Dead of Night
A premonition, a ghost, an evil mirror, an evil ventriloquist puppet … these are the tales of extraordinary happenings seven people tell each other in the drawing room of an English country house. The tales are prompted by the appearance of a man who swears he has been dreaming of this house and these people for years, though he’s never been there before. The guests in turn tell their stories, which are promptly debunked and/or explained by Herr Doktor van Straaten, your standard Viennese Freudian … until he tells his own tale. I can’t find a listing of which short story writer wrote which episode, but one of them was by H.G. Wells. I found it surprisingly effective as a spook story, certainly not scary, but interesting and well done. The format makes it all work better, I think. It could be boy and girl scouts sitting around a campfire at Halloween, trying to scare the britches off their friends. The ending of the last story, about the evil dummy, was genuinely creepy, but I thought the ending of the surrounding story was less than satisfying.
It was all livened and lightened up by the fifth story—the fourth one in sequence, I think—a funny one about two golfers. They are played by the brilliant team of Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne. They first appeared together in The Lady Vanishes, and proved so popular that they appeared again as the same characters, Charters and Caldicott, in Night Train to Munich, and several other films. They were absolutely mad about cricket. Nothing else mattered to them; all sorts of things could be happening all around them, and they would barely notice. Here the names are changed and the sport is golf, but they are still mad. They are playing a round for the hand of the woman they are both in love with. They are so links-crazy that this seems entirely reasonable to them. One of them cheats, and wins. The other knows he’s been cheated, but there’s nothing he can do about it. The Great Game of Golf is played on the honor system. Accuse your opponent of shaving strokes? Not done, old boy. Not done. The cheated man is so despondent he walks into a water hazard and drowns himself. He comes back as a ghost, whose mission in life … well, in death, actually, is to screw up the other man’s marriage, but more importantly, his golf game! It’s all very funny.