Dead Of Night- Cult TV Review

Back in 1970s the BBC invested a lot into its drama production and in this period there were numerous wonderful programmes created. I've already reviewed Supernatural, which was released in 1977, and now I'm here to review its other highly regarded anthology TV series called Dead of Night. The series ran from 5 November until 17 December 1972 with seven episodes, each of 50 minutes duration. However only three of the episodes have survived as the BBC purged its archives from 1967 to 1978, fortunately the British Film Institute have put the remaining episodes on DVD which is what I watched for the purpose of this review.

The first thing to mention is that the three episodes are all uniformly good in quality with high production costs evident and the acting is solid throughout. I will now share the individual stories and my opinions on them below.

 

The Exorcism

Synopsis: In a remote cottage in the country, four wealthy, middle-class friends gather for Christmas dinner only to find that their meal is ruined by strange occurrences in the house and the possession of one of the group by someone/ something with a grudge to bear; the house holds a tragic past and those present must mourn the past.

Out of all the stories in this collection this is the standout. There is a great central performance from Anna Cropper, who plays the possessed individual. It almost verges on over dramatic but just about reins it in to be deeply affecting with a great payoff at the end.

 

Return Flight

Synopsis:  An air pilot, who has recently become a widower, nearly has an air collision over Germany. However things take a strange turn when there are no signs that there was another plane in the area. As an investigation is carried out his role in WW II and his mental state is brought into question. Did the pilot avoid a mid-air collision with a mysterious plane or is he losing his mind?

This is the weakest story of the three as I found in meandered for the first 40 or so minutes but the final 15 minutes are tense and really draws you in. The conclusion provides closure about the state of mind of the pilot but as a whole the story is very slow and poorly paced in my opinion.

 

A Woman Sobbing

Synopsis: A married couple with two kids are living in a house in the country. Every night the wife can hear a woman sobbing in the attic however her husband cannot hear anything; so is she mad or is it that only she can connect with this spirit?

This is a great story with a shocking conclusion but there are slower moments which look into the married life of a wealthy middle/ upper class family which seem to drag. Anna Massey, who plays the bored and troubled housewife, puts in a powerhouse performance as she questions whether she is actually hearing the crying or whether she is going slowly hearing voices in her head. Her frenzied performance has a ring of authenticity.

The whole DVD package runs at around 150 minutes, and overall is well worth a watch. The classic ghost story is given a modern (at the time it was produced at least) makeover and whilst it won't scare you or shock you like many of the more modern horror films, it will stay with you for a while after you've watched it.