Sunday, November 27, 2011

Nothing But the Night (1973)

I love finding horror movies that surprises me and that somehow stayed out of my life after all these years. Nothing But the Night is a smart and original horror-thriller produced by Christopher Lee's own company and directed by one of the best, Peter Sasdy. Why I love Sasdy's work so much is because his will to over and over again visit the really dark subjects about humanity, and Nothing But the Night is no different from that path. It was a big flop, I heard, when it was released and not be honest, I don't understand why. Maybe it just took the twisted ending to far in combination with a very grey, typical British beginning on the verge on social realism - but hey, that's what's so unique with this movie and makes it even more surprising.

Christopher Lee is Colonel Bingham, a good old chap who investigates a couple of very odd suicides and accidents. This leads him to a girl, Mary Valley (Gwyneth Strong) who have strange violent dreams - and who lives at an orphanage connected to the people who died. Her real mother, played intense by Diana Dors, is a disturbing ex-prostitute with a taste for black magic and who wants her back. So after committing a crime at the hospital where her daughter stayed after an accident, she now goes after her to the secluded orphanage to bring her home. Bingham brings his friend, Sir Mark Ashley (Peter Cushing), with him in the investigation and... well, let me say there will be some surprises along the way!

I watched the movie for the first time today and before now I had NO clue what it was about. I never read about it, didn't check the reviews (except facts about quality), and didn't ask around for options from friends. This probably helped me love this movie even more, but it's hard not to love a movie with such a clever build-up anyway. I mean, this movie is almost to normal until the last half hour. It has some murders, some social commentary about the media, very good acting, very grey and realistic - but then shit hits the fan and everything turns around - and it's one of the finer twists I've seen. Maybe it's been done before, but here it's just so well-done. It even made the hair on my arms stand up because I like these kinda surprising twists that completely takes another dramatic turn than I expected from the beginning.

Like always, the relationship between Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing is the highlight of the movie. They where friends, and together their connection as actor comes close to perfection. It might not be as fantastic as Horror Express, but this is a very different story with a even more different atmosphere. The whole thing is built around a slightly boring case of a mad mother wanting her daughter back, but this was obviously the plan - and if you have no problem with a slow start you will be treated with some fine shocks towards the end. I'm not the first or last that will compare this movie to The Wicker Man, but this is a movie that stands on it's own legs and delivers the quality we wants from a seventies UK production.

The whole movie is filled with good British quality actors, but Diana Dors has always been a favourite of mine and here she's both scary and excellent as Anna Harb - mother, whore and fortune teller. If you think about it afterwards, she's a quite smart character - maybe someone who really can "read" other people. Diana was also quite an original character herself, and to really experience this weirdness, watch Who Got Diana Dors' Millions from 2003, a documentary trying to solve her last riddle...

Another nice part of the movie is the soundtrack by Malcolm Williamson, compositions that almost imitates the work of Basil Kirchin. The same almost dreamy jazz-influenced pieces that Basil did for the Dr Phibes movies and 1974's The Mutations. Good stuff.

I'm sure most of you would appreciate this thriller, so buy it now!


Craptastic said...

Sounds interesting. I Will give it a chance.

Ninja Dixon said...

I think you should. There's to far between smart and surprising thrillers that mixes genre-elements like this.

dfordoom said...

It was such a flop that it wrecked Lee's production company. But I think it's a terrific movie. Diana Dors totally steals the picture, but then she always did that.

Diana Dors did several great cult movies in the 70s - she's superb in Joe Sarno's Swedish Wildcats (also released under the title Every Afternoon).