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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 16 May 2017
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VINE VOICEon 15 September 2007
I've seen this classic film almost every time it's been shown on TV for the last 30 years, and it's great to be able to have a permanent copy for one's DVD library. Perhaps because the TV prints have always been poor, I'm not so bothered about the print quality as others seem to be (although the sound is rough in places). Sure, this deserves to have the full restoration business done, but that is very expensive, and I've been disappointed in the past with some American issues of classic films (NTSC to PAL conversion?) so I haven't tried that avenue. Yet.

To the film itself. I am concerned that younger viewers coming new to this film may have unreasonable expectations; it has dated certainly, having a very middle-class 30's/40's Englishness about it that may put some viewers off straight away. This of course would be a terrible shame. Ealing Studios themselves did it no favours by having as a poster (reproduced on the DVD box) a depiction of some weird monster- completely misleading as these are human, psychological, tales.

Over the years, I've asked people what their favourite of the five (six?) separate stories is. Although everyone remembers Michael Redgrave's fine performance with the ventriloquist's dummy, it is The Mirror which is remarked on more than you might expect. This is I think the deepest tale in terms of character development, and we really get drawn into the drama gradually unfolding. I've also always had a soft spot for the delightful Naunton/Wayne golf sequence, a gentle comedy in the middle of the film - giving us a breather before we get inexorably dragged towards that astonishing climax; as surreal as anything you will see in British cinema.

At its current preposterously low price I would snap this up. A better U.K. transfer may come along some day, but this will do in the meantime.

So go on, join Mervyn Johns, and visit Pilgrim's Farm.

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VINE VOICEon 26 November 2006
This film scared me as a teenager when I saw it on TV. Many years later it scared me again. Finally I have it on DVD and it can now scare me again whenever I want.

The film itself is stitched together like a quilt from a set of individual stories all of which show that horrow needs merely acting and writing, not CGI. I defy anyone to watch this and ever be comfortable with ventriloguist's dummies again;-)
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on 24 May 2007
Great film but, as other reviewers have noted, this transfer is very poor. You will get a much better transfer if you buy the region 1 Dead of Night/The Queen of Spades double release available from amazon marketplace sellers or from amazon.com.
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on 21 October 2001
The new types of horror films cannot hold a candle to this very creepy film. The lack of blood and guts, that modern film makers feel they need to put into new films, I feel adds to the tension.The final scene is the kind of nightmare we all dread.
The tale of the mirror is truly hair raising, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck raise on more than one occasion during the film.
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on 24 February 2014
Had a quick glance at this hd remastering and I have to report its all good considering the age of the movie. The blacks look good and the overall clean up, if you compare with the unrestored comparision feature you can see a world of difference.The real bonus IS the bonus feature which I have watched, a nice 75 min Doc on the film.A must buy for one of the best British anthology movies.I urge you to buy this blu ray
see my snapshot in customer images for before/after restoration comparison.
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on 31 January 2007
As mentioned before this truly is a British Classic and it is great that it has been made available on DVD. The film shows just what can be accomplished with minimal special effects and budget yet still come across as totally captivating and in some parts downright nerve tingling.

Where this DVD suffers tho is in its presentation which is shoddy and shows a total lack of care, appreciation and understanding of the product.

The transfer is from the original VHS release from over 10 years ago now and it has in no way been properly remastered or restored. As to be expected the image is softer than you expect for new transfers and there are many blemishes and frame splices and cuts from the old print. These can be forgivable however the sound is atrocious. Wooly, muffly, distorted and heavily dampened down to eliminate the inherent hiss of the RCA original this audio really lets the film down.

I will say tho that it is slightly better than the even worse print that Channel 4 has shown in the past!

A great pity.
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Dead of Night wasn't the first portmanteau or anthology horror film (Ealing Studios didn't even regard it as anything as downmarket as a horror film), but, despite the likes of Paul Leni's Waxworks [DVD] [1924] [US Import] [2024] [Region 1] [NTSC] and Julien Duvivier's Flesh and Fantasy [DVD] [1943] [Region 1] [US Import], [NTSC] it was certainly the most influential, particularly in the UK: it's hard to imagine the Amicus films of the 60s and 70s existing without its success. In retrospect it's a simple idea, teaming four of Ealing's top directors - Alberto Cavalcanti (Went the Day Well), Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob), Robert Hamer (Kind Hearts and Coronets) and Basil Dearden (Victim) - for a series of short tales of the supernatural wrapped up in the framing story of Mervyn Johns' architect whose finds himself living a recurring dream that inspires the people around him to tell of their own supernatural experiences to try to make sense of it. But while three of the stories are especially memorable, it's the strength of the framing device (inspired by E.F. Benson's The Room in the Tower but reaching a very different conclusion) that makes the film so effective.

Unlike almost all of the films that followed in its wake, for once the framing device is actually a story in itself that advances and develops as he slowly recollects the details of his own terrifying nightmare like lightning flashes in a dark night. Despite its apparent simplicity, the construction is surprisingly complicated, not just with flashbacks within flashbacks but in the way the ebb and flow of the stories could possibly be seen as different aspects of Johns' own madness as he becomes increasingly unsettled despite the best efforts of Frederick Valk's conveniently visiting-for-the-weekend disbelieving psychiatrist (every story of the supernatural needs its sceptic) to provide rational explanations. And when the dream finally fulfils its destiny to become an expressionist nightmare, Johns finds reality breaking down as he is trapped inside even more oppressive versions of the tales he's been told...

