For Reel

Nothing But the Night (1973)
October 29, 2016, 12:05 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Peter Sasdy
2 Stars
nothing-but-the-nightIn the early 1970s, Christopher Lee and fellow Hammer veteran Anthony Nelson Keys attempted to start their own studio with Charlemagne Productions. If Nothing But the Night, their first feature, lacks in budget, it does show Lee’s interest in moving him and Peter Cushing away from the familiar grisly gore and into territory that is decidedly more procedural and psychologically based. In the film, a group of wealthy benefactors of an orphanage on an isolated Scottish isle begin to appear dead. Meanwhile, a young girl who survived a devastating bus crash (Gwyneth Strong) is haunted by an image of fire, attracting the attention of both doctors and investigators. Director Peter Sasdy contributes a handful of memorable images and in the climactic scene develops a surreal tone established by the contrasting images of horrific violence and a celebration, but the entire second act barely drags along with an uninvolving investigation and a ludicrous performance by the over-the-top Diana Dors. The material, based on a novel by John Blackburn, plays too close to the chest for much of the running time, leading one to wonder what exactly the dramatic through-line is from scene to scene—none of the characters are given clear, understandable goals. A director like Brian De Palma could have brought out the underlying tensions, but Sasdy is barely competent at articulating the psychological through image and character action.

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