Perhaps the best horror anthology film ever made, this much-praised film still holds up, but suffers from the variances of pace and mood that inevitably affect all compilation efforts. Architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) is called to Pilgrim's Farm, a country house he has been hired to
remodel. Approaching the austere Victorian building in his car, he finds that there is something hauntingly familiar about the house. Once inside, Craig recognizes everyone present and tells them they have all been part of a recurring nightmare he has had, whereupon the guests relate their own
nightmares, one by one.
The first tale, "The Hearse Driver," is told by Grainger (Antony Baird). In it he is a racetrack driver who, while recuperating from an accident, has a vision of a hearse from the window of his hospital room. The teen-aged Sally O'Hara (Sally Ann Howes) then reports "The Christmas Story," in which
she attends a holiday party and, during a game of hide-and-seek, finds a crying child in a strange room. He is not what he seems. Joan Courtland (Googie Withers), in "The Haunted Mirror," relates a chilling tale in which she is given an antique mirror by her fiance which begins to reflect a
Victorian room where a killing once took place. In "The Golfing Story"--the only piece designed for comic relief--two golfers (Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne) vie for the attentions of one woman. One golfer tricks the other into suicide, only to have the deceased return and haunt him as he is
about to enjoy his wedding night. The last story, an Expressionistic entry entitled "The Ventriloquist's Dummy," shows a ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) going mad. He believes that his dummy is assuming his personality while he is becoming the manipulated prop.
With typical disregard for consistency, US distributors thought this excellent British import was too long and cut the golfing sequence (not a bad move, actually) and the Christmas ghost tale, confusing audiences, who could not understand what Howes, Radford, and Wayne were doing in the linking
story. The two tales were later reinstated. Of the four directors of the various stories, Robert Hamer is a standout with "The Haunted Mirror" and Alberto Cavalcanti excels with his two chillers, "The Christmas Story" and "The Ventriloquist's Dummy."
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