Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Dead of Night/The Queen of Spades|
Actors: Mervyn Johns, Michael Redgrave, Roland Culver, Mary Merrall, Googie Withers
Directors: Alberto Cavalcanti, Basil Dearden, Charles Crichton, Robert Hamer, Thorold Dickinson
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
DEAD OF NIGHT A group of strangers is mysteriously gathered at a country estate where each reveals a chilling tale of the supernatural. First, a racer survives a brush with death only to receive terrifying premonitions ... more »
THANK YOU, ANCHOR BAY, FOR THESE MASTERPIECES!
(5 out of 5 stars)
"About ten years ago, I screened THE QUEEN OF SPADES at New York's Museum of Modern Art film library. I had heard that they had, in their collection, an old 16 mm print of this almost-lost treasure. I sat with a Russian stage/film director friend, as well as actress Rosemary Harris (late of Aunt May in SPIDERMAN); the three of us were transfixed as we discovered, and Rosie re-discovered (she had seen the premiere in England), this astonishing piece of film alchemy.Anton Walbrook's talent, like Vivien Leigh's, was ineffable. His choices, as an actor, are so outlandish sometimes that you think he will never pull off the moment - then he stops right at the edge and leaves you gasping at the utter uniqueness and danger of his choice. Dame Edith Evans, in her film debut, playing a woman forty years her senior, is all remarkable, twisted, bitter, frightened restraint. (Rosie mentioned that Edith Evan's key moment of reaction, in the film, had so frightened the audience at the time that everyone screamed out loud. Not difficult to understand, even today...)The lighting and camera direction are at once solid and ethereal; dreamy like Cocteau's LA BELLE ET LA BETE, and brutally unforgiving like Welles' CITIZEN KANE. Much has been said about DEAD OF NIGHT and deservedly so. This genuinely is the grandfather of all psychological horror films. What seems so innocuous, almost gentle at first, develops into a disturbingly laden freight train barrelling straight towards you. There will be no way to escape. You will be knocked squarely off your tracks. Completely and utterly disorienting. Warning: do not watch this film alone at night. Don't even watch this film alone on a sunny day.The picture and sound on each are very good and rich. The liner notes and artwork accompanying the DVD are of great interest, and are a wonderful starting-off point for the viewer.Would that more DVD-producing companies were like Anchor Bay. Could they be poised to take over the position that Criterion, up until recently (with misleading claims of restoration and a chronicity of poor quality releases), enjoyed? One can only hope."
The perfect Double Feature: Two very distinct films.
Paulo Leite | Lisbon, Portugal | 05/17/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Dead of Night is one of the most stylish british films ever made. Five (no less) great tales of the supernatural. They are all great. The last one (about the ventriloquist who believes his doll to be alive) is one of the best madness-sequences ever made on film! This sequence is very famous and deserves to be seen many times. This is a film that will let you wondering about the all those great black and white TRUE horror films that we do not see today in the computer age. If you liked The Haunting (Robert Wise's original version) and Spirit of the Dead, this is a film for you: true psycological/supernatural horror.Queen of Spades is not as famous as the other film, but it is also a true gem to be discovered. It tells the story of a russian officer who's obsessed with discovering the secret of winning at the cards. This obsession will have the most macabre implications. The production designer on this film is a true winner. So is the screenplay and the cinematography.Here you have two great films for the price of one (positively two of the best films ever made by the Ealing Studios). Who can ask for more? The image on the DVD is fine on both films. There are no extras, but don't let that put you away: these films are worth it. If you (like me) love classic chillers, these are for you!"
SUPERB DOUBLE BILL....
