Endless Night (1972 film)

Last updated

Endless Night
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Sidney Gilliat
Screenplay bySidney Gilliat
Based on Endless Night
by Agatha Christie
Produced by Leslie Gilliat
Cinematography Harry Waxman
Edited by Thelma Connell
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Distributed byBritish Lion Films (British Isles)
EMI Films (worldwide)
Release date
  • 5 October 1972 (1972-10-05)(UK)
Running time
95 min.
CountryUnited Kingdom

Endless Night is a 1972 British horror-mystery film directed by Sidney Gilliat and starring Hayley Mills, Britt Ekland, Per Oscarsson, Hywel Bennett, and George Sanders. Based on the 1967 novel Endless Night by Agatha Christie, the plot follows a newlywed couple who feel threatened after building their dream home on cursed land.


This would be the last project Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder worked together for British Lion, their home since 1950’s The Happiest Days of Your Life .


Michael Rogers is a wistful and aimless young aspiring photographer working as a chauffeur and living with his mother in London. Though from a working class background, Michael aspires to a life of luxury and is obsessed with the fine arts. Through his travels as a chauffeur, he discovers a spot along the Devon coast known as Gypsy's Acre, where a dilapidated Victorian mansion sits. Michael fantasizes about one day building a new home on the plot of land and aims to one day have Santonix, a famed Italian architect whom he met through a client, design the home.

While photographing Gypsy's Acre, Michael meets Ellie Thomsen, a young American visiting England, who is quickly taken by Michael's fantastical nature. While exploring the property, the two encounter Miss Townsend, a mysterious old woman who tells Michael that Gypsy's Acre is for sale, but that it is a cursed land. Ellie leaves England and embarks on the remainder of her trip through Switzerland and Italy with Greta, her German language tutor who has taken on the role of a personal assistant. In Ellie's absence, Michael learns that she is in fact one of the richest young women in the world. He confronts her about this when she returns to England, but she explains she did not want to tell him as she thought it would dissuade him from pursuing her. She also reveals that, while visiting Italy, she was able to arrange a meeting with Santonix about building Michael's dream home. Furthermore, she reveals she has purchased Gypsy's Acre.

Though initially angered by her deceit, Michael eventually relents, and he and Ellie marry in Wales. Ellie attempts to keep the marriage secret, as she fears her stepmother, Cora, and other family members may attempt to bribe Michael to divorce her based on his lower social class, but the union quickly makes international headlines. The family's attorney, whom Ellie lovingly refers to as "Uncle" Andrew swiftly attempts to buy Michael off, but he declines, insisting he and Ellie are in love. The couple subsequently purchases a local antique shop to operate.

As construction of the home begins, Greta arrives, announcing she has taken a secretary job in London and begins to slowly infiltrate the couple's new life together. Ellie is welcoming of her presence, but Michael dislikes her. Frank and the other family members approach Greta with similar scepticism, and wish to distance her from Ellie. At the house, Ellie becomes unnerved when she notices Miss Townsend staring at the home from the fields below for hours at a time. While Michael attends an auction in the city, Ellie goes missing while out riding her horse. Her body is subsequently found in the woods on Gypsy's Acre. An autopsy suggests she died of unexpected cardiac arrest, but Michael contests this during the inquest, believing there may be foul play. Police attempt to track Miss Townsend but are unable to locate her. After the inquest, Andrew notifies Michael that Ellie made him the sole beneficiary of her estate, and urges Michael to travel to the United States to tend to Ellie's business dealings there. Santonix, meanwhile, dies after a protracted battle with cancer.

Upon returning to Gypsy's Acre from the United States, Michael witnesses an apparition of Ellie as he approaches the house. Upon entering, he and Greta embrace romantically, and begin to have sex—it is revealed the two lovers had conspired all along, preying on Ellie to take her estate: Greta killed her by lacing her allergy medicine with cyanide and bee venom, which stopped her heart. Michael and Greta's plans of a lavish life together are swiftly interrupted, however, when they receive an envelope postmarked from New York City—sent by Andrew—containing date-stamped photographs of them together long before Michael had met Ellie, serving as evidence of their conspiracy. Michael violently lashes out against Greta, blaming her for the predicament, and murders her in the swimming pool. This triggers a memory from Michael's childhood, in which he killed his schoolmate by pushing him into a frozen pond and stealing his watch as a memento.

