The 1945 British thriller Dead of Night has been on my 'must see' list 4-evah; girl, please- it's an anthology film and it features a creepy ventriloquist's dummy? It's as if it were written in the stars that Dead of Night and I were meant to be together. Hello, Dolly! Week was nothing if not an excuse for me to basically force myself to watch this damn movie at long last...and now, yes, I've seen it. Wow, dreams really do come true! You, there! Your dream can come true, too- someday, you will play Harold to someone's Maude, I just knows it! And you, over there! You won't always be saddled with that ridiculous haircut, I promise! Hey lady! You, lady- cursing at your life...you're a discontented mother and a regimented wife, yeah? I've no doubt you dream about the things you'll never do...but I wish someone had talked to me like I wanna talk to you. I've been to Georgia and California and anywhere I could run! I took the hand of a preacher man and we made love in the sun-- whoa whoa whoa WHOA. Hold on a second.
Sorry about that- sometimes I get carried away and the next thing I know, I'm channeling Charlene all over the place. The reality of it is, however, that I have seen some things a woman ain't supposed to see but no, I've never been to me. I digress.
As I said ten minutes ago, Dead of Night is an anthology flick. The wraparound story concerns architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) who, when summoned to a country house, is unnerved when he meets the other guests gathered there: it seems he's seen them all in his recurring nightmares, and he just knows that somehow the night will end badly. The shrink in the crowd, Dr Van Straaten (Frederick Valk) thinks it's all bunk- but as each guest recounts his or her own experiences with the paranormal (each of which serves as a story segment in the film), even Van Straaten begins to think that Craig might be more prescient than he originally believed.
Hearse Driver: A race car driver (Anthony Baird) has a premonition and subsequently avoids death; it's an enjoyable precursor to the Final Destination films, but the tale is so brief it can barely be considered anything more than a piece designed simply to establish mood.
Christmas Story: A tale that was haunting in 1945, perhaps, but terribly predictable now: young Sally (Sally Ann Howes) tells of a game of hide and seek during which she encountered the ghost of a murdered boy.
The Haunted Mirror: Things pick up a bit during this tale of...umm...a haunted mirror. Joan (Googie Withers) (yes, 'Googie Withers' is the best name ever) buys her fiance Peter (Ralph Michael) a mirror for his birthday- the mirror's sordid history slowly drives Peter to madness- madness, I tells ya!- and just might spell doom for Googie...or not, since she's the one telling the story.
Golfing Story: Hey, you got your comedy in my horror movie! Yes, this comedic segment (starring famed British duo Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford) concerns a man who commits suicide after losing a game of golf (and thus the hand of a super lady who just couldn't choose between the two men); he returns to haunt the winner when the man is exposed as a cheat. This story sticks out like a sore thumb, obviously, although it's established in the wraparound segment that the assembled guests want a tale to lighten the mood a bit. But that doesn't mean that I do, ya jerks!
The Ventriloquist's Dummy: Ah, at last, the payoff! And yeah, this story (and the subsequent wraparound wrap-up) is worth waiting for. Michael Redgrave stars as Maxwell Frere, a ventriloquist whose dummy, Hugo, has sinister ambitions of his own- or maybe Frere is just plain cuckoo. It's an ambiguous tale and though the 'evil dummy' angle has been explored many times since then, one of the first is still one of the best, thanks to a sweaty, twitchy performance by Redgrave as the tortured Frere.
Overall, Dead of Night is what you'd expect from an anthology film: mostly blah with one shining spot. It's worth seeking out, however, for the final tale alone. As for me, I finally get to cross it off my to-do list. Wow, I'm such a young go getter! Still, though, I never knew I'd be bitter from the sweet. I've spent my life exploring the subtle whoring that costs too much to be free-- ah, dammit, there I go again with the Charlene.