Mark Norvell | HOUSTON | 06/17/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fantastic pairing of two vintage British chillers and an immediate collector's item. Bravo Anchor Bay. 1.) 1946's "Dead Of Night" is an early anthology of supernatural tales told by a group of strangers at a country house to another stranger who has seen them all before----in a nightmare. Excellent cast, good exposition of stories that have been mimicked many times since but never this well. Best: the "Haunted Mirror" sequence and the final horror tale of Hugo the dummy with a brilliant performance by (Sir) Michael Redgrave as the tormented ventriloquist. This sequence features Elisabeth Welch, the singer later to be seen in the bizarre finale of Derek Jarman's equally bizarre "The Tempest". Good print, sometimes tinny sound but not that bad---it's really OK. Weakest sequence is the golfer's story that had been excised from previous prints. Still, it's interesting to see the adult aspects in this sequence not seen in American films of the time. And, in some of the other sequences, to hear "hell" used as a swear word so many times--- also taboo in 40's American films. 2.) 1949's "Queen of Spades"---a film I had never seen before. Based on Alexander Pushkin's famous story, it tells of a Russian military officer in the 1800's who becomes obsessed with learning the "secret" of winning at Faro, a popular card game sweeping Europe at the time. He obtains a mysterious book on the occult that tells of a famous Countess who learned the secret but sold her soul to the devil in the process. The story is true so he tracks her down to learn her "secret" and finds her an aged, embittered but wealthy recluse with a pretty ward she's devoutly protective of. He surreptitiously woos the girl to get to the Countess with tragic results. He accidently scares the old lady to death when she won't talk. But her ghost comes back...with an offer he can't refuse. The details of this film---both in story content and visuals---are mesmerizing. It's darkly Gothic and creepy. The period setting is beautifully realized on film. Anton Walbrook and (Dame) Edith Evans are wonderful as the soldier and the Countess as are the rest of the cast. Brilliantly directed by Thorold Dickinson, this is a must see. A rare and unusual film for purists. Don't miss out on this worthy double bill DVD. Both films are classics to be sure but "Queen of Spades" is really something special."
Two fine, unsettling movies to watch late at night
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 10/25/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"--Dead of Night - Dead of Night remains, sixty years after it was made at Ealing Studios, one of the creepiest and most intelligent of supernatural films. No, it doesn't have creaking coffins, or pale hands edging through a doorway, or Ruritanian vampires. It has a country home set in the warm Kentish countryside, civilized house guests with excellent manners, five stories of unhinged supernatural happenings, and one guest who suffers from nightmares. This is an anthology film, with the stories ranging from ghosts to premonitions to savage possession. They are told by the people who experienced them, and they are all wrapped around by the one guest who knows the house, knows the host and knows the other guests even though he has never seen any of them before. He knows them in his nightmare, a nightmare he has had over and over. "It always starts exactly the same as when I arrived, just now," architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) says. "I turn off the main road into the lane. At the bend in the lane, the house comes into view, and I stop as I recognize it. Then I drive on again. And Foley meets me at the front door. I recognize him, too. And then, while I'm taking off my coat, I have the most extraordinary feeling. I nearly turn and run for it, because I know I'm going to come face-to-face with the six [other guests]." Four of the guests and the host, we learn, have stories of their own.
There's the race car driver's story, directed by Basil Dearden. Hugh Grainger (Anthony Baird) survives a crash but sees from his hospital window a horse-drawn hearse. The driver looks up at him. "Just room for one more, sir," he says with a smile. That's just the beginning.
There's the schoolgirl's story, directed by Alberto Calvalcanti. Sally O'Hara (Sally Ann Howes) plays hide-and-seek at a party and discovers a hidden room, a small boy crying...and an older sister.
There's the wife's story, directed by Robert Hamer. Joan Cortland (Googie Withers) buys an antique mirror for her fiancee. It's not long before he sees in the mirror another room from another age, and we learn of a crippled, jealous husband and a strangled wife.
For a chance to exhale and smile, there's the story of two golf fanatics, directed by Charles Crichton, who decide how to have the woman they both love. Elliot Foley (Roland Culver), our host, tells us this story.
And there is undoubtedly one of the most unnerving of horror tales, the story of ventriloquist Maxwell Frere (Michael Redgrave) and his dummy, Hugo, directed by Calvalcanti. Redgrave gives a tour de force performance as the dominated ventriloquist...but is he dominated by Hugo or by a separate personality. All we know for sure is that Hugo bites.
Weaving through these stories is the dread of Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns), who insists he has met the other guests. He knows that he will slap one, that another will break his glasses, that a sixth guest will soon appear. He knows he will do something terrible to someone who has never harmed him. One of the guests, Dr. van Straaten (Frederick Valk), is a psychoanalyst who has a reasonable explanation for all the stories. As the stories are told and as Craig's forecasts happen, van Straaten's rationales become shakier. This connecting story, directed by Dearden, reaches a climax in a psychedelic nightmare of leering faces emerging from the stories, of madly off-balance staircases and dark windows...and of a terrified Walter Craig.
