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Architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) takes a job to renovate a mansion
in the country, a place he has never been before, but when he pays the
place a visit, he realizes the whole house, and those in it, are part of
his recurring nightmare. He relates this to the present crowd, and
immediately a psychiatrist tries do find a rational explanation for the
whole situation. The other house guests though are more sympathetic to his
claims, and they tell him some supernatural stories of their own:
- The Hearse Driver (based on a story by E.F.Benson and
directed by Basil Dearden, both of them also responsible for the
linking narrative): After a crash, racedriver Grainger (Anthony Baird)
spends quite some time in hospital. One day, when he looks out of the
window, he sees an old fashioned hearse, with the driver (Miles
Malleson) asking him to jump aboard, as there's only room for one
more. Disturbed by this vision at first, Grainger soon forgets all
about it - until he wants to hop on a bus, but recognizes the bus
conductor, who tells him there's still room for one more, to be the
hearse driver. Startled, Grainger lets the bus go without him, and
only a few hundred feet later the bus has a horrible crash ...
- The Christmas Party (based on a story by Angus MacPhail,
directed by Alberto Cavalcanti): Young Sally (Sally Ann Howes) plays
hide and seek with some other kids at a Christmas party in a large
mansion, when she finds a hidden stairway leading to a room in which
she finds a little boy who claims to live here - much to the surprise
of Sally, but she tugs him in anyhow when he asks her to. Only later
does Sally learn that the boy was actually murdered in the very same
house almost 100 years ago.
- Haunted Mirror (based on a story by John Baines, directed by
Robert Hamer): Peter's (Ralph Michael) wife-to-be Joan (Googie
Withers) has given him a mirror as a present - but unfortunately the
mirror is haunted since someone murdered his wife in front of it all
those years ago, and now, Peter sees himself in the room the murder
was committed every time he looks into the mirror - which would be
troubling enough, but soon enough he is more and more taken over by
the persona of the murderer until he tries to kill Joan in front of
the mirror as well, but immediately ceases to do so once she smashes
- Golfing Story (based on a story by H.G.Wells, directed by
Charles Crichton): This one is rather comical in tone, golfers Parratt
(Basil Radford) and Potter (Naunton Wayne) fall in love with the same
woman, Mary (Peggy Bryan), and since they are otherwise the best of
friends, they decide to play a game of golf over who is to marry her
(who loves them both equally). Potter loses, and immediately commits
suicide, but when he learns in the beyond that Parratt has cheated
him, he comes back to haunt him - but somehow Parratt persuades him to
go back to the beyond again, only Potter has now forgotten how, and in
the finale, taking place during Parratt's and Mary's wedding night,
it's Parratt who accidently makes himself disappear, leaving Mary to
Potter after all ...
- Ventriloquist's Dummy (based on a story by John Baines,
directed by Alberto Cavalcanti): Ventriloquist Frere (Michael
Redgrave) has identified with his dummy to such an extent that he
thinks it's a seperate person - and thinks that fellow ventriloquist
Kee (Hartley Power) wants to steal teh dummy from him, which makes him
go totally bonkers ...
After Walter has heard all of these stories, his nightmare really
begins, when he seems to be dragged into all of the stories himself and
... awakes screaming.
Everything's back to normal again at breakfast, after which he drives
to the country, to a mansion where he's never been, to renovate it - the
exact place of his nightmare ...
Quite possibly, Dead of Night is one of the best horror
anthologies, maybe even horror films ever, a film that is amazingly
coherent considering it's based on the stories of four different writers
and was directed by four different men, and it doesn't even stay true to
one direction - while one story is a harmless ghost story, one a
supernatural comedy, one essentially a psycho-thriller, only two are
all-out horror stories. Still all of these stories are intelligently
scripted, stylishly directed and based on understatement rather than
all-out effects (apart from the grand finale), and in all the film has
passed the test of time remarkably well, seemking fresh enough even today.