Endless Night (1972 Britain)

First I reviewed the novel, now the celluloid. The book was a clever literary trick for its time. It is the first person narration of a psychopathic killer who is trying to hide his real nature and intentions from the reader, while actually dropping a series of clues that things are not quite what they seem. It is this trick, rather the banal situation, which is the real reason for reading the book and it is obviously this trick that made Sidney Gilliat want to film it. The problem is that he could not find a way to replicate it on screen, because cinema only really works in the third person and people are generally uncomfortable with movies that tell lies.

The story of Michael Rogers, a scheming chauffeur, who dreams of building a spectacular house along the Devon coast, and the people he ensnares to achieve his ends including marrying a beautiful heiress Ellie Thomsen, has darker psychological overtones than many of Agatha Christie’s works. Christie herself disliked this screen version, because of the brief nudity and the darkly modern (in 1972) feel; but unless her reasons for disliking the film strike you as good ones, and they aren’t, you should just ignore the old prude. The whole film has a slightly slow-paced and dream-like quality, which makes sense on second viewing, as does the impression that there is something ‘not quite right’ with the Hywel Bennett character. I daresay enthusiastic viewers of more, er, flash-bang-wallop productions might find this pace frustrating, but my advice is just to go with it and see where it takes you.

Endless Night is the “Strawberry Fields Forever” of British horror/psychodrama/crime thrillers. Its so surreal that its spooky. Like the famous song, without much melody or cheer, this movie is pedestrian in execution and doesn’t flaunt any obvious attractions to the viewer. Its a dirge-like motion picture, yet we are drawn in. There are several scenes which linger in the mind long after the film has finished. But the “Dream house” of Gypsys Acre was oddly inappropriate for the setting and the feel of the film. This big, white, modern art house was a blotch against the backdrop of the quaint, beautiful English country setting. Even with the fun and exorbitant features of automated walls, floors, hidden swimming pool….the house (for this setting) was gaudy and tastelessly offensive to me. Its so vulgar that only Salvador Dali could feel right at home in this soulless lair. It screams 1970s in the worst possible way.

Unfortunately, the other drawback is the continuity is hard to follow. Don’t expect any smooth flow. It jumps around between flashback narration, different time-lines, visual hallucinations, audio hallucinations, dream states, things that made no sense and various events and scenes where you have trouble following which part goes with what scenario. The ending of the film seemed to be cut off in mid sentence and left unfinished. You definitely have to watch it more than once to track the nuances of this storyline. Now for the casting: Hayley Mills, playing the role of a young, wealthy “American” girl in Britain (with an English accent) was absurd. A simple change of lines in the script would have fixed the problem by altering nationality and her point of origin without negatively impacting the film. Hwyel Bennett also has problems as Michael. Like Hayley, he is just not mature enough to carry the picture. He is unmanly & shifty. His voice is smug and whiny too. And those are his strengths!

Yet the sixth richest woman in the world falls into his lap and there’s no competition from anyone else. Not likely. It’s hard to really believe in them as a couple as they are so baby-faced and lightweight in personality. (It doesn’t matter though because the star of Endless Night is the twisted plot and its terse, cutting dialogue). George Sanders steals the few scenes he is in with a rogue-like charm. Peter Bowles’ bit parts are always good for a laugh. Lois Maxwell is her usual crappy self, but the role calls for it. Even dressed in a dowdy manner, Britt Ekland completely overshadows girlishly under developed Hayley Mills in the sex appeal department. The succulent Swede even goes tits-out, (after the old in-out) in a no holds barred climax! To sum up, for those who like something different and quirky, I can’t recommend Endless Night enough. An insane time is had by all. If you don’t catch this one you’ll shoot yourself. Watching this really had me falling without a parachute for a while. Why? Its simultaneously tragic and exciting. There’s more here than the sum of the parts.

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Comments

  1. I saw this film years ago and remember really enjoying the twists and turns of the plot-line, I’ll have to check it out again. Brilliant review as always. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you! It does lend itself to repeat viewings because its so unconventional 🙂

    Like

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