Like all portmanteau films, the quality of these tales varies. Dearden handles both the linking narrative and, with supreme irony, the vignette of a racing driver recuperating from a crash haunted by visions of a hearse driver intoning "Just room for one inside, sir" as a precursor of disaster: Dearden would himself die in somewhat uncanny circumstances on the very spot he had staged an onscreen car crash in The Man Who Haunted Himself. Crichton draws the short straw with Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne's comic relief tale of two obsessive golfers whose rivalry in love and on the links continues even after the death of one. It's a pleasant enough slice of whimsy that owes as much to their popular Charters and Caldicott outings as to H.G. Wells' short story The Inexperienced Ghost, and it has one memorably morbidly comic image as one character disappears beneath a lake as well as some risqué sexual undercurrents, but it's not too surprising that this episode (along with the Christmas party story) was dropped from the US release.

Cavalcanti gets two stories, the first a thin mood piece set at a children's Christmas party in a country house that was partly inspired by the same notorious real-life murder that inspired best-seller The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, easily outshone by the last, a kind of perverse romantic triangle where Michael Redgrave's partner taunts and drives him increasingly mad with jealousy with his plans to team up with the new man in his life - Redgrave's partner being a ventriloquist dummy. Redgrave, looking at times surprisingly like Benedict Cumberbatch, always regarded it as his best screen role, and he brings out some latent undercurrents that other evil ventriloquist dummy movies have avoided with his impressive mixture of fear, loathing and pitiful dependence on the obnoxious lump of wood.

Yet while it's the film's best known episode, in many ways the most chilling is actually Robert Hamer's story of a haunted mirror Googie Withers gives her fiancé Ralph Michael that reveals more and more of a past murder scene that's unnerving enough to have even the vainest of viewers throwing a sheet over the bedroom mirror. Not many people have a ventriloquist's dummy, but the notion of an everyday household object like a mirror reflecting and projecting something malign is much more inclusively unsettling, especially when the possibility it's all in his mind is discounted with a horrible moment of recognition that's most perhaps the film's most unnerving as it draws the innocent in.

All are peeks behind the curtain into worlds others can't see but, in the case of the haunted mirror and the dummy, some find themselves briefly drawn into. That the stories flow so effortlessly in and out of the framing story is probably down to Ealing's famously collaborative nature, where directors would share ideas and solve each other's technical problems over a pint in the pub across the road. Despite the differing approaches taken, they all feel part of the same film rather than in competition, and there's a restraint that works in the film's favour. It's often a subtly unnerving, from the shot where a curtain in a nighttime hospital opens onto bright daylight beyond to the gradually more oppressive lighting Douglas Slocombe uses in the framing story as the noose tightens around Johns' neck. The end result is the kind of film that repays repeat viewings, not just to catch a detail that makes more sense second time round but also as an entertaining and classy set of fireside tales for the long nights.

StudioCanal's Blu-ray and DVD restoration is a bit of a mixed bag as well. The picture is massively improved over the previous video and DVD releases and TV prints and they thankfully haven't boosted the brightness the way they often do with their colour films, but the sound quality is less impressive. Most of the dialogue is fine (though you'll be grateful for the subtitles in a couple of places), but the music track hasn't fared so well - not a big problem when it's underscoring dialogue or effects but the pinched and tinny opening credits don't do Georges Auric's score any favours.

The extras are thin - a restoration comparison, a stills gallery and a talking heads documentary where various critics and director John Landis discuss the film - but the latter turns out to be surprisingly engaging despite its 75-minute running time. Along with various interpretations of the film it also offers the odd behind the scenes titbit, such as the fact that the film's closing shots were a late addition after a projectionist's error. Despite the listing on Amazon.co.uk, there is no trailer included.

All in all a very worthwhile release.
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on 11 November 2008
The quality of the film's transferance onto DVD is poor and the dubbing in particular is suspect, but this film is undoubtedly a classic.It's apparently the earliest example of a 'portmanteau' horror film(,a film which narrates a series of separate tales).Here, an architect visits a country house and tells the guests of a recurring nightmare he's had about the house and the inhabitants, prompting them to relate a series of supernatural experiences, the creepiest of which is the last one, involving a ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) and a seemingly independent dummy. When the tales have been related, there is an horrific climax and a disturbing twist: the protagonist seems to be stuck in a nightmarish 'groundhog day' scenario.
All of the stories are entertaining but the light hearted 'comic relief' one about two golfers fighting over the same woman is something of an anachronism. Apart from this 'blemish', and making due allowances for the film's relative antiquity, I'd recommend horror afficionados to purchase this. This is clearly a very influential film and it's hard to see how Amicus films could have proceeded to make classics like 'Vault of horror' and 'Tales from the crypt', had it not been made in the first place. A retrospective pat on the back is due to Ealing studios, who obviously weren't just dab hands at making classic comedies.
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on 20 March 2014
Great picture restoration and improved audio (mostly) compared to earlier DVD releases. Opening credit music is not good, but most dialogue scenes are fine thereafter. The picture quality is the clear winner - better contrast, solid blacks, and more detail revealed throughout. This does make the viewing of this old classic a more rewarding experience. Talking heads "extra feature" of various critics and fans discussing the film is pretty much preaching to the converted, but does add some useful background information and insights.
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