Sunday, 14 September 2014

Review - Fear in the Night (1947 - Dir. Maxwell Shane)

I was expecting all of the films listed in 'Nightworld' to contain some kind of monster or other, for example the umbrella creature in Not of This Earth. But no, this one only relates to the book by its title. No stupid low-budget monsters. Shame.

Vince Grayson (DeForest Kelly in his first film role) is a banker who has a rather nasty nightmare in which he kills a fellow in an octagonal mirrored room. Soon after he begins to suspect that it wasn't really a dream and maybe he actually killed the man. (He even says, "I'm a banker, not a murderer," at one point. Well, okay, that's a lie. He doesn't.) His brother-in-law Cliff (Paul Kelly) is a cop and decides to look into his case.

Based on a story by Cornell Woolrich called "Nightmare", Fear in the Night is a film noir thriller with the obligatory narration and moody shadowy atmosphere. The plot was probably quite original at the time but now it all seems pretty obvious what's happening from early on in the proceedings. Even so, I couldn't help but be gripped when the two blokes and their lady friends took shelter from a storm in a house, only for it to turn out to be the one from Vince's dream. There was a certain sense of inevitability about it all and I hoped that the rest of the film would be set in the nightmare house. It isn't though and a fair bit of atmosphere is lost from that point on. Especially when we learn the secret of the nightmare.

Again in 1947 the secret was only too plausible and scary. Yet now, it's common knowledge that the reason for his sleep walking murder spree just doesn't happen. It's a bit like a film's finale requiring the audience to believe that the world is flat. It wouldn't work in these enlightened times. So to enjoy the latter stages, a certain amount of "going with it" needs to be done.

Dr McCoy is great. One of the classic TV characters ever. Yet here DeForest Kelly looks a little wet behind the ear. His acting isn't entirely convincing and his narration seems forced rather than being a natural flow of thoughts emanating from his head. Fortunately the narration stops fairly early on and the more experienced Paul Kelly takes a more prominent role as the gruff no-nonsense cop.

On a positive note there are some quality screen cracking animations, similar in style to the one at the finale of City of the Living Dead. If that's not a selling point, I don't know what is.

Not the greatest of films then, seen in today's light but it is entirely suitable for a late Friday night. Switch off your brain for a while and it's not too bad.

If you like this you could also try:
Hollow Triumph, Somewhere in the Night.

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