"Dead Of Night" Is Released
Dead of Night (1945) is a British portmanteau (or compendium) horror film made by Ealing Studios, its various episodes directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden and Robert Hamer.
The film stars Mervyn Johns, Googie Withers and Michael Redgrave. The film is probably best-remembered for the "ventriloquist's dummy" episode starring Redgrave.
Dead of Night stands out from British film of the 1940s, when few genre films were being produced, and it had a huge influence on subsequent British horror films most particularly the anthology films produced by Amicus in the 1960s and early 1970s. Both of the segments by John Baines were recycled for later films, and the possessed ventriloquist dummy episode was adapted as an episode of the long-running CBS radio series Escape. It was also used twice by the American television series The Twilight Zone, as well as serving as the basis for the William Goldman-scripted film Magic.
Considered the greatest horror anthology film, the classic British chiller Dead of Night features five stories of supernatural terror from four different directors, yet it ultimately feels like a unified whole. The framing device is simple but unsettling, as a group of strangers find themselves inexplicably gathered at an isolated country estate, uncertain why they have come. The topic of conversation soon turns to the world of dreams and nightmares, and each guest shares a frightening event from his/her own past. Many of these tales have become famous, including Basil Dearden's opening vignette about a ghostly driver with "room for one more" in the back of his hearse. Equally eerie are Robert Hamer's look at a haunted antique mirror that gradually begins to possess its owner's soul, and Alberto Cavalcanti's ghost story about a mysterious young girl during a Christmas party. Legendary Ealing comedy director Charles Crichton lightens the mood with an amusing interlude about the spirit of a deceased golfer haunting his former partner, leaving viewers vulnerable to Cavalcanti's superb and much-imitated closing segment, about a ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) slowly driven mad when his dummy appears to come to life. Deservedly acclaimed and highly influential, Dead of Night's episodic structure inspired an entire genre of lesser imitators. ~ Judd Blaise, All Movie Guide