Michael is interviewed by police as well as Dr. Philpott, a local psychologist, and admits to helping murder Ellie. Philpott questions him about Miss Townsend, whom he presumes was paid to frighten Ellie, and then killed by Michael afterward to prevent her from exposing the plot; Michael, however, insists Miss Townsend never existed. As they question him further, Michael suffers a nervous breakdown, haunted by images related to those he has killed.




The novel was published in 1967. Christie later said she normally wrote her books in three to four months but Endless Night was done in six weeks. [2]

Launder and Gilliat had spent two years working on a comedy about British divorce, Sex and the British. However, they had to shelve it when a change in British law meant the plot became obsolete. Instead, they decided to adapt the Agatha Christie novel, with Gilliat to direct and Launder to produce. Their aim was to write a cinematic script with a minimum of dialogue and a deliberate ambiguity of style "in the sense you're never really sure what is being said is what is really meant or really being said." [3] (In the end the film was produced by Gilliat's brother Leslie.)

The film was partly financed from money by the NFFC. [4]


Grim's Dyke Grims-dyke-view.jpg
Grim's Dyke
Entrance of Il San Pietro di Positano Il San Pietro di Positano (37421628245).jpg
Entrance of Il San Pietro di Positano

Filming took place in June 1971. [5] Shooting locations included Christie's Auction House in London, as well as the West Country and Il San Pietro di Positano, Positano, Italy. The Philpotts' estate (Mike and Ellie's neighbours) was filmed at Grim's Dyke.

Gilliat later said, "I felt very rusty getting back on the set and I had a perfectly horrible time- funnily enough back at my very first studio." [6]

Musical score

The score was composed by American composer Bernard Herrmann. [7] Commenting on the experience, Herrmann recounted: "I like to work on a film from the very beginning, but very few producers or directors think of that. They bring you in when the picture is near its final cut and they want you to do it within a very short time—always the least amount of time in which you can possibly do it. Endless Night is an exception...  Sidney Gilliat is a very experienced director who understands the problems, and he asked me to talk with him and consider what we should do musically at a very early stage." [7] Herrmann initially intended to implement a theremin in the score, but instead opted for a Moog synthesizer. [7] Ellie's singing in the film was dubbed by Shirley Jones.


The film received mixed reviews. Although reasonably faithful to the novel, it is "An example of the sort of thing Christie was writing in her later years: moody psychological studies very different from, and not so much fun as, her early thrillers." [8] Contemporary critics have noted "Nice performances all around, with special admiration for Oscarsson's role as the dying architect." [9]

Christie was initially pleased with the involvement of Gilliat and the casting of the film. However, upon seeing the film, she "was very disappointed... It got flatter and less interesting every minute." [10] Furthermore, she disliked the (admittedly brief) erotic nudity by Ekland in the film's final sequences. [11]

The initial release in Britain was unsuccessful, and United Artists decided against releasing the film in the United States. However, the film was released in both Denmark and Finland in 1973. [12]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Agatha Christie</span> English mystery and detective writer (1890–1976)

Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, was a British writer known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, particularly those revolving around fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. She also wrote the world's longest-running play, The Mousetrap, which has been performed in the West End since 1952, as well as six novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. In 1971, she was made a Dame (DBE) for her contributions to literature. Guinness World Records lists Christie as the best-selling fiction writer of all time, her novels having sold more than two billion copies.

Miss Marple is a fictional character in Agatha Christie's crime novels and short stories. Jane Marple lives in the village of St. Mary Mead and acts as an amateur consulting detective. Often characterized as an elderly spinster, she is one of Christie's best-known characters and has been portrayed numerous times on screen. Her first appearance was in a short story published in The Royal Magazine in December 1927, "The Tuesday Night Club", which later became the first chapter of The Thirteen Problems (1932). Her first appearance in a full-length novel was in The Murder at the Vicarage in 1930, and her last appearance was in Sleeping Murder in 1976.

