Monday, October 24, 2011

Weekend Cinema Spotlight: Dead of Night

"Dead of Night" (1945)

I watched "Dead of Night" after I watched "The Uninvited" and I knew I had to include this in my spotlight! This film includes five stories and also a main story that the film begins and ends with. The British refer to this sort of film a Portmanteau, which is one main film containing many short films. It is sort of like 1982's Creepshow.

Each story was directed by a different director, but the most well known story and the one that basically scared the living daylights out of me was the one starring Michael Redgrave (father of Vanessa Redgrave and grandfather of Natasha Richardson) called "Ventriloquist's Dummy", directed by Alberto Cavalcanti.

Scene with Michael Redgrave and dummy

After watching that story (which is the last story before the actual main story unfolds), I can see now why those dummy's are so scary and why movies like 1978's Magic, starring Anthony Hopkins are beyond horrifying. It also reminded me of that infamous scene from 1982's Poltergeist, where the clown doll goes under the bed and the attacks the boy. Ever since I saw that scene I still cannot look under the bed nor do I EVER let my feet dangle off my bed---EVER!

The idea that a doll is talking to you or possessed in some way is just so eerie. The episodes of The Twilight Zone called The Dummy with the late and wonderful Cliff Robertson, as well as  Living Doll with the incredible Telly Savalas are two amazing examples. I mean if you heard a doll say to you, "My name is Talky Tina and I'm beginning to hate you."-----Um, yeah I would say RUN and run quick! LOL

Guests at the country house taunting Walter Craig

This films basically begins with an Architect named Walter Craig played by Mervyn Johns who goes to a country house party where he meets the guests  but feels as though he has met them all before. After  a while the guests begin to entertain one another by telling "ghost" stories to one another. These stories include a racing car driver's premonition of a fatal bus crash; a light hearted tale of two obsessed golfers; a ghostly encounter during a children's Christmas party; a haunted antique mirror; and the story of an unbalanced ventriloquist who believes his amoral dummy is truly alive.

The ending basically comes full circle when Walter awakes from a dream, one where he dreamt that whole evening. He feels unsure about going to the country house party but his wife encourages him and the story not only comes full circle but goes round and round.

I found this film fascinating and creative and utterly terrifying--in a good way though. Being an English film, I found the techniques used and the format of story-telling quite refreshing. A definite must-see for all those who love a good "bump in the night" story!


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