Dead of Night (1945 film)

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Summary

An architect recovering at a country house after a terrifying nightmare senses impending doom as his half-remembered recurring dream turns into reality, and his fellow guests encourage him to stay as they take turns telling supernatural tales. THE HEARSE DRIVER: a racing car driver's premonition of a fatal bus crash are announced by a mysterious man who says "just room for one inside, sir". THE CHRISTMAS PARTY: a ghostly encounter during a children's Christmas party. THE HAUNTED MIRROR: an antique mirror given as a birthday gift reflects something terrifying. THE GOLFER'S STORY: comic relief segment about two obsessed golfers - one a ghost - sharing a love for the same game, and the same woman, based on "The Story of the Inexperienced Ghost" by H.G. Wells and a popular comedy duo act from Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes. THE VENTRILOQUIST'S DUMMY: an unbalanced ventriloquist believes his terrifying dummy is truly alive.


Details

Scene from Dead of Night (1945 film)...
  • Release Date: 1945
  • Country/Language: UK, English, black-and-white, anthology
  • Genres/Technical: Horror
  • Setting: Classic Era, 1940s UK
  • Runtime: 1 hr 17 min
  • Starring: various
  • Director: Alberto Cavalcanti (segments "Christmas Party", "The Ventriloquist's Dummy"), Charles Crichton (segment "Golfing Story"), Basil Dearden (segments "Hearse Driver", "Linking Narrative"), Robert Hamer (segment "The Haunted Mirror")
  • Writer: John Baines (segments "The Haunted Mirror", "The Ventriloquist's Dummy"), E.F. Benson (segment "Hearse Driver" and framing story), Angus MacPhail (segment "Christmas Party"), H.G. Wells (segment "Golfing Story")
  • Producer/Production Co: Michael Balcon, Ealing Studios
  • View Trailer: (link)
  • TVTropes: (link)
  • Wikipedia: (link)
  • IMDB Page: (link)


Ratings

MPAA Ratings

  • Rated: not rated (equivalent of a "PG" for mild 1940s horror Violence)

The violence is pretty mild, but a couple of the segments are genuinely creepy even by modern standards, with "The Ventriloquist's Dummy" and its segue into the hallucinations from the last part of the framing story being an infamous source of nightmare fuel for generations of young viewers.


Tentacle Ratings

A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:

  • S____ (One Tentacle: Debateably Lovecraftian; has almost no direct connection to Lovecraft's work)

None of the segments were especially "Lovecraftian", though the anthology is dripping with atmosphere, and the basic concept might suggest an unusual sort of CoC RPG campaign, in which patients at Arkham Sanitarium share tales of the horrors that had them committed in the form of individual, seemingly unrelated one-shot scenarios. The surreal madness of the end of the framing story, along with the terrifying dummy segment seem like they might lend themselves as some pretty potent stuff to use in a madhouse scenario.

Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.

Reviews

Review Links:

  • Review by Scott Ashlin at 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting (link) (3.5/5 Stars)
  • Review by David Becker at 2,500 Movies Challenge (link)
  • Review by Burl Cummings at Ha, Ha, It's Burl! (link)
  • Review by Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (link) (4/5 Stars)
  • Review by Chris Wood at British Horror Films (link)


Synopsis (SPOILERS)

 Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)

An architect recovering at a country house after a terrifying nightmare senses impending doom as his half-remembered recurring dream turns into reality, and his fellow guests encourage him to stay as they take turns telling supernatural tales. THE HEARSE DRIVER: a racing car driver's premonition of a fatal bus crash are announced by a mysterious man who says "just room for one inside, sir", first in the form of a hearse driver, and then in the form of a bus driver. THE CHRISTMAS PARTY: a girl playing hide-and-seek with during a children's Christmas party discovers after the fact that she has had a ghostly encounter. THE HAUNTED MIRROR: an antique mirror given as a birthday gift reflects an impending murder. THE GOLFER'S STORY: comic relief segment about two obsessed golfers sharing a love for the same game, and the same woman; the golfers agree to play a high-stakes game of golf for girl, the loser to drown himself in a pond, but the loser is doomed to haunt the couple. THE VENTRILOQUIST'S DUMMY: an unbalanced ventriloquist believes his terrifying dummy is truly alive. The tale of the living dummy morphs into the architect's living nightmare beginning with the architect murdering that guest, and then being pursued through the house by figments from the other guests' dreams until he awakens from the nightmare, and starts his fateful day of recovery all over again.


Notes

Comments, Trivia, Dedication

  • Parratt and Potter, the very-English characters portrayed by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne in the Golfing Story, are derivatives of the characters Charters and Caldicott created for Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes. The double-act proved to be so popular that Radford and Wayne were paired up as similar sport-obsessed gentlemen (or occasionally reprising their original roles) in a number of productions, including this one; in this case, the name-change neatly sidestepped any copyright issues. The act as shoehorned into variation on "The Story of the Inexperienced Ghost" by H.G. Wells, which originally had nothing to do with golf.


Associated Mythos Elements

  • setting: mental hospital
  • race: Ghosts, evil mirror reflections, and an evil ventriloquist's doll


Keeper Notes

  • As an extended campaign, "guests" at a "country house" share tales of horror in the form of individual, seemingly unrelated one-shot scenarios, discovering as they go that they are actually patients at a sanitarium, trapped within the delusions of their stories....