Tuesday, September 8, 2009

In short: Dead of Night - A Darkness at Blaisedon (1969)

Secretary Angela (Marj Dusay) has - to her surprise - inherited the impressive, if somewhat run-down, Blaisedon Manor. Unfortunately the manor is more or less the main part of her inheritance, so she will not be able to keep her fine new home. Selling it turns out to be more difficult than she expected. Whenever she is showing the house to a potential buyer, strange things start to happen. Why, one could think the house is haunted!

Angela herself doesn't believe in ghosts, but she thinks it prudent to let professional ghost hunters take a look at the house to disprove the fears of the ignorant. She turns to the psychic investigator Jonathan Fletcher (Kerwin Matthews) and his assistant Sajid Rowe (Cal Bellini). The salivating Fletcher is just all too willing to take a look at her problem (and probably everything else she will let him look at), so the trio decides to spend the night in Angela's manor.

As soon as they arrive some heavy spooking starts to happen. It seems as if one of the past owners of the house feels a very close connection to Angela, and a terrible secret is revealed.

Dead of Night was supposed to be the pilot episode for a Dan Curtis-developed horror TV show, but, as so often happened in Curtis' career, the TV gods didn't allow for more than the pilot, which would then be shown as a short TV movie.

In this case I'm not at all surprised by the project's lack of success. I really don't think 1969 was the year for a show like this promised to be, all gothic trappings, bad weather, spooky howling and no single contemporary idea in sight. It is horror at its coziest, with no threat to anyone's sleep at night.

Another problem I see is the blandness of Fletcher & Rowe, who are in desperate need of some character or at least a gimmick to make them seem interesting. Curtis could at least have thrown us an electric pentacle.

All this doesn't mean I didn't have my fun watching it. While surprise female director Lela Swift doesn't do very stylish work, her cobwebs and thunderstorms are done nicely enough, and she's obviously not out to bore us.

And I actually like cozy horror and think that it has its place in the genre as much as gore fests or grim and grimy looks at the human condition.


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