Tommy and Tuppence Group of fictional characters

Tommy and Tuppence are two fictional detectives, recurring characters in the work of Agatha Christie. Their full names are Thomas Beresford and his wife Prudence . Tommy and Tuppence first appeared in Christie's The Secret Adversary (1922). They started out their career in search of adventure and money, and the detecting life soon proved profitable and very exciting.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Britt Ekland</span> Swedish actress

Britt Ekland is a Swedish actress, model and singer. She appeared in numerous films in her heyday throughout the 1960s and 1970s, including roles in The Double Man (1967), The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968), Machine Gun McCain (1969), Stiletto (1969) and the British crime film Get Carter (1971), which established her as a sex symbol. She also starred in several horror films including the British horror film The Wicker Man (1973), and appeared as a Bond girl in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).

<i>The Secret of Chimneys</i> 1925 novel by Agatha Christie

The Secret of Chimneys is a work of detective fiction by British writer Agatha Christie, first published in the UK by The Bodley Head in June 1925 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year. It introduces the characters of Superintendent Battle and Lady Eileen "Bundle" Brent. The UK edition retailed at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6) and the US edition at $2.00.

Joan Hickson British actress

Joan Bogle Hickson, OBE was an English actress of theatre, film and television. She was known for her role as Agatha Christie's Miss Marple in the television series Miss Marple. She also narrated a number of Miss Marple stories on audiobooks.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hayley Mills</span> English actress (born 1946)

Hayley Catherine Rose Vivien Mills is an English actress. The daughter of Sir John Mills and Mary Hayley Bell, and younger sister of actress Juliet Mills, she began her acting career as a child and was hailed as a promising newcomer, winning the BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer for her performance in the British crime drama film Tiger Bay (1959), the Academy Juvenile Award for Disney's Pollyanna (1960) and Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress in 1961.

Sidney Gilliat was an English film director, producer and writer.

<i>A Caribbean Mystery</i> 1964 Miss Marple novel by Agatha Christie

A Caribbean Mystery is a work of detective fiction by British writer Agatha Christie, first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 16 November 1964 and in the United States by Dodd, Mead and Company the following year. The UK edition retailed at sixteen shillings (16/-) and the US edition at $4.50. It features the detective Miss Marple.

<i>Endless Night</i> (novel)

Endless Night is a crime novel by Agatha Christie, first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 30 October 1967 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company the following year. The UK edition retailed at eighteen shillings (18/-) and the US edition at $4.95. It was one of her favourites of her own works and received some of the warmest critical notices of her career upon publication.

<i>Nemesis</i> (Christie novel) 1971 Miss Marple novel by Agatha Christie

Nemesis is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie (1890–1976) and first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in November 1971 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year. The UK edition retailed at £1.50 and the US edition at $6.95. It was the last Miss Marple novel the author wrote, although Sleeping Murder was the last Miss Marple novel to be published.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Julia McKenzie</span> English actress, presenter, director, writer

Julia Kathleen Nancy McKenzie, is an English actress, singer, presenter, and theatre director. She has premièred leading roles written by both Alan Ayckbourn and Stephen Sondheim. On television, she is known for her BAFTA Award nominated role as Hester Fields in the sitcom Fresh Fields (1984–1986) and its sequel French Fields (1989–1991), and as Miss Marple in Agatha Christie's Marple (2009–2013).

<i>Murder on the Orient Express</i> (1974 film) 1974 film directed by Sidney Lumet

Murder on the Orient Express is a 1974 British mystery film directed by Sidney Lumet, produced by John Brabourne and Richard Goodwin, and based on the 1934 novel of the same name by Agatha Christie.

