Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Can dreams of death happen when awake?

Fear in the Night (1947)
Starring: DeForest Kelley, Paul Kelly, and Robert Emmett Keane
Director: Maxwell Shane
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

Mild-mannered banker Vincent (Kelley) awakens from a horrible nightmare... only to find that elements of his dream seem to have followed him into the waking world. As evidence mounts that Vincent may indeed have murdered not one but two people, his brother-in-law (Kelly), a homicide detective, becomes involved. What is the answer to the mystery of a nightmare that has taken shape in the real world?

"Fear in the Night" is a quirky little mystery film that merges film noir and hardboiled detective elements with a horror film sensibility. There is very little action in the film--and what there is actually the weakest part of it--but Vincent's mounting horror as he realizes that the murder he dreamed about did happen, and the twists and turns the plot takes as the police detective gradually pieces together a theory about what happened. (His initial conclusion that Vincent is trying to play him a fool is one the viewer never really buys, but within the context of the film, it helps heighten the tension greatly.)

The ultimate solution to the mystery may seem a bit hokey to the modern viewer, but the deadly danger that the very sympathetic Vincent is placed in when the police make a couple of missteps more than makes up for that; I can't go into more detail without spoiling the film, alas. As mentioned above, the action sequence that takes place as part of the film's climax is probably the weakest and most unbelievable part of the film, and it robs it of some potential punch. However, the denouement pulls the film back from the edge and ends it on a high note.

A strong cast and a creative script make this a film that lovers of classic mystery movies need to see.


  1. How about that! Good old Bones McCoy. This looks like a good one.

  2. Yeah, it's not a bad little thriller. If memory serves, it was DeForest Kelley's first film role.