Dead of Night

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DEAD OF NIGHT—–influential, highly regarded 1945 British horror anthology still more than holds its own, providing neat, civilized spookiness without the reliance on explicit shocks and gore that later imitators employed and emphasized.

Invited for a consultation on a country home, a clearly tense architect shares with other guests his sense of premonition arising from an unsettling dream in which they all figure. In pace with the subtly diabolical framing device, through five segments over 102 minutes the others reveal their own supernatural stories, while one, a psychiatrist (complete with Viennese accent) attempts to explain away their fears.

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It all builds to a smashing finish. The first two episodes are fair, the third good. The fourth, done as a comic-relief bridge, gets less love from reviewers, but I found it to be quite amusing—veddy old-fashioned British. The last, ends up as a wild nightmare, with a top rate job from Michael Redgrave. It involves a nasty ventriloquist dummy—so if that sort of idea creeps you out, this will be a real treat. (Clowns, dummies and mimes–who the hell came up with them–and why?)

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“The Christmas Party” and “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” were directed by Alberto Cavalcanti; “Hearse Driver” and the linking narrative were handled by Basil Dearden; Robert Hamer managed “The Haunted Mirror” and “Golf Story” was coursed by Charles Crichton.

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With Mervyn Johns, Roland Culver, Googie Withers, Frederick Valk, Ralph Michael, Anthony Baird, Sally Ann Howes, Basil Radford, Naunton Wayne, legendary diva Elisabeth Welch and Miles Malleson.

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