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dwatts
07-24-2003, 03:32 AM
Obviously Hammer was known for its horror films. These horror films usually included some kind of monster, be it a vampire, Frankenstein or moth.

However, Hammer was more than simply a horror shop. This is most visible in the TV series “Hammer House of Horror”, where we saw the Hammer production values compressed into a 60 minute format and taking on simpler, less fanciful storylines (of course, mixed in with the usual horror).

The tone of Hammer House of Horror was premiered toward the end of Hammers reign in a series of films that were thrillers rather than out and out horror. Sadly, these films did not find an audience, and they no doubt contributed to the eventual fall of the mighty studio.

Anchor Bay resurrected a couple of them in their “Hammer Collection” series – one of which was called “Fear In The Night”. That is the film being discussed here. If you are open to something other than gore and monsters, I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy the ride.

The film includes an amazingly small ensemble cast. Actually, the film includes only seven – count them – SEVEN speaking parts. Three of those parts are minor and last only a few minutes. That leaves us with four characters taking up almost the entire screening time.

Fortunately, the cast is stella, including Judy Geeson (To Sir, With Love), Ralph Bates (if you don’t know who he is, then you must have been avoiding Hammer films altogether), Joan Collins (The Bitch) and the always great Peter Cushing. The only worry there is Collins, who can be either awful or mediocre; depending on what mood she’s in. Happily, this is one of her better performances – and frankly, even her screen time is relatively small.

Finally, I should mention that the Director here was Jimmy Sangster. He’d already brought “Horror of Frankenstein” and “Lust for a Vampire” to the screen, but this is by far his best effort. More on this later, but to sum up – everything just seems to come together in this one.

Story:

Judy Geeson plays Peggy, a shy reserved woman who has recently had a mental breakdown. Her recovery has been aided by Robert Heller, played wonderfully by Ralph Bates. Although they are newlyweds, Robert has had business that has prevented them from living together (not so much as a honeymoon!)

The movie opens with Peggy packing her bags to leave her rooming house so she can go set up with Robert in a cottage that forms part of a rural boys school. Before Peggy can leave the room, a mysterious stranger attacks her in the bathroom. To make things even worse, in the ensuing struggle she manages to pull the prosthetic arm off her attacker! However, she then faints.

Of course, no-one believes she has been attacked – after all, she was only just getting over her breakdown, and there are no injuries or outward signs of a break-in or struggle. A doctor and her landlady help Peggy pack up, and she is sent on her way to meet her husband.

The movie then shifts to the school. Peggy moves in with her husband. The school is strangely empty, due to the end of term holidays. Peggy is left to fend for herself in the strange cottage and school grounds while her husband does work in the school, and on the grounds.

Peter Cushing plays Michael Carmichael, the headmaster, and the rich owner of the school and its 1200 acres. But that’s not the most interesting part – the most interesting aspect is that, you guessed it, he has a prosthetic arm! He shows a strange, curious interest in Peggy, but we won’t make out why this is until the films conclusion.

Michael is married to a much younger woman, Molly, capably played by Joan Collins. Molly has a pendant for guns, and shooting animals on the school grounds. Slightly cold, she doesn’t take much of a fancy to Peggy.

As the film runs, Peggy is attacked once again by the one armed stranger – this time in the new cottage. Her husband finds her, unconscious, on the living room floor. Peggy tries to tell him that she was attacked, but once again she is doubted.

Unfortunately, a few days later Robert tells his wife that he must go away for the evening. Worried that his new wife might suffer another attack, he asks if she would rather stay up in the big house, with the Carmichaels. Refusing, Peggy instead accepts the offer of a loaded shotgun. You know this is not going to be good!

What follows offers up plenty of tension, some twists and turns, and not a few frights!

Image Quality

Well, to be honest I’ve not been overly impressed with the quality of Anchor Bays “Hammer Collection” image wise. Oh sure this is probably the best home versions have ever looked, but by today's standards they’re a bit long in the teeth. Still, I’d never even heard of this film, so it was good to get it. Some grain then, and some pixelation at times. Still, it never ruined my enjoyment. No blacks to mention, since the whole film lacks a single nighttime scene!

Sound

Glorious mono! Man, I’m going to have to buy SOMETHING that stretches out my surround system. Oh well, good clear sound here, but nothing to get excited about.

Supplemental Material

A trailer is first. Man, the trailer is AWFUL. No wonder the damn film failed to find an audience, even I was bored watching the trailer. Avoid it if you’re going to watch the film, but take my word for it, the trailer does it no justice at all.

