STEPHEN JACOBS reviews Dead of Night (Devil’s Advocates), a new book about the classic Ealing horror, Dead of Night (1945)
Decades before Amicus Productions produced its first anthology horror picture, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), Ealing Studios produced Dead of Night (1945), a collection of five tales connected by a linking narrative in which an architect (Mervyn Johns) arrives at a country house and reveals to those inside that he has seen them all in recurring nightmare.
The film is looked at in detail by Jez Conolly and David Owain Bates in their book for Auteur Publishing’s ‘Devil’s Advocates’ – a series of books ‘devoted to exploring the classics of horror cinema.’ Conolly and Bates take us through the film in a chronological manner, examining the linking narrative followed by each of the five tales in turn.
Although the authors do take you through the production history and historical context of the film it is neither a ‘making of’ book nor a review. It is, rather, an in-depth analysis of the picture in which the authors explore themes and interpretations, shot comparisons and set designs.
The Dead of Night book is an intriguing companion to the film but is certainly not a book to dip in and out of. Its lengthy and detailed lines and passages demand, and deserve, your full attention.
In its introduction the authors state that one of their intentions in writing it was to make you want to watch the film again. The book certainly did that for me and I shall soon revisit the Ealing classic.
I’ve seen Dead of Night many times but I am sure that next time I watch it Conolly and Bates’ book will make me look upon it with fresh eyes.