Top critical review
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on 31 October 2009
Although made by Hammer, Fear In The Night (1972) is not a horror film, but is in fact a suspense thriller.
It was produced, directed and co-written by Hammer legend Jimmy Sangster.
At the centre of the story is 22 year old Londoner Peggy (Judy Geeson) who is attacked by someone with an artificial arm on the evening before she moves to the private boys school where her new husband Robert (Ralph Bates) teaches. Her landlady and doctor are sceptical when she informs them of her ordeal, mainly because they know she is recovering from a nervous breakdown. The following day she arrives at the idyllic rural boarding school. As she takes a stroll around the premises she hears the voices of children, even though all the pupils are on holiday. Is Peggy's mind playing tricks on her? Then she meets the Headmaster (Peter Cushing) who's a bit creepy and has a moustache and an artificial arm. Later that same day someone with an artificial arm attacks her again. She informs Robert, but he doesn't believe her, "I believe you think you were attacked". Peggy eventually puts two and two together and shoots the Headmaster. But, of course, there's a twist to the plot...
Besides from the gripping story, what really makes this film worth watching are the performances from the four main actors. Peter Cushing, as always, is on top form. What a pleasure it is watching this master at work. Amazingly, he only worked on this film for four days! Judy Geeson is well cast as the vulnerable young woman who is forced to question her own sanity in what must have been quite a demanding role. Joan Collins is perfect as seductive sculptress Molly. Joan is one of the all-time greats at playing bitches. She doesn't make her entrance until almost halfway through the film and the first thing she does is blast the guts out of a cute little rabbit with a shotgun! Ralph Bates is also very good, and was becoming a bit of a Hammer regular by this time. Incidentally, Ralph and Joan would both go on to star in the much underrated I Don't Want To Be Born (1975).
On the DVD itself, there are no faults with the picture or the sound. It is presented in full screen. There are no subtitles available. As for extras, there is a commentary by Sangster himself and a trailer.
Fear In The Night is not top drawer Hammer, but is well worth checking out. If you like this film then may I recommend getting hold of a copy of Hammer's Taste Of Fear (1961), which was written by Jimmy Sangster, and is also about a young woman tricked into believing she is losing her mind.