Dead of Night (1945)

The solid-state model of the universe is an alternative to the Big Bang theory, which states that the univere has a finite history and “changed dramatically with time, growing bigger, emptier and more desolate.”

In contrast, the solid-state model sets forth the theory that “the density of matter in the expanding universe remains unchanged due to a continuous creation of matter, thus adhering to the perfect cosmological principle, a principle that asserts that the observable universe is practically the same at any time and any place.”

Who knew that such big ideas would come from a horror movie?

Fred Hoyle, Thomas Gold and Hermann Bondi — the men who theorized the solid-state model — saw this film and it answered an issue that Hoyle had had with their work. He hated the notion of a Big Bang and liked the idea of an eternal and unchanging universe. So how could he come to terms with the idea that things could change while remaining the same? The end of this movie provided him with the answers he sought.

Because this film is basically a story that could be rewound and watched again and again, the group began to think of the universe as being the same. As it expands, “new matter is created in the increasing gaps between galaxies so that the overall density of the universe remains the same. In this way, the universe could expand, but continue forever largely unchanged.”

This thought process all came from Gold wondering out loud, “What if the universe was like that?” as they sat and talked after the movie.

Walter Craig has come to a farmhouse to discuss some architectural renovations. Yet as he arrives, he believes that he has been there before and that he has met every guest in the past, perhaps in a dream. They come together to tell him their stories and each one doesn’t just make for a great film, but inspired nearly every horror movie that would come after.

A race car driver has a premonition of his death in “The Hearse Driver,” a story that was inspired by E.F. Benson’s “The Bus-Conductor,” which would in turn inspire the Bennett Cerf story that would be adapted as “Twenty-Two” on The Twilight Zone.

“The Christmas Story” has a woman explore a wing of a large house that no longer exists in our reality, then “The Haunted Mirror” nearly causes a man to murder his soon-to-be wife and kill himself.

“The Golfer’s Story” comes from “The Story of the Inexperienced Ghost” by H. G. Wells. Two men are in love with the same woman and make a wager for her love. When one loses the game, he drowns himself and haunts the other. Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, who play the golfers, would continue to play similar men of leisure obsessed by sport in several films, as they started these characters in Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. They also show up in the Hammer remake, as well as their own BBC series.

“The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” is probably the story that this is best remembered for and while it came after The Great Gaboo, it would go on to inspired everything from Devil Doll and Magic to two episodes of The Twilght Zone, “The Dummy” and “Caesar and Me.” The close, where the doll Otto rises to his feet had to have made an impression on Dario Argento. Just watch Deep Red.

The first horror movie to be made in England after the war, this movie was directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton (A Fish Called Wanda), Robert Hamer and Basil Dearden, this film was cut apart when it played in America. Because of the length of the movie, “The Christmas Story” and “The Golfer’s Story” were both cut, so when those characters show up at the end, no one knew who they were.

Obviously, a few Americans saw this and were inspired. Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg would go on to make more than a few films that took the model of Dead of Night and made it even more successful. They had to move to England to start their company Amicus, but they became the highest mark for all anthology films.

Resources for this article: 

The Guardian: Dead of Night – The Movie That Changed the Universe. Posted January 5, 2005.

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