BUY IT FOR THE SCORE ALONE
C. Cook | Ladera Ranch, CA | 02/10/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Before I discuss the film itself, I have to mention Bernard Herrmann's classic score. At a time in his career when mainstream Hollywood turned its back on Herrmann, smaller, independent or British films embraced this veteran of the studio system days. And here, in "Endless Night," Herrmann did some of his best, most mature work. The score is amazing, a symphony of synthesizers and orchestral music as only Herrmann could put together. And who could forget Shirley Jones (dubbing for Hayley Mills) singing the title song adapted from the William Blake poem? It is a lovely piece and deserves to be sung in concert venues. Alas, this brilliant score--reflective of Herrmann's maturity and mastery of film music--is unavailable on CD. So here, on DVD, you can hear it in the best form it has been available in for a long time.
As for the film itself, it doesn't ever reach the level of pathos and sad beauty of Herrmann's score, but it does have a memorable style all its own. The script is competent, even inspired at times, and the whole thing feels less like Agatha Christie and more like the murky thriller territory Hitchcock worked in. Hayley Mills is charming and lovely in her role; her presence here makes one wish to see more of this actress as an adult. She has been criminally underused in film, but she adds grace and warmth to these proceedings (the warmth being especially welcome in this somewhat cold film). Hywel Bennet is competent in his role, and Britt Ekland is less out-of-place in this movie than in others I've seen her in. (Is it just me or does dear Britt always seemed dubbed in every film she's in? Do they have to loop every one of her lines?) The movie is a complex, intriguing mystery that is only somewhat undermined by the dated trappings of the sets, particularly that garish seventies house that is depicted as a dream home. Overall, however, the film is shot quite stylishly and even if you figure out, as most discerning viewers will, the plot ahead of time, it still remains a solid character study and psychological thriller. The dvd itself has few extras, but the transfer is the best I've seen and all in all, it confirms the fact the for mystery fans this is something of an overlooked gem."
Not Typical Christie Who Dunnit
Robin Simmons | 03/25/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
""ENDLESS NIGHT" Is this the best Agatha Christie film? Many of her hard-core fans think so. Maybe it's because it's not so much a "who dunnit" but rather a "when's it gonna happen"?Christie herself is said to have disliked this film version because of the brief nudity. (Bloody murder didn't phase her. How veddy British.)Hayley Mills, who may have been bulimic during her Disney years, looks stunning (borderline anorexic?) in the part of Ellie, a lovely, lonely and very wealthy heiress (is there any other kind?) who falls in love with a poor chauffeur. Her marriage with someone far below her station is a cause of great apprehension to her family. But we root for the vulnerable newlyweds, who move into a palatial country estate said to be cursed (is there any other kind?), because we know love conquers all. As you might guess, there is a stunning plot twist at the climax that is truly shocking. It got me and I'm jaded! George Sanders, Britt Ekland, Per Oscarsson and Lois Maxwell co-star in this dark tale with a 70's ambience. The great music score is by legendary composer Bernard Herrmann. Even though Hayley lip-syncs Shirley Jones' title song, I'm still not sure what "Endless Night" really means. Sydney Gilliat wrote the screenplay and directed. (UK, Color, Widescreen, 99 Minutes, Not Rated, 1972)"
" ... und doon't fourgett mah green sheeld stahmps!"
Matthew Newland | Tropical Montreal, Quebec | 09/11/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"" ... und doon't fourgett mah green sheeld stahmps!"
(My title comes from a line a Scottish customer says to our protagonist, Mike, while we see him at work at a filling station.)
I read the book "Endless Night" a couple years back ... it was my former girlfriend and now fiancée's very favorite Agatha Christie novel, and she gave it to me to read as soon as she was done. I found it a most unusual book ... very unlike the other works of her's that I had read, and a couple of months after I'd finished it I began to wonder if there might have been a movie based on it. Though I didn't expect there to be, I was surprised to discover that there was ... Amazon wasn't selling it at the time, and so I managed to snag a new copy of of eBay for a very reasonable price. My girlfriend and I watched the DVD very soon afterward, and we had rather differing opinions ... My girlfriend was less than enchanted, disliking the dated seventies-ness in particular, but I on the other hand enjoyed the film very much, for a number of reasons.
