A few words about…™ Dead of Night – in Blu-ray

4 Stars

Dead of Night is an English omnibus production from Ealing Studios, probably best known to cinephiles as the home of the Alec Guinness comedies.

It’s finally arrived on Blu-ray, courtesy of Kino Lorber.

Producing many comedies and dramas, under the control of Michael Balcon, beginning in the late 1930s, and then war films, the subject of these words, Dead of Night (1945), is almost a prelude to what would come in the ’50s from Hammer. But for Ealing, it was an initial answer to what films to make after the war.

Interestingly, horror films were (after the German silent era) mostly an American thing, especially at Universal. Even many of the numerous horror productions taking place in the UK, were American productions.

Dead of Night is a little black & white film, with a tiny cast, directed by four gentlemen, who bring together four different tales of terror and the supernatural, wrapped around a central device.

That device involves an architect visiting a potential job site, and meeting people who have been in his dreams. What does it all mean? How does it come together?

That’s the fun of viewing the film.

The filmmakers and their sequences are:

Alberto Cavalcanti (billed as Cavalcanti), directing The Christmas Story and The Ventriloquist’s Dummy (used thereafter in other films);

Charles Crichton, the Golfing ghost story;

Basil Deardon, the linking narrative along with the Hearse Driver;

and

Robert Hamer, The Haunted Mirror.

Shot by Stan Pavey, and Douglas Slocombe – best to look up Mr. Slocombe, but a sampling of his films are:

The Captive Heart
Sarabandd
Whisky Galore
Kind Hearts and Coronets
The Lavender Hill Mob
The Man in the White Suit
The Titfield Thunderbot
The L-Shaped Room
The Servant
The Fearless Vampire Killers
The Lion in Winter
The Music Lovers
The Great Gatsby…

and then a few on this side of the pond:

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Never Say Never Again
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

A gentleman with a story.

Dead of Night is an interesting film. A good film. But not a great film.

In some ways it serves as a turning point in British cinema history.

Many in the cast are faces you’ll recognize from other British productions. The most recognizable to most viewers will be Michael Redgrave, and a very young Sally Ann Howes, probably best known as one Miss Truly Scrumptious, in that film about the flying car.

The film has been reported restored in 4k, but there are still numerous problems, inclusive of some lovely cut-through scratches, so apparently surviving original elements have seen better days.

There are no problems which impede the enjoyment of the film.

They simply are.

The track is less than stellar, and not always vibrant, but again, it is what it is, and it works.

Image – 3.25

Audio – 3.25

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from DVD – Definitely

Recommended

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

13 Comments

  1. I went region free Blu-Ray years ago for a bunch of Ealing films like my favorite The Titfield Thunderbolt and The Man in the White Suit. Good news is that some will be released by Kino soon.

  2. I always have to laugh at this 4K malarky. Because you can transfer 8mm in 4K. It solely depends on WHAT the element is and that they're keeping mum on. From everything I've heard, this is not much of a step-up from the DVD.

  3. Frankly, I was disappointed by the transfer; garbled sound, a lot of background hiss, and some edge enhancement effects that were VERY distracting. Overall, not a winner, in my opinion. The movie itself is a work of genius, sooooo deserving of better!

  4. Nick*Z

    Frankly, I was disappointed by the transfer; garbled sound, a lot of background hiss, and some edge enhancement effects that were VERY distracting. Overall, not a winner, in my opinion. The movie itself is a work of genius, sooooo deserving of better!

    At least, it's out on Blu-ray which isn't the case for many classic films. If you want more classics out on Blu-ray then there are going to be some BD titles that will come up a little short PQ-wise due to various circumstances including associated costs and film elements condition.

  5. Robert Harris

    There are no problems which impede the enjoyment of the film. They simply are ….. but again, it is what it is, and it works.

    Upgrade from DVD – Definitely

    Recommended

    RAH

    Sounds good enough for me, Mr. Harris! Your realistic attitude toward these problematic transfers is greatly appreciated.

  6. Robert Crawford

    At least, it's out on Blu-ray which isn't the case for many classic films. If you want more classics out on Blu-ray then there are going to be some BD titles that will come up a little short PQ-wise due to various circumstances including associated costs and film elements condition.

    Dear Robert: I don't mind images that have been afforded less than total restoration. Light speckling is acceptable, as is minor dirt and scratches and the occasional gate weave or wobble. But the edge effects I mentioned have been 'added' in the 'remastering process'. Unacceptable, if you ask me. Don't artificially sharpen the image. It only creates distracting halos and other anomalies, easily avoided. I mean, come on. They spent money to have someone sharpen the image, but couldn't spend any to massage the strident and occasionally inaudible audio?!? Where do you think the money would have been better spent?

  7. haineshisway

    I always have to laugh at this 4K malarky. Because you can transfer 8mm in 4K. It solely depends on WHAT the element is and that they're keeping mum on. From everything I've heard, this is not much of a step-up from the DVD.

    The concept, and I’m in agreement, is that if no OCN survives, scan the best surviving in 4k. Doesn’t matter what resolution it may be

  8. Andrew Budgell

    I'd never heard of this film prior to the Blu-ray annoucement. Sounds interesting… I'm going to pick it up this autumn.

    Dear Andrew: the movie is fantastic. Think of it as David Lynch before there was a David Lynch.

  9. Elsewhere I read that trying to eliminate long-running vertical scratches is extremely difficult and time-consuming (i.e. expensive), so the two that show up on this transfer would have resulted in unacceptable digital costs for Kino or whoever would have paid the price. I like this edition, and I owned the import, which does not have those scratches but also doesn't have the detail or contrast., imo.

  10. What's with the cover art for this movie – featuring a very predominant bat and skeleton – neither actually appearing in the movie. I understand producer, Michael Balcon was not interested in having Dead of Night perceived as a 'horror' movie because it would have faced strenuous censorship from the Brit censors. He was going for the supernatural/psycho-thriller aspects.

  11. Nick*Z

    What's with the cover art for this movie – featuring a very predominant bat and skeleton – neither actually appearing in the movie.

    It's from one of the original British posters. As to why the imagery was used for the poster, that's another question …

    [​IMG]

Leave a Reply