Sangster's third and final film as director forsakes the Gothic trappings of the first two for the psycho-thrillers which Hammer occasionally dabbled in (inspired by LES DIABOLIQUES  and kick-started by the Sangster-penned TASTE OF FEAR ).
As such, it's a pretty solid entry in the genre: well-made (the last half-hour being especially tense), stylish (making subtle use of elliptical editing, careful not to go overboard as was the case with STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING ) and sporting a compact but most able cast - Judy Geeson (her inherent vulnerability is suited to this type of frightened lady role), Joan Collins (going through a horror/thriller phase at the time and who's, of course, alluringly bitchy), Ralph Bates (it took me some time to accept him in a modern setting since he's so comfortably placed in the Gothic world of his other stuff for Hammer, but there's no denying that he does quite well by his role here!) and Peter Cushing (superlative as always, he has a field day with an ambiguous characterization); incidentally, Cushing and Collins must be one of the most incongruous husband-and-wife pairings in film history!
As one can gather from the above, I liked the film quite a bit and, in fact, pondered for a while the notion of awarding it a *** rating but was, ultimately, deterred from doing so by a couple of flaws: the 'ingenious' plot is, actually, fairly predictable (but, if anything, it's even more fun to be able to anticipate the many twists involved!); however, this also means that one has to labor through a first half that is both slow and repetitive!! I do feel that it's underrated in the Hammer canon: Leonard Maltin dismisses it, for instance, but Leslie Halliwell - not usually one to bother much with the company's latter-day output - is surprisingly complimentary in his review.
While FEAR IN THE NIGHT more or less adheres to Hammer's formula for this type of film - an innocent girl having a brush with murder and madness in remote surroundings - it also draws parallels to the contemporary giallos, especially with its device of a black-gloved stalker. Incidentally, of Hammer's 10 modern suspensers, I've only got two more to catch up with - MANIAC (1963) and CRESCENDO (1970).
The Audio Commentary here proves disappointing - not because it isn't informative but, rather, due to the fact that we get an awful lot of repetition of Sangster's anecdotes from his tracks for THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (1970) and LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971); to be fair to him, the fault lies more with moderator Marcus Hearn - who should have come up with a fresher set of questions, as it were. Then again, I'd have expected more insight into the actual construction of the script (a psycho thriller being, fundamentally, more intricate than a Gothic horror) - but it's safe to assume that, after all these years, Sangster recalls precious little about this aspect...although he does mention that he had pitched the script to the company as early as 1963, and that it was originally intended to be set on a boat! The discussion also touches upon Hammer's other suspensers: apart from citing TASTE OF FEAR and THE NANNY (1965) as his favorite films, Sangster mentions that Orson Welles turned up unannounced one day on the set of MANIAC; in connection with the film under review - which, incidentally, brought Sangster's fortuitous association with Hammer to a close - he acknowledges the fact that Peter Cushing was basically serving the same function (i.e. a red herring) that Christopher Lee did in TASTE OF FEAR.
Fear in the Night
Horror / Thriller
Fear in the Night
Horror / Thriller
A young woman recovering from a nervous breakdown moves with her husband to a boys' school, and finds herself being terrorized by a mysterious one-armed man, but nobody believes her.
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April 02, 2018 at 05:26 PM