If you haven’t seen it:
Dead of Night begins with a group of strangers meeting in an old farmhouse. One of them believes there is something sinister and supernatural going on, and this inspires the strangers to recount their own paranormal experiences.
The movie is an anthology of five tales (plus the linking story) and is a fondly remembered movie that is the cinematic equivalent of ghost stories around a campfire. Some of the stories are better than others, but it is all good fun. There is no gore, but there is some violence, and there are a few chilling moments. The movie also features Googie Withers, but that is not as painful as it sounds.
If you have seen it:
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SPOILER ALERT: The plot summary and comments below contain details that might spoil your enjoyment of the movie if you have not already seen it.
A group of strangers gather together at an old farmhouse. One of them, Walter Craig, claims that he has a recurring dream about them all, in that exact same house, and that he knows something terrible is going to happen. The others, especially the sceptic Dr. van Straaten, do not believe him, but it starts them all talking, and they each recount stories (which we see in flashback) of supernatural experiences they have had themselves.
1. A man has a dream about a hearse being driven by an old man, who invites him on board. When he later sees the same old man in real life, as a bus conductor, he decides not to get on the bus. Seconds later, the bus is in a terrible crash.
2. While playing hide and seek in an old mansion, a young woman meets a little boy. When she returns to her friends and tells them, they tell her that the boy must have been a ghost.
3. A haunted mirror causes a man to become possessed by an evil spirit, and try to murder his wife. The wife smashes the mirror, and the husband returns to normal.
4. A comic tale about two old friends who vie for the love of the same woman. They agree to play golf for her, but one of them cheats. The loser cannot bear to live without the woman, and kills himself. However he comes back to haunt the winner, and eventually swaps places with him.
5. A ventriloquist’s dummy appears to have a life of its own, and provokes its owner to murder a rival ventriloquist. However, a psychiatrist reveals that the owner has a split personality, and he was playing the part of the dummy without knowing it.
When the stories are over, Walter reveals that in his dream, he is compelled to murder one of the other guests – and he suddenly strangles Dr. van Straaten. Walter is then plunged into a nightmare world, from which he eventually awakes to discover it was in fact all a dream, again. He gets up and leaves his home, and finds himself arriving at an old farmhouse, and everything is strangely familiar.
Steve Sunday Says:
The first two stories in Dead of Night are pretty standard spooky tales, the sort you might hear at a dinner party. The Haunted Mirror though, is actually quite harrowing. I imagine that if you were at a dinner party and you chipped in with “oh, yes, one time my husband became possessed by an evil spirit and tried to murder me” it would kill the mood somewhat. The hostess would probably change the subject to something lighter, and the other guests would laugh nervously. I do not think you would be invited back. None of the guests at this gathering seem to bat an eyelid though.
The thing that makes me laugh with movies like this is the way the audience is encouraged to think the “skeptic” (and there is always one) is a poor deluded fool. In Dead of Night he is an especially pompous idiot, who gets what he deserves. I always feel sorry for these characters though, because when faced with something they do not have a rational explanation for, they are unable to say “perhaps this whole reality is just a movie, and the figment of some screenwriter’s imagination”. Instead, the skeptic is usually “proved” wrong, and the person who believes in ghosts/aliens/leprechauns is proved right. It doesn’t seem fair does it?
Trivia Trish Says:
- When it was released in the US, the stories about the Christmas ghost and the golf match were cut, to reduce the length of the film. This confused audiences who could not understand what Michael Allen, from the Christmas ghost tale, was doing in the linking story.
- Parratt and Potter, from the Golfing Story, are characters who have appeared in several movies, played by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne (although usually with different names to avoid any copyright issues). They first appeared in The Lady Vanishes and were so popular the characters were used over and over again in other productions.
- Sally Ann Howes from the Christmas Ghost Story, later went on to play Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Main Cast and Crew:
Mervyn Johns … Walter Craig
Roland Culver … Eliot Foley
Mary Merrall … Mrs Foley
Googie Withers … Joan Cortland
Frederick Valk … Dr. Van Straaten
Anthony Baird … Hugh Grainger
Sally Ann Howes … Sally O’Hara