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FEAR IN THE NIGHT (director/writer: Maxwell Shane; screenwriter: from a Cornell Woolrich story “Nightmare”; cinematographer: John H. Greenhalgh, Jr.; editor: Howard A. Smith; music: Rudy Schrager; cast: DeForest Kelley (Vince Grayson), Paul Kelly (Cliff Herlihy), Ann Doran (Lil Herlihy), Kay Scott (Betty Winters), Robert Emmett Keane (Lewis Belnap), Charles Victor (Capt. Warner), Jeff York (Torrence); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: William H. Pine/William C. Thomas; Paramount/Sinister Cinema; 1947-USA / UK)
“An excellent low-budget psychological thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An excellent low-budget psychological thriller directed and written by Maxwell Shane that is based on the story “Nightmare” by Cornell Woolrich. Cinematographer Greenhalgh’s shadowy black and white photography gives it a film noir look. It was remade by the same director in 1956 as “Nightmare” and starred Kevin McCarthy and Edward G. Robinson.

Bank teller Vince Grayson (DeForest Kelley) wakes up in the morning in a cold sweat from a nightmare, where he saw himself in a mirrored room with a woman and watched himself stab a man to death with an awl and lock his dead body in a closet. Vince finds it odd that there’s a strange key and button in his pocket, and blood on his wrist. This dream upsets him so much he takes off from work to consult with Cliff Herlihy (Paul Kelly), a homicide detective married to his sister Lil (Ann Doran). Cliff refuses to believe Vince’s story. To cheer him up, they go on a picnic and invite along Vince’s girlfriend and co-worker Betty (Kay Scott). Caught in a rainstorm, the foursome take shelter in an abandoned mansion. They enter when Vince strangely knows there’s a key under the flower bed. When the men go upstairs they discover the mirrored room–just like the one in Vince’s dream. A local policeman comes by to check out the intruders and informs them a man was murdered in the house a week ago.

Back in his hotel room, Vince can’t understand how but is sure he’s a murderer. After rescued from an attempted suicide by Cliff, the detective uncovers clues that point to an evil hypnotist (Robert Emmett Keane) manipulating Vince.

The taut pulp story, dreamy atmospheric settings and brooding mood throughout, all serve the film well. The crisp acting was just right. DeForest Kelley, in his debut performance, does a fine job as the innocent victim.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”