Dead of Night

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Dead of Night
Dead of Night US release poster
Directed by Cavalcanti ("Christmas Party" and "The Ventriloquist's Dummy")
Charles Crichton ("Golfing Story")
Basil Dearden ("Hearse Driver" and "Linking Narrative")
Robert Hamer ("The Haunted Mirror")
Produced by Michael Balcon
Written by H.G. Wells (original story)
E.F. Benson (original story)
John Baines (original story and screenplay)
Angus MacPhail (original story and screenplay)
Starring Michael Redgrave
Mervyn Johns
Frederick Valk
Roland Culver
Music by Georges Auric
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Cinematography Jack Parker
Stanley Pavey
Douglas Slocombe
Edited by Charles Hasse
Distributed by Eagle-Lion Distributors Limited (UK)
Universal Pictures (US)
Release dates
4 September 1945 (UK)
28 June 1946 (USA)
Running time
102 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Dead of Night is a 1945 British anthology horror film (a gothic or horror anthology) made by Ealing Studios; the individual stories were directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden and Robert Hamer. The film stars Mervyn Johns, Googie Withers and Michael Redgrave. The film is probably best-remembered for the ventriloquist's dummy episode with Redgrave.

Dead of Night stands out from British film of the 1940s, when few horror films were being produced in the country (horror films had been banned from production in Britain during the war), and it had an influence on subsequent British films in the genre. Both of the segments by John Baines were recycled for later films, and the possessed ventriloquist dummy episode was adapted as the audition episode of the long-running CBS radio series Escape.


Architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) arrives at a country house party where he reveals to the assembled guests that he has seen them all in a dream. He appears to have no prior personal knowledge of them but he is able to predict spontaneous events in the house before they unfold. The other guests attempt to test Craig's foresight, while entertaining each other with various tales of uncanny or supernatural events that they experienced or were told about. These include a racing car driver's premonition of a fatal bus crash; a light-hearted tale of two obsessed golfers, one of whom becomes haunted by the other's ghost (cut from the initial USA release); a ghostly encounter during a children's Christmas party (another tale cut from the initial USA release); a haunted antique mirror; and the story of an unbalanced ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) who believes his amoral dummy is truly alive. The framing story is then capped by a twist ending.


Linking narrative

(directed by Basil Dearden)

Hearse Driver sequence

(directed by Basil Dearden; based (uncredited) on "The Bus-Conductor", a short story by E. F. Benson published in The Pall Mall Magazine in 1906)

  • Anthony Baird as Hugh Grainger
  • Judy Kelly as Joyce Grainger
  • Miles Malleson as Hearse Driver / Bus Conductor
  • Robert Wyndham as Dr. Albury

Christmas Party sequence

(directed by Alberto Cavalcanti; story by Angus MacPhail)

  • Michael Allan as Jimmy Watson
  • Sally Ann Howes as Sally O'Hara
  • Barbara Leake as Mrs O'Hara

Haunted Mirror sequence

(directed by Robert Hamer; story by John Baines)

Golfing Story sequence

(directed by Charles Crichton; story based (uncredited) on a story by H.G. Wells)

Ventriloquist's Dummy sequence

(directed by Alberto Cavalcanti; story by John Baines)


The circular plot of Dead of Night inspired Fred Hoyle's Steady State model of the universe, developed in 1948.[1]

Dead of Night currently holds a 96% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

In the early 2010s, Time Out conducted a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre to vote for their top horror films.[2] Dead of Night placed at number 35 on their top 100 list.[3] Director Martin Scorsese placed Dead of Night on his list of the 11 scariest horror films of all time.[4] Writer/Director Christopher Smith was inspired by the circular narrative in Dead of Night when making his 2009 film Triangle.[5]


The theme of a recurring nightmare has been visited in other works and media:

The theme of the mad ventriloquist has been visited in other works and media:

The theme of the fatal crash premonition has also been visited in other works and media:

  • "The Bus-Conductor", a short story by E. F. Benson published in The Pall Mall Magazine in 1906 which was the basis for the segment in Dead of Night
  • Famous Ghost Stories, a 1944 anthology by Bennett Cerf which retells the Benson short story but changes the main character to a woman and transfers the action to New York City
  • "Twenty Two", a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone inspired by the Cerf story

The theme of a mirror casting a murderous spell has been visited in other works and media:

See also



  1. Jane Gregory, Fred Hoyle's Universe, Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-19-850791-7, pp.36–7
  2. "The 100 best horror films". Time Out. Retrieved April 13, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. NF. "The 100 best horror films: the list". Time Out. Retrieved April 13, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Scorsese, Martin (28 October 2009). "11 Scariest Horror Movies of All Time". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 15 November 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Director Chris Smith on Triangle". Retrieved 14 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Jerry Vermilye The Great British Films, 1978, Citadel Press, pp 85–87, ISBN 0-8065-0661-X
  • Jez Conolly and David Owain Bates "Devil's Advocates: Dead of Night", 2015, Auteur, ISBN 978-0993238437

External links