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Fear in the Night - 1947


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Has anyone seen this?

I watched it here: http://www.flickbyflick.com/moviedetails.asp?e_newest=1149

It was a pleasant surprise. I'd never heard of this film.

I am copying the description from the website:

 

Year 1947

Genre Thriller

Run Time 72 mins.

Color-B/W B/W

Rating NR

Actors Paul Kelly, DeForest Kelley, Ann Doran, Kay Scott, Charles Victor, Robert Emmett Keane, Jeff York, Joey Ray, Loyette Thomson

 

Tag Line A film noir-ish shocker in which average Joe Vince Grayson (De Forest Kelley) dreams he murders someone and wakes up to find it may not have been a dream. Based on the story Nightmare by Cornell Woolrich and refilmed under that title in 1956, this is worth it for the clever plot twists alone.

 

Plot Bank teller Vince Grayson wakes from a nightmare in which he and an unknown woman murdered a man in a strange, mirrored room. Only a dream...but Vince finds that he has physical objects and bruises from his "dream." His cop brother-in-law dismisses his story...until the family, on a picnic, takes shelter from a thunderstorm in a deserted mansion containing that mirrored room. Is doom closing in on Vince?

 

Director Maxwell Shane

Producer William C. Thomas, William H. Pine, L.B. Merman

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> {quote:title=FredCDobbs wrote:}{quote}

> I think Nightmare was on TCM about three years ago. I recorded it.

 

Hi Dobbsy,

 

The story sounds familiar so it may be that I've seen Eddie's version. I found Fear in the Night on Netflix and added it to my queue.

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  • 2 weeks later...

That Woolrich! What an imagination. I haven't seen this, but I bet I'd like it. The description reminds me a little of my favorite Woolrich novel, FRIGHT. Not the exact same plot. But the same "Did I or didn't I?" angle. Fascinating stuff!

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Woolrich most definitely was the man and one of the reasons was FEAR IN THE NIGHT (1947), a modest yet audacious film that embodies most of the psychologically dark and complicated issues generally associated with this author's best work. The vast majority of Woolrich's novels and stories were relegated to the glorious status of B movie---the spiritual backbone of film noir. Throughout the 1940s Woolrich stories like STREET OF CHANCE, THE LEOPARD MAN, PHANTOM LADY, BLACK ANGEL, DEADLINE AT DAWN, THE CHASE, a pair of WHISTLER films, FEAR IN THE NIGHT, THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES, THE WINDOW, THE GUILTY and I WOULDN'T BE IN YOUR SHOES all made it to the big screen, emanating either from the B units of the major studios or dispatched directly from the depths of Poverty Row. It wasn't until Hitchcock made REAR WINDOW (1954, from a Woolrich short story) and later when Truffaut filmed a pair of Woolrich tales---THE BRIDE WORE BLACK (67) and MISSISSIPPI MERMAID (68)---did the author attain (at least) temporary legitimacy in what had previously only been the domain of the damned and the doomed.

 

It was pointed out earlier in this thread that FEAR IN THE NIGHT was remade in 1956 under the title NIGHTMARE (with the same director, oddly enough; Maxwell Shane). Kevin McCarthy and Edward G. Robinson star and it's a terrifically atmospheric film with a strong jazz backdrop (much of it was shot on location in New Orleans); TCM will be airing it this summer, so be sure to check your listings. Highly recommended!

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I made a count and, assuming that I was reasonably accurate, more of Woolrich's writings were made into movies than Hammett's, Chandler's & Cain's -- combined! I assume the reasons he is not as well known are (1), as Dewey wrote, until REAR WINDOW, his stories "made it to the big screen, emanating either from the B units of the major studios or dispatched directly from the depths of Poverty Row" and (2) he did not personally engage in screenwriting or other more "public" endeavors.

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It also didn't hurt that Woolrich was considerably more prolific than his more critically accepted contemporaries. The pulp magazines of the 30s and 40s offered Woolrich the opportunity to crank out dozens and dozens of stories, many of which wound up as radio adaptations and later as television dramas. Many of his tales were ideally suited for the B movie grist mill of the late 40s: broad psychological crime stories with enough of a hint of perverse sensationalism to hang an advertising campaign on. What strikes me as most interesting is that the largely undiscriminating audiences filing in and out of the neighborhood cinemas showing these B creations had little or no idea who Woolrich was---just another anonymous and shadowy purveyor of seventy-minute nightmares. The King of Noir.

*Note:* One of my favorite Woolrich adaptations airs on TCM on Monday, June 9: *DEADLINE AT DAWN* (RKO, 1946). The screenplay was written by Clifford Odets, a writer not ordinarily associated with "this sort of thing." Directed by Harold Clurman (most famously involved with the Group Theater in New York), this fascinating film is one of Hollywood's most blatant attempts at creating "experimental art," a bold blend of theater and cinema. Check it out!

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  • 6 months later...

Woolrich most definitely was the man and one of the reasons was FEAR IN THE NIGHT (1947), a modest yet audacious film that embodies most of the psychologically dark and complicated issues generally associated with this author's best work.

 

I just watched *Fear in the Night*. I always enjoy the hypnotism

angle in mysteries, and now I'll have to watch the remake, *Nightmare*.