And then a telephone rings. It's morning and we're in Walter Craig's bedroom. He wakes, realizes this was another nightmare and takes the phone. He's invited to spend the weekend looking over a house that needs an addition built. His wife asks who was calling. "Eliot Foley, Pilgrim's Farm...I wonder why that sounds so familiar," he says. "A weekend in the country? I should go." she says. Craig takes a coin and says, "I'll toss for it. Heads I go, tails I don't." Mrs. Craig looks at the coin. "Heads." He smiles and says, "I go." She gives him a hug. "That's just what you need, darling. It'll help you get rid of those horrible nightmares." But was it a nightmare? Or is it still?
Despite there being five tales, the linking narrative and four directors, Dead of Night works as one unified story. Everything fits seamlessly. Even after all these years the stories hold up, particularly those of Frere and Craig. Coming in a respectable second, for me, are the stories of the race driver and the wife. But even the weakest, the schoolgirl's story, is well done. The golfer's story is there to provide some eased tension and it serves it's purpose. The acting is all of a high order, with Michael Redgrave just about extraordinary. I've always been fond of Roland Culver's brisk competence. He's very good as the host. If you watch this movie, bear in mind that up until Dead of Night, ventriloquists' dummies in the movies had always been seen as charming, funny and harmless. Hugo's DNA changed all that forever.
--The Queen of Spades - It's comforting to think that Alexander Pushkin, had he been born a hundred years later than he was, could undoubtedly have found employment writing screenplays for Val Lewton. As it is, we'll just have to put up with all those plays, novels, poems, operas and short stories he wrote.
The Queen of Spades, based on a story by Pushkin, is a marvelously atmospheric and menacing tale of obsession and greed. It takes places in 1806 St. Petersburg. Captain Herman Suvorin (Anton Walbrook) is a poor German engineer serving in the Czarist army. Gambling has become the rage and faro is the card game of choice for all the rich, aristocratic and arrogant young officers who laugh at Suvorin. He hasn't the means to gamble and he hasn't the means to purchase advancement. Then he hears the story of Countess Ranevskaya (Edith Evans), who, a generation earlier, is supposed to have sold her soul for "the secret of the cards"...the three cards to choose which will win a fortune at faro. Amazingly, the Countess is still living, almost a recluse, with a beautiful ward. Suvorin determines to find a way to woo the young woman as a method to gain entry into the Countess' palace and to the Countess herself. He is determined to learn from her the three cards. He does, or thinks he does, and we witness madness and death. Says one character, "I believe all human beings are fundamentally good. I'm convinced of it. Yes, and I believe that evil is a force, a mighty force, that is abroad in the world to take possession of men's souls, if they will allow it to." Oh, Suvorin.
Now if Val Lewton had produced this we might have a cult classic on our hands. As it is, we have a movie which has been nearly forgotten. Too bad. The film might have been made with little money but it doesn't look it. Snow and slush cover the frigid St. Petersburg streets. Candles flicker and gutter. Deep shadows hide cubbyholes and doorways. There are ragged peasants and beggars, an ornate opera house and a dazzling ballroom filled with dancing aristocrats. There is the Countess' palace with it's decorated rooms, angled staircases, bare kitchens and cold servants quarters. There is the Countess' bedroom with it's secret passage and the stone steps leading to a hidden entrance. The black-and-white cinematography is excellent; everything shadowed might hold madness or a threat. Making everything work are the two mesmerizing performances by Walbrook and Evans. With these two actors it's a pleasure just to observe Suvorin's growing obsession and to hear the tap of the Countess' cane and the slow, steady swish of her silk gown.
Anton Walbrook was one of the great actors of his time. Sometimes he would almost teeter on the brink of mannerism, but he'd invariably deliver performances of startling quality. With his intensity, his Austrian accent and his ability to draw out a vowel for effect, it was difficult not to keep your eyes on him. At 53 he is playing 20 years younger and does so with ease. Edith Evans was 57 when she made this, her first film after years of stardom in the theater. She plays a selfish, irritable 90-year-old woman, querulous and suspicious. When Suvorin and the Countess finally meet in the Countess' bedroom, an acting student could learn much just by watching the two. Walbrook has all the lines; Evans watches and reacts. It's a toss-up as to which betters the other.
I think both Pushkin and Lewton would have enjoyed this movie.
The DVD transfer of Dead of Night is fine, although the movie shows its age a bit. The DVD transfer of The Queen of Spades is better than acceptable. It's an old film and looks it, but the picture and audio quality are satisfying. There are no significant extras. There is an eight-page booklet included in the case."