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Dead of Night (1945) [Blu-ray]
... (segments "Christmas
Description: A portmanteau work from four of Ealing’s best directors, Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden and Robert Hamer. Starring Mervyn Johns, Michael Redgrave and Googie Withers, Dead of Night represented a departure for Ealing from the classic comedy mode and is instead a spooky psychological thriller made up of five chilling ghost stories.
Considered the greatest horror anthology film, the classic British chiller Dead of Night features five stories of supernatural terror from four different directors, yet it ultimately feels like a unified whole. The framing device is simple but unsettling, as a group of strangers find themselves inexplicably gathered at an isolated country estate, uncertain why they have come. The topic of conversation soon turns to the world of dreams and nightmares, and each guest shares a frightening event from his/her own past. Many of these tales have become famous, including Basil Dearden's opening vignette about a ghostly driver with "room for one more" in the back of his hearse. Equally eerie are Robert Hamer's look at a haunted antique mirror that gradually begins to possess its owner's soul, and Alberto Cavalcanti's ghost story about a mysterious young girl during a Christmas party. Legendary Ealing comedy director Charles Crichton lightens the mood with an amusing interlude about the spirit of a deceased golfer haunting his former partner, leaving viewers vulnerable to Cavalcanti's superb and much-imitated closing segment, about a ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) slowly driven mad when his dummy appears to come to life. Deservedly acclaimed and highly influential, Dead of Night's episodic structure inspired an entire genre of lesser imitators.Excerpt from MRQE located HERE
Perhaps the best horror anthology film ever made, this much-praised film
still holds up, but suffers from the variances of pace and mood that
inevitably affect all compilation efforts. Architect Walter Craig (Mervyn
Johns) is called to Pilgrim's Farm, a country house he has been hired to
remodel. Approaching the austere Victorian building in his car, he finds
that there is something hauntingly familiar about the house. Once
inside, Craig recognizes everyone present and tells them they have all
been part of a recurring nightmare he has had, whereupon the guests
relate their own nightmares, one by one.
The first tale, "The Hearse Driver," is told by Grainger (Antony Baird). In it he is a racetrack driver who, while recuperating from an accident, has a vision of a hearse from the window of his hospital room. The teen-aged Sally O'Hara (Sally Ann Howes) then reports "The Christmas Story," in which she attends a holiday party and, during a game of hide-and-seek, finds a crying child in a strange room. He is not what he seems. Joan Courtland (Googie Withers), in "The Haunted Mirror," relates a chilling tale in which she is given an antique mirror by her fiance which begins to reflect a Victorian room where a killing once took place. In "The Golfing Story"--the only piece designed for comic relief--two golfers (Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne) vie for the attentions of one woman. One golfer tricks the other into suicide, only to have the deceased return and haunt him as he is about to enjoy his wedding night. The last story, an Expressionistic entry entitled "The Ventriloquist's Dummy," shows a ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) going mad. He believes that his dummy is assuming his personality while he is becoming the manipulated prop.
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
Dead of Night gets a reasonably strong transfer to Blu-ray from Studio Canal in the UK. It is dual-layered with a high bitrate for the 1 3/4 hour feature. It looks a bit dull but we should remember the film's age. Contrast has some nice layering but black levels are not deep. Even if it is occasionally flat the 1080P supports pleasing detail in the few close-ups and some minor depth in the 1.33:1 frame. There are some very light scratches hardly visible but otherwise a consistent presentation. Overall I'd say this was superior to SD, but the video is not dramatically crisp as some might expect from the format. I appreciated the textures. This Blu-ray gave me a pleasurable video presentation, but nothing outstanding for the medium.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Studio Canal use a linear PCM 2.0 channel at 2304 kbps that sounds very consistent. The infrequently used score is by Georges Auric (The Innocents, Lola Montes, Rififi, Wages of Fear) and can pack some surprising depth - almost drowning out dialogue. It significantly enhances the atmosphere, IMO. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.
Aside from a 3-minute 'Restoration Comparison', and stills gallery we get the lengthy, but enjoyable, Remembering Dead of Night composite of interview soundbytes with the likes of Kim Newman, John Landis, Keith Johnston, Danny Leigh, Matthew Sweet, Jonathan Romney and Reece Shearsmith. I appreciated not only the history of Ealing and it's evolution but specifics on the production and importance and reference as the premiere portmanteau horror of it time. It is good and the time flies by.
Dead of Night has many intangibles - discussed in the supplement piece - that raise its value. A kind of spooky charisma. This is an excellent film - odd, both erratic and inclusive. The Christmas Story, Haunted Mirror and Ventriloquist are brilliantly buoyed by the tension in the score - as well as the impressive performances. With the tenuous story links, there is reason to reflect on previous segments - creating its own haunting manner. I loved it despite some disjointed pacing. But there are so many attributes here that it offers a timeless quality for revisitation. The Studio Canal Blu-ray provides a decent a/v presentation and includes an educational supplement. Fans of the the genre and Ealing Studio efforts should certainly enjoy. Absolutely recommended!
March 18th, 2014
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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