Dead of Night (1945)
Dead of Night (1945) is one of the most important films of the British Horror genre, being just one of a few from the first part of the 20th century – one that was never really surpassed until the Hammer films arrived on the scene in the 1960’s.
Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne feature in this truly classic Ealing film, not as Charters and Caldicott, but as two similar characters in the form of George Parratt and Larry Potter. They are two golfing friends – one dead and one alive. Dead or alive, the two characters bring a sense of humour to the chilling story.
Dead of Night features five stories from four different directors; Charles Crichton, Alberto Cavalcanti, Basil Dearden & Robert Hamer. The terror filled stories combine together perfectly resulting in one of the most thrilling horror capers ever made.
A group of strangers are inexplicably gathered in a classic horror setting - the isolated country house. None of them know why they are there but the conversation soon turns to their dreams and nightmares; each guest sharing a chilling story from their past. The stories include one about a ghostly undertaker with "room for one more" in the back of his hearse; the one about a bewitched antique mirror that slowly but surely possess its owner's soul. Then there is the ghost story about a mysterious girl at a Christmas party and the director Charles Crichton’s amusing interlude about the spirit of a deceased golfer haunting his former partner,. The closing story is superb, featuring Michael Redgrave as a ventriloquist slowly driven mad as his dummy appears to come to life.
The cast includes Michael Redgrave and a young Googie Withers, both appeared in The Lady Vanishes, the first outing of Charters and Caldicott.
Dead of Night film posters
Dead of Night (1945) - Soundtracks
Written and Composed by Anna Marly
Played by Frank Weir and his Sextet
Sung by Elisabeth Welch (uncredited)
Why Do You Pass Me By?
("Vous Qui Passez Sans Me Voir")
Written by Charles Trenet and Johnny Hess
English lyrics by Desmond Carter
Music by Johnny Rowlands (i.e. Lou Preager)
Dawn of Freedom
Music by Adolf Lotter
Light of Foot
Music by Carl Latann
Dead of Night Trivia
US distributors thought that the original print of the film was too long for American audiences and therefore the golfing tale and the Christmas ghost tale were cut. This confused American audiences who could not understand what Michael Allen, from the Christmas ghost tale, was doing in the linking story.
The "Christmas Party" ghost story is loosely based on a real life murder mystery. In 1860, Francis Saville Kent (aged nearly four years old) was murdered. His sixteen-year-old half-sister Constance later confessed to the crime. Constance is also the name of the fictional murderer. Due to a lack of evidence in the real life case, she was not arrested and put on trial until 1865. The case attracted national attention and was partially responsible for the birth of modern detective techniques and the popularity of detective novels like the Sherlock Holmes series. In 2008, author Kate Summerscale released a book entitled "The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher", about the trial and subsequent lives of the Kent family, which was subsequently used as a basis for a film - The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: The Murder at Road Hill House (2011).
Towards the end of the film, Walter Craig wakes up, thus revealing that all that came before he woke up was a dream. Thus, the five stories in the film are flashbacks (or dreams) within the dream. Moreover, the final story (with Michael Redgrave) includes a flashback within it, which means that it is a flashback within a flashback (or a dream) within a dream.
According to Stephen Bourne's 2005 book "Elisabeth Welch: Soft Lights and Sweet Music," the depiction of Elisabeth Welch's character Beulah was "a breakthrough in the portrayal of black women in films... for the first time in a film, a black woman is portrayed as independent, successful and resourceful. The actress played an important part in the development of the plot, and was featured in the film's billing with such eminent players as Michael Redgrave, Googie Withers, Mervyn Johns and Frederick Valk."
Dead of Night Lobby Cards