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Dead of Night

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Music director
Georges Auric



Initial DVD release
January 27, 2009


United Kingdom

Dead of Night movie poster

Cavalcanti ("Christmas Party" and "The Ventriloquists Dummy") Charles Crichton ("Golfing Story") Basil Dearden ("Hearse Driver" and "Linking Narrative") Robert Hamer ("The Haunted Mirror")

H.G. Wells
E.F. Benson
Angus MacPhail

Release date
4 September 1945 (UK) 28 June 1946 (USA)

Alberto Cavalcanti, Robert Hamer, Basil Dearden, Charles Crichton

Mervyn Johns
(Walter Craig),
Roland Culver
(Eliot Foley),
Mary Merrall
(Mrs. Foley),
Googie Withers
(Joan Cortland (The Haunted Mirror)),
Frederick Valk
(Dr. Van Straaten),
Anthony Baird
(Hugh Grainger (The Hearse Conductor))

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Ruelle dead of night official audio

Dead of Night is a 1945 British anthology horror film (a gothic or horror anthology) made by Ealing Studios; the individual stories were directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden and Robert Hamer. The film stars Mervyn Johns, Googie Withers, Sally Ann Howes and Michael Redgrave. The film is probably best-remembered for the ventriloquist's dummy episode with Redgrave.


Dead of Night movie scenes

Dead of Night stands out from British film of the 1940s, when few horror films were being produced in the country (horror films had been banned from production in Britain during the war), and it had an influence on subsequent British films in the genre. Both of the segments by John Baines were recycled for later films, and the possessed ventriloquist dummy episode was adapted as the audition episode of the long-running CBS radio series Escape.

Dead of Night movie scenes


Dead of Night movie scenes

Architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) has been invited by Elliot Foley (Roland Culver) to his country home in Kent to consult on some renovations. Upon arrival at the cottage, he reveals to Foley and his assembled guests that despite never having met any of them, he has seen them all in a recurring dream.

Dead of Night movie scenes

He appears to have no prior personal knowledge of them but he is able to predict spontaneous events in the house before they unfold. Craig partially recalls with some dismay that something awful will later occur, and becomes increasingly disturbed.

The other guests attempt to test Craig's foresight and set him at ease, while entertaining each other with various tales of uncanny or supernatural events that they experienced or were told about.

These include a racing car driver's premonition of a fatal bus crash; a ghostly encounter during a children's Christmas party (a tale cut from the initial USA release); a haunted antique mirror; a light-hearted tale of two obsessed golfers, one of whom becomes haunted by the other's ghost (another cut from the initial USA release); and the story of an unbalanced ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) who believes his amoral dummy is truly alive.

The framing story is then capped by a twist ending in which Craig murders one of the guests, then escapes into a feverish montage of scenes and characters from the house guests' tales. At the climax, the dummy Hugo is strangling him when Craig suddenly wakes up at home from the nightmare to the sound of a phone ringing.

The phone call is from Elliot Foley, inviting him to his country home to consult on some renovations. As the end credits roll, Craig is again driving up to Foley's cottage, exactly as in the film's opening.

Linking narrative

(directed by Basil Dearden)

  • Anthony Baird (credited as Antony Baird) as Hugh Grainger
  • Roland Culver as Eliot Foley
  • Renée Gadd as Mrs. Craig
  • Sally Ann Howes as Sally O'Hara
  • Mervyn Johns as Walter Craig
  • Barbara Leake as Mrs O'Hara
  • Mary Merrall as Mrs Foley
  • Frederick Valk as Dr. van Straaten
  • Googie Withers as Joan Cortland
  • Hearse Driver sequence

    (directed by Basil Dearden; based on "The Bus-Conductor", a short story by E. F. Benson published in The Pall Mall Magazine in 1906)

  • Anthony Baird as Hugh Grainger
  • Judy Kelly as Joyce Grainger
  • Miles Malleson as Hearse Driver / Bus Conductor
  • Robert Wyndham as Dr. Albury
  • Christmas Party sequence

    (directed by Alberto Cavalcanti; story by Angus MacPhail)

  • Michael Allan as Jimmy Watson
  • Sally Ann Howes as Sally O'Hara
  • Barbara Leake as Mrs O'Hara
  • Haunted Mirror sequence

    (directed by Robert Hamer; story by John Baines)

  • Ralph Michael as Peter Cortland
  • Esmé Percy as Mr. Rutherford — the Antiques Dealer
  • Googie Withers as Joan Cortland
  • Golfing Story sequence

    (directed by Charles Crichton; based on a story by H.G. Wells)

  • Peggy Bryan as Mary Lee
  • Basil Radford as George Parratt
  • Naunton Wayne as Larry Potter
  • Peter Jones as Fred the barman (uncredited)
  • Parratt and Potter, the very-English characters portrayed by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne in the Golfing Story are derivatives of Charters and Caldicott, created for Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938). The double-act proved to be so popular that Radford and Wayne were paired up as similar sport-obsessed gentlemen (or occasionally reprising their original rôles) in a number of productions, including this one. The name-change neatly sidestepped any copyright issues.