We also have a commentary from Sangster and Hammer historian Marcus Hearn. To be honest, I’ve not listened to it yet – but it’s there;)

Final Thoughts

If the “Story” section above lacks details and length, it’s because saying too much about this film before you’ve seen it is a bad thing. Yet again we have a case where even reading the back of the box robs you of some of the fun. Just go in cold!

Let me tell you – Sangster did a brilliant job directing this. Liberal use of wonderful panning shots throughout give a sense of space and isolation (as noted earlier, there are very few characters in this film, so everything from fields to classrooms are hollow places and expansive).

The cinematographer was Arthur Grant who went on to make “Demons of the Mind” for Hammer, and had previously done “Taste the Blood of Dracula” and “Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb”. What a killer combination he makes with Sangster! Their work is so superb here – from the credit sequence onward. I am trying hard not to ruin any of the surprises, but suffice it to say, despite what appears to be a shoestring budget, this one just grabs you, and puts you into the PLACE of this movie. It’s all very wonderful and elegant.

It is also worth noting that the film comes across as a longer episode of “Hammer House of Horror”. This film would have fit quite nicely in the series, so if that is your cup of tea, you’ll definitely want to check this one out.

Judy Geeson is wonderful, and quite sexy too. Joan Collins doesn’t let everything down, Bates is – well – Bates. We also have Cushing, and hell, almost anything he had time for – I have time for.

Sadly, the box art really lets everything down. It’s awful, with a huge picture of Collins on the front. I don’t know why this shot was chosen, it’s just not very good, nor useful in the context of the film. Still, there we have it. Also worth noting is that, for some obscure reason, Anchor Bay decided not to give us the usual postcard sized original poster artwork inside. Instead we get a two-page essay from Rand Vossler. This is informative, but I did miss the poster art.

Fear in the Night was saddled with a horrible trailer, a horrible title (almost none of the film even takes place at night, and there are no dark scenes in the entire film), terrible box art from Anchor Bay, and came in at the ass end of Hammers tenure. All a pity. A more appropriate title, a trailer that actually makes the film look interesting, and some good art would probably have elevated this one to the upper echelons. It really is that much fun.

And talking about fun, I can’t say it enough – this film is just great to watch. When Hammer was firing on all pistons, their films were as smooth as silk. Watching this one is effortless, you don’t really want it to end. Sure there are no monsters here, and gore is also basically absent, but this is Hammer doing what they did best, giving us an entertaining film that you’ll want to watch more than once. An excellent film then. I’m off to complete my Hammer Collection before these go OOP.


Image Quality - C
Sound - C
Supplements - B
DVD
Anchor bay
Running Time - 1 hour 34 minutes approx
Color
Region 1
Unrated
1:85 Widescreen
Glorious Mono


ps: I respectfully dedicate this review to Chris Mayo, who gave me this on a trade. Enjoy Bruiser!

Zodiac-Mindwarp
07-24-2003, 03:53 AM
Another great review Dwatts!

I just recently got this on VHS for $2.00 I had no idea that it was a Hammer movie, but when I saw Peter Cushing's name on the box I figured that it was worth a watch. It has been sitting on a shelf at my place for a month or 2. I have a feeling that it is going to be watched soon. :)

rhett
07-24-2003, 04:25 AM
I thought the movie was pretty good. A little slow in parts, but definitely worth the viewing. Here is a review if anyone is interested:

http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/a-m/fitn/

Nice review dwatts, and I agree about the cinematography. I loved the start, and the ending was great too.

dwatts
07-24-2003, 04:50 AM
The only area I would disagree on is the video quality - which you give an "A -" too. I felt the transfer was so-so. I also didn't find it "slow", but it did have what I might describe as "TV Pacing". A fast action Hammer this is not!

Still, looks like we both enjoyed this one, if we start agreeing, the world might just end. :)

hell ya!
07-24-2003, 04:55 AM
Good review i picked this one up not too long ago for less than$10 CND and i still need to watch it. Your review put it to the top of the pile. :)

dwatts
07-25-2003, 11:45 PM
Let me know when you get it. As I posted elsewhere, I am five weeks into waiting for a SHIPPED order from DDD. RyanPC sent me some DVD's on trade some weeks ago, and he received the ones I sent him - but I've had nothing in return :(

I don't understand how the mail works. Sometimes it's fast - sometimes slow. I am 1000% sure the DVD's will get to you - and that Ryans will get to me. But it IS a waiting game.

Still, if Bruiser doesn't get there - rest in peace regarding compensation. I'll make sure you're not out of pocket.