This version felt akin to Detour, you know, very bare bones and made

on the cheap but entertaining. I can't say much for Deforrest Kelley

in the lead, he was OK but I hold out more hope for Kevin McCarthy. :)

 

My question for you, Dewey, is about the "psychologically dark and

complicated issues". I saw it as a pretty straightforward thriller. What

I didn't get so much was any complex psychological angle so I'm hoping

you can point out what I've obviously overlooked or failed to grasp. Is what

your referring to the way the film kind of feeds on a certain paranoia that people

were feeling during the times the film was made? I bet a lot of guys came home

from the war with nightmares plaguing them.

 

I was a bit confused as to why, if the poor schnook was constantly fainting,

no one ever thought to call a doctor or maybe even a shrink to get to the

bottom of his problem? I guess that was part of the fun, though, because

as you say, the rules of logic aren't necessarily important in the world of

*Fear in the Night*.

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Good evening, Miss G?

The so-called "psychologically dark and complicated issues" Woolrich expressed through his morbidly odd fiction had much to do with the fact that for most of his life he was a closeted homosexual. It was a source of agonizing shame for him as he spiraled emotionally downward, fueled by chronic alcoholism. This secret life of his became the disguised focus of many of his stories: an unspeakably terrible secret that lurked beneath the surface of normalcy threatening to expose the troubled hero as something horrible, venal, abnormal. In his stories (like *FEAR IN THE NIGHT* ), it could be something as banal as being a demented murderer; in the darker corners of Woolrich?s psyche it was something altogether different.

 

The strongest and most powerful noir films are those that take as their theme the utter absence of free will (see: Edgar G. Ulmer?s *DETOUR* ). This recurring motif looms large in the Woolrich canon: the murderer in *THE LEOPARD MAN* who cannot contain his carnal blood lust and the doomed killer in *BLACK ANGEL* whose alcoholic blackouts serve to conceal his actions are but only two such examples.

 

If your curiosity about Woolrich should persist, I would recommend you seek out Francis Nevins? biography of him, ?First You Dream, Then You Die.? It?s a lengthy tome, but a fascinating portrait of a tortured soul.

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> {quote:title=Dewey1960 wrote:}{quote}

> Good evening, Miss G

> The so-called "psychologically dark and complicated issues" Woolrich expressed through his morbidly odd fiction had much to do with the fact that for most of his life he was a closeted homosexual

 

Dear Dewey,

What is your source on Woolrich having been a closeted gay man? (Not doubting the accuracy of it, just wondering whether there's any further information on this in some bio or documentary).

 

Happy Holidays! B-)

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You asked: *What is your source on Woolrich having been a closeted gay man?*

 

Search out a copy of Francis Nevins' biography of Woolrich, FIRST YOU DREAM, THEN YOU DIE (mentioned at the bottom of my reply to MissGoddess). It's now out of print, but should be easily obtained through Amazon or eBay.

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> {quote:title=Dewey1960 wrote:}{quote}

> Good evening, Miss G

> The so-called "psychologically dark and complicated issues" Woolrich expressed through his morbidly odd fiction had much to do with the fact that for most of his life he was a closeted homosexual. It was a source of agonizing shame for him as he spiraled emotionally downward, fueled by chronic alcoholism. This secret life of his became the disguised focus of many of his stories: an unspeakably terrible secret that lurked beneath the surface of normalcy threatening to expose the troubled hero as something horrible, venal, abnormal. In his stories (like *FEAR IN THE NIGHT* ), it could be something as banal as being a demented murderer; in the darker corners of Woolrichs psyche it was something altogether different.

>

 

Thank you, Dewey, for explaining that. It does clarify things. Deforrest Kelley's character

definitely saw no way out for himself, which seemed extreme given the fact at least three

people obviously cared deeply about him and even his arresting officer was his brother-in-law

and a friend.

 

 

> The strongest and most powerful noir films are those that take as their theme the utter absence of free will (see: Edgar G. Ulmers *DETOUR* ). This recurring motif looms large in the Woolrich canon: the murderer in *THE LEOPARD MAN* who cannot contain his carnal blood lust and the doomed killer in *BLACK ANGEL* whose alcoholic blackouts serve to conceal his actions are but only two such examples.

 

That's interesting, I hadn't given thought to common themes in all the movies you mention,

not being familiar as yet with what Woolrich wrote. I didn't remember he also wrote The

Leopard Man!

 

>

> If your curiosity about Woolrich should persist, I would recommend you seek out Francis Nevins biography of him, First You Dream, Then You Die. Its a lengthy tome, but a fascinating portrait of a tortured soul.

 

Well, to have written all that stuff he must have been miserable, I figured. Thanks for

the book recommendation. I've experienced enough anguish, sordidness and darkness in my

own life, I don't think I could handle reading about someone that tortured, ha! Maybe that's

why the more romantic films noir are what I tend to favor. I need to escape reality, not

wander too deeply back into it on the screen. But I can empathize with these artists and

their need for some sort of cathartic outlet. Edgar Allen Poe was the first such artist I read

about in connection with this. You can see the pain and fears he had in between the lines

of his own work, just as with Woolrich I imagine.

 

Didn't Woolrich also write the story about the family members who dig up a relative's corpse

because they had buried him with a winning lottery ticket? That's some crazy stuff he had

going on in his mind, and in this case kind of funny.

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> {quote:title=Dewey1960 wrote:}{quote}

> Search out a copy of Francis Nevins' biography of Woolrich, FIRST YOU DREAM, THEN YOU DIE (mentioned at the bottom of my reply to MissGoddess). It's now out of print, but should be easily obtained through Amazon or eBay.

 

Thank you, Dewey. I should have noticed that in the earlier post - but I hadn't had my coffee yet!

 

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