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Dead Of Night (Ealing 1945, Michael Redgrave, Mervyn Johns)

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Dead Of Night is Ealing’s classic portmanteau horror film whose separate stories were linked by a central framing story. It was a format that was to inspire such films as Torture Garden and Dr Terror’s House Of Horrors but still remains the best of this horror film genre.

The film opens with architect MERVYN JOHNS summoned to a farmhouse where, meeting host ROLAND CULVER and the other guests for the first time, realises they are characters from a recurring nightmare. Psychiatrist FREDERICK VALK is sceptical but the others have strange stories to tell…

Racing driver ANTHONY BAIRD narrowly escapes death after an encounter with a mysterious hearse; teenager SALLY ANN HOWES, playing hide-and-seek in a country house, comes across a weeping child; GOOGIE WITHERS tells how a mysterious mirror reflects back a Victorian room while the lighter touch is provided by BASIL RADFORD and NAUNTON WAYNE (The Lady Vanishes) who are rivals in golf and for PEGGY RYAN’s hand that leads to haunting…

But the best is saved to last as MICHAEL REDGRAVE plays the ventriloquist who is coming more and more deranged under the influence of his evil, ambitious dummy – until he commits murder. Viewers were astonished at the life-like movements of the dummy – in fact, Cavalcanti expertly edited between the dummy and made-up JOHN MAGUIRE, at 25 just four foot tall, with one of Redgrave’s most impressive performances distracting the viewer. And finally the story returns to the farmhouse where murder and a twist in the tail await…

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In 1968 Pauline Kael said ‘The five ghost stories accumulate in intensity until the trap closes in the surrealist climax.’

production details
UK | Ealing | 103 minutes | 1945

Writers: John Baines, Angus McPhail, T E B Clarke from stories by H G Wells, E F Benson, John Baines, Angus McPhail
Music: George Auric
Cinematography: Douglas Slocombe, Stan Pavey
Producer: Michael Balcon
Directors: Basil Dearden (The Linking Story, The Hearse Driver); Alberto Cavalcanti (The Christmas Story, The Ventriloquist’s Dummy); Robert Hamer (The Haunted Mirror); Charles Crichton (The Golfing Story)

cast
Miles Malleson as Hearse Driver (The Hearse Conductor)
Googie Withers as Joan Cortland (The Haunted Mirror)
Michael Redgrave as Maxwell Frere (The Ventriloquist’s Dummy)
Mervyn Johns as Walter Craig
Basil Radford as George Parratt (The Golfing Story)
Roland Culver as Eliot Foley
Allan Jeayes as Maurice Olcott (The Ventriloquist’s Dummy)
Ralph Michael as Peter Cortland (The Haunted Mirror)
John McGuire as Hugo Fitch (The Ventriloquist’s Dummy) (uncredited)
Renee Gadd as Mrs. Craig
Garry Marsh as Harry Parker (The Ventriloquist’s Dummy)
Esme Percy as Antiques Dealer (The Haunted Mirror)
Naunton Wayne as Larry Potter (The Golfing Story)
Robert Wyndham as Dr. Albury (The Christmas Story)
Judy Kelly as Joyce Grainger (The Hearse Conductor)
Mary Merrall as Mrs. Foley
Frederick Valk as Dr. Van Straaten
Anthony Baird as Hugh Grainger (The Hearse Conductor)
Sally Ann Howes as Sally O’Hara (The Christmas Story)
Michael Allan as Jimmy Watson (The Christmas Story)
Barbara Leake as Mrs. O’Hara (The Christmas Story)
Peggy Bryan as Mary Lee (The Golfing Story)
Elisabeth Welch as Beulah (The Ventriloquist’s Dummy)
Hartley Power as Sylvester Kee (The Ventriloquist’s Dummy)
Magda Kun as Mitzi (The Ventriloquist’s Dummy)

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.

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