<i>Agatha Christies Marple</i> British ITV television series

Agatha Christie's Marple is a British ITV television programme loosely based on the books and short stories by British crime novelist Agatha Christie. The title character was played by Geraldine McEwan from the first to the third series, until her retirement from the role, and by Julia McKenzie from the fourth series onwards. Unlike the counterpart TV series Agatha Christie’s Poirot, the show took many liberties with Christie’s works, most notably adding Miss Marple’s character to the adaptations of novels in which she never appeared. Following the conclusion of the sixth series, BBC acquired the rights for the production of Agatha Christie adaptations, suggesting that ITV would be unable to make a seventh series of Marple.

<i>Miss Marple</i> (TV series) BBC adaptation of the novels by Agatha Christie starring Joan Hickson

Miss Marple is a British television series based on the Miss Marple murder mystery novels by Agatha Christie, starring Joan Hickson in the title role. It aired from 26 December 1984 to 27 December 1992 on BBC One. All 12 original Miss Marple Christie novels were dramatised. The adaptations were written by T. R. Bowen, Julia Jones, Alan Plater, Ken Taylor and Jill Hyem, and the series was produced by George Gallaccio. In addition to its availability on VHS and DVD, the series began to be released on Blu-ray Disc in October 2014, marking its 30th anniversary.

<i>Black Coffee</i> (play) Play by the British crime-fiction author Agatha Christie

Black Coffee is a play by the British crime-fiction author Agatha Christie (1890–1976) which was produced initially in 1930. The first piece that Christie wrote for the stage, it launched a successful second career for her as a playwright. In the play, a scientist discovers that someone in his household has stolen the formula for an explosive. The scientist calls Hercule Poirot to investigate, but is murdered just as Poirot arrives with Hastings and Inspector Japp.

<i>The Constant Husband</i> 1955 film by Sidney Gilliat

The Constant Husband is a 1955 British comedy film, directed by Sidney Gilliat and starring Rex Harrison, Margaret Leighton, Kay Kendall, Cecil Parker, George Cole and Raymond Huntley. The story was written by Gilliat together with Val Valentine, and the film was produced by Individual Pictures, Gilliat's and Frank Launder's joint production company. Because the film got caught up in the 1954 bankruptcy of British Lion Film Corporation, it was not released until more than seven months after it had been finished and reviewed by the British Board of Film Censors.

<i>Two Thousand Women</i> 1944 war film by Frank Launder

Two Thousand Women is a 1944 British comedy-drama war film about a German internment camp in Occupied France which holds British women who have been resident in the country. Three RAF aircrewmen, whose bomber has been shot down, enter the camp and are hidden by the women from the Germans.

Leslie Gilliat was a British film producer and production manager. He was the younger brother of director Sidney Gilliat, with whom he worked on a number of films for British Lion Films.

<i>Agatha and the Curse of Ishtar</i> British TV drama film

Agatha and the Curse of Ishtar is a 2019 British alternative history television drama film about crime writer Agatha Christie becoming embroiled in a real-life murder case during a trip to an archaeological dig in Iraq following her divorce. The film premiered on Channel 5 in the United Kingdom on 15 December 2019. Filming took place in Malta and was directed by Sam Yates. Agatha and the Curse of Ishtar premiered in the United States on PBS May 18, 2021.


  1. "Endless Night (1972)". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 16 June 2017.
  2. Crime Story Queen By Muriel Bowen. The Washington Post and Times-Herald 15 Sep 1970: B4.
  3. Richmond, Theo (28 September 1970). "British Lion keepers". The Guardian. p. 8.
  4. In the Picture Sight and Sound; London Vol. 40, Iss. 4, (Fall 1971): 187.
  5. Weiler, A. H. (13 June 1971). "Belt It Out, Bobby!: Bobby Burns Will Belt It Out". The New York Times . p. D15.
  6. Boorman & Donohue 1993, p. 146.
  7. 1 2 3 Smith 2002, p. 312.
  8. "Endless Night". Time Out London. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011.
  9. halfcolombian (5 October 1972). "Endless Night (1972)". IMDb.
  10. Dame Agatha Tells Whodunit--She Did: Grande Dame of Whodunit Los Angeles Times 15 December 1974: 11.
  11. Haining 1990, p. 50.
  12. Haining