Dead of Night (1945) Starring Michael Redgrave, Mervyn Johns, and Googie Withers. Directed by Alberto Cavalcanti
Architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) is called in by a prospective client to work on a project in a large home in the English countryside. Upon arrival, he finds himself in a constant state of déjà vu and quickly reveals to the homeowner and visitors that he’s not only been there before, but has met them all numerous times in a dream. So much so that he can predict certain events of the day and the comings and goings of the guests. The homeowner’s visitors, in turn, relay their own personal stories of paranormal experiences. One by one, they tell their tales – each one oddly linked to Craig’s repeating dream.
This movie didn’t go at all where I thought it would go. That’s a rare treat. Today’s films can be so predictable it makes watching them a bore. Though it was a bit of a slow burn and I kept wondering what the whole point of it was, it wasn’t boring. I’m not sure what I’d expected from a 1945 paranormal thriller, but it wasn’t anything like what I got from Dead of Night.
The script of the movie is actually based on several short stories by H.G. Wells, John Baines, E.F. Benson and Angus MacPhail, so there are stories within the story which adds a wonderful depth to the whole thing. One includes a particularly disturbing ventriloquist doll.
The real twist doesn’t come until the very end. It was disappointing in a sense, but at the same time satisfying in that it made me sit back and go, “Hmmm… Interesting and slightly disturbing, too.” It seemed abrupt and maybe that’s what left me feeling a bit put off. It’s one of those endings where the viewer is left to speculate on what was really going on with the lead character. Very Twilight Zone-esque.