The Ealing Classics Collection
presents four films from the great British studio, which, unlike the two sets devoted to Ealing Comedy
, have at first glance little in common. Apart from many of the same names before and behind the cameras, what really connects Went the Day Well?
(1942), Dead of Night
(1945), Nicholas Nickleby
(1947) and Scott of the Antarctic
(1948) is Ealing's commitment to well-written, high-quality drama realised with the best possible production values.
British patriotism at its best links Went the Day Well? with Scott of the Antarctic. The former is a wartime propaganda morale-booster that doesn't shirk from showing the cost of the conflict, but provides genuine excitement as a small German advance force take over a Midlands village--a plot later reworked in The Eagle Has Landed (1977). Director Alberto Cavalcanti handles events with neo-documentary efficiency and William Walton's score cannot fail to stir. No less a composer than Vaughan Williams scored Scott, delivering one of the finest in film history, while Ealing spared no expense on Technicolor location filming. The result is occasionally too tableau-like and historically inaccurate--the mini-series Shackleton (2002) is more commendable in this respect-but remains a gripping and ultimately very moving drama.
The darker side of life is explored by Cavalcanti in a suitably stark version of Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby, a film unfortunately overshadowed by David Lean's double whammy of Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948). Here Derek Bond is fine as Nicholas and a superb supporting cast, including Cedric Hardwicke and Stanley Holloway, ensure this is a first-rate production. Dead of Night offers one of the earliest examples of the anthology horror film, all wrapped in a decades-ahead-of-its-time framing narrative that nightmarishly twists reality inside-out. Most famous is the sequence with Michael Redgrave as a ventriloquist possessed by his own dummy, an idea later expanded to feature length with Anthony Hopkins in Magic (1978). Still unsettling six decades on, this all-time horror classic is only marred by a terrible comedy golf skit.
On the DVD Ealing Classics presents each film on its own DVD without extras. All four are in the original 4:3 ratio, in black and white, apart from Scott of the Antarctic. The audio is functional mono, and, while dialogue and sound effects are very clear, the music tracks are often distorted.
Picture quality is very variable, with Went the Day Well? being taken from an excellent print. Dead of Night, though, is constantly beset by small sparkles, with much more serious print damage being in evidence, making this a very below-par presentation for such a classic film. Nicholas Nickleby ranks somewhere in between, with a print showing various forms of constant but minor damage and offering a rather indistinct image in the darker scenes. The big budget Technicolor of Scott of the Antarctic is a little muted and the many snow scenes show a considerable amount of grain, but otherwise the print is in very good condition. --Gary S Dalkin
Horror anthology. Architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) arrives at country house Pilgrim Farm thinking that he has been hired to remodel it. He finds the building strangely familiar, and upon entering discovers that he recognizes all of the house's occupants from a recurring nightmare he has experienced. One by one, everyone present relates their own horrific nightmare: Grainger (Anthony Baird) dreams that he is a racing driver recuperating from an accident; teenager Sally O'Hara (Sally Ann Howes) dreams of a Christmas party where she discovers a lone crying child; Joan Courtland (Googie Withers) relates a story of an antique mirror linked to an ancient murder; the next story concerns two golfers who vie murderously for the attention of a young lady; and the final story features a ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) whose dummy comes to life.
From the Back Cover
United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Mono ), SPECIAL FEATURES: Black & White, Interactive Menu, Scene Access, SYNOPSIS: 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. ...Dead of Night