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;
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
Kind Hearts and Coronets
The Lavender Hill Mob
The Man in the White Suit
The Titfield Thunderbot
The L-Shaped Room
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