top 100 list. Director Martin Scorsese placed Dead of Night 5th on his list of the 11 scariest horror films of all time. Writer/director Christopher Smith was inspired by the circular narrative in Dead of Night when making his 2009 film Triangle.
A shot of Redgrave from the film is featured on the cover of Merrie Land , an album by The Good, the Bad & the Queen.
The theme of a recurring nightmare has been visited in other works and media:
The theme of the mad ventriloquist and his dummy with a life of its own has been visited in other works and media:
The theme of the fatal crash premonition has also been visited in other works and media:
The theme of a mirror casting a murderous spell has been visited in other works and media:
Ventriloquism, or ventriloquy, is a performance act of stagecraft in which a person creates the illusion that their voice is coming from elsewhere, usually a puppeteered prop known as a "dummy". The act of ventriloquism is ventriloquizing, and the ability to do so is commonly called in English the ability to "throw" one's voice.
Naunton Wayne, was a Welsh character actor, born in Pontypridd, Glamorgan, Wales. He was educated at Clifton College. His name was changed by deed poll in 1933.
Magic is a 1978 American psychological horror film starring Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret and Burgess Meredith. The film, which was directed by Richard Attenborough, is based on a screenplay by William Goldman, who wrote the novel upon which it was based. The score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith.
"Caesar and Me" is episode 148 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone starring Jackie Cooper as a ventriloquist. It is not to be confused with a similar episode "The Dummy", starring Cliff Robertson as a ventriloquist.
The Ventriloquist is the name of multiple supervillains appearing in American comic books and other media published by DC Comics. All of the Ventriloquist's versions are enemies of Batman, belonging to the collective of adversaries that make up Batman's rogues gallery.
Arthur Basil Radford was an English character actor who featured in many British films of the 1930s and 1940s.
Night Train to Munich is a 1940 British-American thriller film directed by Carol Reed and starring Margaret Lockwood and Rex Harrison. Written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, based on the 1939 short story Report on a Fugitive by Gordon Wellesley, the film is about an inventor and his daughter who are kidnapped by the Gestapo after the Nazis march into Prague in the prelude to the Second World War. A British secret service agent follows them, disguised as a senior German army officer pretending to woo the daughter over to the Nazi cause.
The Great Gabbo is a 1929 American Pre-Code early sound musical drama film directed by James Cruze, based on Ben Hecht's 1928 short story "The Rival Dummy", and starring Erich von Stroheim and Betty Compson. The film features songs by Lynn Cowan, Paul Titsworth, Donald McNamee and King Zany.
Alberto de Almeida Cavalcanti was a Brazilian-born film director and producer. He was often credited under the single name "Cavalcanti".
Devil Doll is a 1964 British horror film about an evil ventriloquist, "The Great Vorelli", and his dummy Hugo, directed by Lindsay Shonteff. It stars William Sylvester and Yvonne Romain.
Slappy the Dummy is a fictional character and antagonist in the Goosebumps children's series by R. L. Stine. He is one of the series' most popular villains, the main antagonist of the Night of the Living Dummy saga and the mascot of the franchise. He is also the main antagonist of the Goosebumps movie and its sequel, where Stine describes him as a "ventriloquist's dummy with a serious Napoleonic complex". He comes alive by these words: "Karru Marri Odonna Loma Molanu Karrano", and they can be found on a sheet of paper in Slappy's jacket pocket. After coming to life, Slappy will try to make the person who brought him to life serve him as a slave, to the point that he will frame that person for bad things that he does.
The Lady Vanishes is a 1938 British mystery thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave. Written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, based on the 1936 novel The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White, the film is about a beautiful English tourist travelling by train in continental Europe who discovers that her elderly travelling companion seems to have disappeared from the train. After her fellow passengers deny ever having seen the elderly lady, the young woman is helped by a young musicologist, the two proceeding to search the train for clues to the old lady's disappearance.
Charters and Caldicott started out as two supporting characters in the 1938 Alfred Hitchcock film The Lady Vanishes. The pair of cricket-obsessed characters were played by Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford. The characters were created by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat. The duo became very popular and were used as recurring characters in subsequent films and in BBC Radio productions. Charters and Caldicott have also been played by other actors including eventually their own BBC television series.
Lindsay Craig Shonteff was a Canadian born film director, film producer and screenwriter who achieved fame for low-budget films produced in the United Kingdom.
Crook's Tour is a 1941 black and white British film directed by John Baxter featuring Charters and Caldicott. It is adapted from a BBC radio serial of the same name.
Helter Skelter is a 1949 British romantic comedy film directed by Ralph Thomas and starring Carol Marsh, David Tomlinson and Mervyn Johns. A radio star becomes involved with a wealthy heiress.
It's Not Cricket is a 1949 British comedy film directed by Alfred Roome and starring Basil Radford, Naunton Wayne, Susan Shaw and Maurice Denham. It is the second of two starring films for Radford and Wayne who appeared as supporting players in ten other films. It was also one of the final films made by Gainsborough Pictures before the studio was merged into the Rank Organisation.
Hartley Power was an American-born British film and television actor, who made his Broadway debut in Dolly Jordan in 1922. He is best remembered for two roles: "Sylvester Kee" the ventriloquist who is shot and almost killed by "Maxwell Frere" as a rival for his dummy's "affections" in Dead of Night and Mr. Hennessy, the chief of the news agency that Gregory Peck worked for in Roman Holiday.
Stop Press Girl is a 1949 British fantasy comedy film directed by Michael Barry and starring Sally Ann Howes, Gordon Jackson, Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne; the latter two appearing in several different roles in the film.
Killer toys are fictional characters based on toys, dolls or puppets that come alive and commit violent or scary acts. Reasons for these actions have included possession by demons, devils, monsters, ghosts, supernatural creatures, dark magic, and malevolent or malfunctioning technology.