Friday, 14 February 2014

"Dead of Night - Special Edition" - UK DVD/BD review

Studio Canal are releasing the classic B&W horror anthology “Dead of Night” to a specially restored UK DVD and Blu-ray this February, which I was fortunate enough to get an advance look at.
The film starts off with the films central character, Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns), who arrives at his friend’s country house, to see about drawing up some plans for an extension to the building.
He’s been suffering from strange nightmares and hopes that a weekend in the country will help him get over his bizarre dreams. But when he arrives, he discovers his friend is having a party of sorts, and what is peculiar is that all the guests are people he’s seen in his dreams.
One of the people, Dr Straaten (Frederick Valk), a practising psychiatrist, is extremely dismissive. But the other guests seem more open to Walter’s feeling of Deja-Vu, and proceed to narrate their own tales of ghostly happenings to see if they can convince him.
The first story, “The Hearse Driver”, is an interesting tale about a racing driver who experiences a near fatal collision, only to find that when he is released from hospital, he gets premonitions of when something bad is about to happen.
The next 2 stories, are a couple of classic ghostly tales, with the “Christmas party” about a girl who stumbles across a remote bedroom at the back of a mansion during a festive game of hide and seek, and finds a young boy in there, who isn’t who he appears to be. Then a chap gets a chilling glimpse into the future when his fiancé buys him a new dresser in “The Haunted Mirror”.
“The Golfing Story” provides the film with one of it’s lighter hearted tales as a cheating golfer gets his comeuppance when his former golfing partner comes back from the grave to haunt him, before moving on to the last story “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy”, which is arguably the most chilling. In which we are left to wonder whether a ventriloquist and his argumentative dummy are really putting on an act, or whether there is something much more sinister about his puppet than meets the eye…
Could all these stories be true, or are they all the products of overactive imaginations, or could the whole story be just another one of Walter’s bizarre dreams? Well I’m not going to tell you, so if you want to find out what really happens, you’ll just have to see this for yourself.
Produced by Ealing Studios back in 1945, the film is extremely unusual as it is one of only a handful of horror type films produced by the studios and was made at a time when British horror films were very few and far between.
In many ways, watching this was almost like watching an early version of those “Tales from the Crypt” shows, and was arguably the forerunner to those anthology films produced by Amicus studios, like “Terror from Beyond the Grave” or “Night Train to Terror”.
A couple of the stories actually reminded me of a couple of films from more recent years, The Hearse Driver being rather reminiscent to those “Final Destination” films and The Ventriloquists Dummy being eerily similar to the 1978 Anthony Hopkins film “Magic”, so I can’t help but wonder if this movie had an influence on the people who made those.
The discs come with a small selection of special features, including…
Remembering Dead of Night, which is a 70min retrospective documentary about the film, in which Kim Newman and various other horror critics look back and analyse the film, along with the likes of director John Landis.
A Restoration Comparison feature, showing how the film looked before and after being digitally restored
And lastly a Stills gallery, showing a selection of behind the scenes photos.
Whilst the film, obviously, is very old and somewhat dated by todays standards, if you like these older B&W horror movies, or if you’re a fan of those old Amicus films, then you will undoubtedly enjoy this. The film has been extensively digitally restored for this new release and is the best it has ever looked. So if you're thinking of picking this one up, I would highly recommend this release to you.
The film is released onto UK DVD and Blu-Ray February 24.
Buy the UK BD from
Buy the UK DVD from

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