Saturday, July 28, 2007

Dead of Night – review


Directed by: Dan Curtis

Release Date: 1977

Contains spoilers

This Dan Curtis vehicle, with screenplay by Richard Matheson, was actually the pilot for a series of horror shorts that never actually happened. Rather than concentrating on horror the film states that it is “three tales, one of mystery, one of imagination and one of terror.” The first segment, staring Ed Begley Jr, is “Second Chance” our tale of mystery and a clever little tale of accidental time travel. The last story, “Bobby”, is the tale of terror and is the best of the stories.

That leaves the tale of imagination, a story called “No such thing as a vampire”. I’m going to do my best not to wreck the twist at the end – which the region 4 DVD blurb quite happily shatters.

Anjanette Comer as AlexisWe see a woman, Alexis (Anjanette Comer), tossing and turning in her sleep. She awakens and puts her hand to her neck… then screams. Her screams bring the household running, including her husband, Dr Gheria (Patrick Macnee) and we see there is blood at her neck. As her husband holds her she says she is going to die.

Elisha Cook Jr as KarelGheria orders supplies, not because he believes in vampires but because the traditional deterrents will put his wife’s mind at ease – he tells butler Karel (Elisha Cook Jr, who would later appear in Salem’s Lot). Rumour, however, is spreading and the servants are gossiping. Two want to leave.

Alexis is bitten againWhen Gheria sleeps in his chair one night, we see something approach via a pov camera. It is a shame but there wasn’t much tension to this scene. It was obvious that Curtis was implying the vampire creeping up to Gheria but the atmosphere was lacking. As it is, it turns out to be Alexis who has been bitten again and is bleeding from the neck.

The horseman approachesA horseman rides into the village. The place seems deserted and the couple of villagers he sees are terrified. He reaches the Gheria house and we discover that the horseman is Michael (Horst Buchholz), a student of the professor. The servants – except for Karel who has actually killed a vampire in his youth – have all left and Gheria now seems to believe. He hides his neck and then admits he too has been bitten. Karel has checked the graveyards but no sign of the vampire has been found… he needs Michael’s help…

Horst Buchholz as MichaelThis is as far, story wise, as I am inclined to go. The whole story is some twenty minutes and the twist should have been nice – if the blurb hadn’t let me see it a mile off. However, as I have indicated the story lacks a certain tension that it desperately needed. Indeed the whole segment came across as sub-Hammer.

Patrick Macnee as Dr GheriaActing wise there is nothing really stand-out, though Macnee was great to see and carried that crisp, upper crust attitude we expect from the actor.

As always, I tend to score the vampire segment only and this deserves probably about 3.5 out of 10. Don’t let that put you off searching this out, however, as the final story – though none vampiric – has atmosphere and tension aplenty, a clever little story and is worth the entrance fee alone.

The imdb page is here.

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