First off, as other reviewers have said here already, it's very reminiscent of the work of one of my very favorite filmmakers (if not my very favorite), Alfred Hitchcock. The fact that Bernard Herrmann, a favorite composer of Hitchcock's, created the score for this helps support that feeling considerably ("Endless Night" was, by the way, released the same year as Hitchcock's penultimate film, "Frenzy"). Great music ... very atmospheric, eerie, and evocative.
The second reason why this movie is so good has really to do with the story, which can of course be credited to Mrs. Christie. A young but seemingly likeable-enough moped-driving slacker (Hywell Bennett, who has a face I just know I've seen somewhere else before) meets up with a very very very rich young and beautiful American heiress (the charming Hayley Mills) with a strangely British extended family (maybe we're just supposed to pretend they don't have accents) and her best friend, a German girl by the name of Greta (Britt Eckland). If you haven't read the book and will be seeing the movie first, I'd better not say any more ... there are a lot of surprises in store for you, and I'd really hate to spoil them. However, I should also mention the presence of the always enjoyable George Sanders in the role of Hayley Mills' uncle/lawyer, Mr. Lippincott (kids who were raised on Disney movies will recognize his voice as Shere Kahn's from "The Jungle Book"). Also, Swedish actor Per Oscarsoon is very memorable as a flamboyant architect who befriends Hywell Bennett (and seems to constantly be coming onto him, if you ask me). Great cast, everyone.
In addition to the Hitchcockian direction and music, the cast, and story, there are a lot of little things that make this movie so memorable. Throughout the film, from start to finish, are a number of bitingly humorous bits of dialogue, some creepy fantasy visuals (particularly, the faceless Ellie and the scarecrow mockup of the Gypsy woman), and effective and unsettling flashbacks (any of Bennett's childhood scenes ... does the first of them, with the drawing of the house, hint at some kind of abuse suffered at the hands of his father?). Also, toward the end of the film when Bennett and Sanders are riding together in a car ... look in the rear windshield and tell me what you see reflected in it.
"Endless Night" contains a fascinating story (even for those of us who know the end) and boasts some fine actors and production values. It's not all that expensive, and even though there isn't a lot on the DVD in the way of extras (just a trailer) you'll still be getting a solid hour and forty minutes of uneasy entertainment. It's a great movie to watch at night, and if you're anything like me you'll want to come back and revisit it every six months or so. Read the book too!
Carry on Carry on,
PS - during the second auction which Bennett's character attends with Dr Philpot, take a good look at the auctioneer ... it's an uncredited Nicholas Courtney, who all good "Doctor Who" fans will recognize as Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.
See it for Hayley and the Bernard Herrmann score
A. Hickman | Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria | 09/24/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One of Agatha Christie's last and least characteristic novels, "Endless Night" doesn't feature either of her series detectives. In fact, it doesn't really ask the question "whodunit?" so much as "will the guilty ones get caught?" The big problem with the movie is that Hayley Mills is so darn attractive (her future husband's first glimpse of her dancing in a field is heartbreaking)that you can't imagine anyone wanting to do her in, not even for a fortune. Hywel Bennett, a former chauffeur, is one lucky guy. Not only does he marry a beauty, but she's an heiress to boot. And isn't that some kind of house their architect friend builds for them! But when you have a list of co-stars that include an ultra-smooth George Sanders (in one of his last film roles), a disappointingly dowdy Britt Ekland, and an icy Lois (Miss Moneypenny) Maxwell, you know things are about to head south for the happy couple. And once Hayley, as the lovely Ellie, exits the screen, the lights go out and it's endless night for the viewer as well as the bride."