Dead of Night/The Queen of Spades (1945/1949) – DVD Review

dead-of-night-queen-of-spades-dvd-cover

Film:
DVD:

Dead of Night:
Written by: John Baines, E.F. Benson, Angus MacPhail, and H.G. Wells with additional dialogue by T.E.B. Clarke
Directed by: Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, and Robert Hamer
Starring: Michael Redgrave, Mervyn Johns, Googie Withers, Basil Radford, Nauton Wayne

The Queen of Spades:
Written by: Rodney Ackland and Arthur Boys, based on the story by Alexander Pushkin
Directed by: Thorold Dickinson
Starring: Ronald Howard, Mary Jerrold, Yvonne Mitchell, Edith Evans, and Anton Walbrook

Features:

  • Behind the Scenes Still Galleries
  • Poster & Still Galleries
  • Theatrical trailer for Queen

Released by: Anchor Bay
Region: 1
Rating: NR (some violence and scary images)
Anamorphic: N/A; both movies appear in their original 1.33:1 format

My Advice: Rent it, they are worth watching once…

Walter Craig (Johns) has shown up in the country looking for some work, but the house he enters contains his worst nightmare…the recurring kind…which has manifested itself as a kind of deja vu. It’s a dream he’s had a number of times, but he can never quite remember the ending, but he feels as though he’s met everyone in the house before, and what’s more: he can predict almost everything that is going to happen next. This sparks quite a bit of conversation amongst the house guests including Dr. van Stratten (Frederick Valk) who is determined to debunk everyone’s stories of the macabre with cold, hard science. He’s just not quite ready for the ending.

This is quite a neat little movie. It really boils down to a collection of short stories transferred to film with a plot point holding them together. The main reason why this wouldn’t work today is that filmmakers wouldn’t spend enough time making sure the plot point is strong enough to hold the collection of stories together. This was not a problem for this movie whatsoever. It has the feel of sitting around a fireplace and listening to ghost stories…in a very upper-class British kind of way. Some of the acting is rather melodramatic, but that was simply the style of the day. For the most part, the stories are intriguing and suspenseful. The one about the hypnotic mirror was one of my favorites.

dead-of-night

The DVD itself is not all that great. There are two still gallery collections: a poster and still gallery and a behind-the-scenes still gallery. What’s odd is that the behind the scenes gallery shots look more staged than the stills that came from the movie. It’s mostly pictures of the cast getting into makeup and whatnot, but they all look very “setup” in a kind of 1940s way. The poster gallery is much better because it includes the actors’ publicity photos that were taken for the film as well as the original posters in various languages.

As for The Queen of Spades, talk about giving the devil his due. The aging Countes Ranevskaya (Evans) has sold her soul to the devil. In exchange, she is given the inability to lose at cards. A young military man, Captain Suvorin (Walbrook) becomes intrigued with her talents…so much so that he winds up helping the devil claim his portion of their bargain early; he kills the old woman to find out her secret. What he gets in return, however, is the old woman haunting him forever.

What makes this such a classic of the British cinema is that it is set in Russia, but they all have perfect BBC accents. Still, this movie falls more into the genre of suspense than it does horror. The heavily shadowed black and white cinematography tries very hard to make it feel like the latter, but to no avail–and I didn’t mind in the least. The acting is very good, albeit very stylized (the acting style of the day seems almost foreign to us nowadays). The production values of the movie are very strong.

queen-of-spades

This DVD seems to have come out of the same mold as the first disc in this collection. In fact, the only difference between the two is that the photos in the galleries are from a different movie–which, if you think about, makes a lot of sense.

Still, if you are fan of old black and white movies, you will definitely enjoy watching these on a stormy night sometime. Pick them up as a rental…you won’t be disappointed.

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By | 2011-10-31T02:09:38+00:00 May 21st, 2003|Reviews|0 Comments

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