    Ventriloquist's Dummy sequence

    (directed by Alberto Cavalcanti; story by John Baines)

  • Allan Jeayes as Maurice Olcott
  • Magda Kun as Mitzi
  • Miles Malleson as Jailor
  • Garry Marsh as Harry Parker
  • Hartley Power as Sylvester Kee
  • Michael Redgrave as Maxwell Frere
  • Frederick Valk as Dr. van Straaten
  • Elisabeth Welch as Beulah
  • Release

    Dead of Night was released in the United States on September 9, 1945.

    Box Office

    According to Kinematograph Weekly the film performed well at the British box office in 1945.

    Critical reception

    Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 96%, based on 28 reviews, with a rating average of 8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "With four accomplished directors contributing, Dead of Night is a classic horror anthology that remains highly influential." From a contemporary review, the Monthly Film Bulletin praised the tale of the ventriloquist stating that it was "perhaps the best" and that it was perhaps Cavalcanti's "most polished work for many years". The review commented on Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne for "providing excellent comic relief". The review concluded that direction (Michael Relph), lighting (Stan Pavey and Douglas Slocombe) and editing (Charles Hassey) combine to make the smoothest film yet to come from an English studio". Film critic Leonard Maltin awarded the film 4 out of a possible 4 stars.


    The circular plot of Dead of Night inspired Fred Hoyle's Steady State model of the universe, developed in 1948. Mario Livio in Brilliant Blunders cites the impact of a viewing of Dead of Night had on astrophysicists Fred Hoyle, Herman Bondi, and Thomas Gold. "Gold asked suddenly, "What if the universe is like that?' meaning that the universe could be eternally circling on itself without beginning or end. Unable to dismiss this conjecture, they started to think seriously of an unchanging universe, a steady state universe. Dead of Night currently holds a 96% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

    In the early 2010s, Time Out conducted a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre to vote for their top horror films. Dead of Night placed at number 35 on their top 100 list. Director Martin Scorsese placed Dead of Night on his list of the 11 scariest horror films of all time. Writer/Director Christopher Smith was inspired by the circular narrative in Dead of Night when making his 2009 film Triangle.

    The theme of a recurring nightmare has been visited in other works and media:

  • "Shadow Play", a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone.
  • "The Secret Miracle", a short story by Jorge Luis Borges also contains a recurring nightmare inside a framing story
  • The theme of the mad ventriloquist has been visited in other works and media:

  • The Great Gabbo, a 1929 film starring Erich von Stroheim
  • Knock on Wood (1954), a Danny Kaye musical-comedy
  • "The Glass Eye", a 1957 episode of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents television series, starring Jessica Tandy
  • "The Dummy", a 1962 episode of The Twilight Zone television series, starring Cliff Robertson
  • "Caesar and Me", a 1964 episode of The Twilight Zone television series, starring Jackie Cooper
  • Devil Doll, a 1964 film starring Bryant Haliday
  • Magic, a 1978 film starring Anthony Hopkins
  • It Couldn't Happen Here, a 1988 film by the Pet Shop Boys
  • The Ventriloquist, a Batman nemesis appearing in 1988
  • "The Puppet Show", a 1997 episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • The Beaver, a 2011 film starring Mel Gibson.
  • The theme of the fatal crash premonition has also been visited in other works and media:

  • "The Bus-Conductor", a short story by E. F. Benson published in The Pall Mall Magazine in 1906 which was the basis for the segment in Dead of Night
  • Famous Ghost Stories, a 1944 anthology by Bennett Cerf which retells the Benson short story but changes the main character to a woman and transfers the action to New York City
  • "Twenty Two", a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone inspired by the Cerf story
  • The theme of a mirror casting a murderous spell has been visited in other works and media:

  • "The Mirror", a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone.
  • References

    Dead of Night Wikipedia
    Dead of Night (film) IMDbDead of Night (film) Rotten TomatoesDead of Night

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