Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Fear In The Night
Based on Cornell Woolrich’s novel NIGHTMARE, this low-budget noir, released in 1947, is most notable as DeForest Kelley’s first feature, almost twenty years before he joined the STAR TREK cast as Dr. “Bones” McCoy. Maxwell Shane, who wrote and directed FEAR IN THE NIGHT, must have loved the Woolrich story, because he made it again in 1956 as NIGHTMARE with Kevin McCarthy (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS) in Kelley’s role.
The future U.S.S. Enterprise sawbones plays Vince, a bank teller who has a crazy dream about stabbing a man and stuffing the body in a closet (Shane uses some funky psychedelic visuals unusual to ‘40s thrillers). He freaks out when he wakes up and finds evidence in his room that the events in his dream actually happened. He seeks advice from his sister’s husband, Cliff (Paul Kelly), a policeman, who tells him to forget it. Through some frankly farfetched plotting, Vince begins to believe he really did commit murder and so does Cliff, who tries to find some explanation, if only for the sake of his pregnant wife Lil (Doran).
Not really a good movie, FEAR IN THE NIGHT suffers from not only a ludicrous story, but also a laughably overwrought performance by Kelley, whose Vince is too much of a milquetoast to earn the audience’s sympathy. The role seems beyond the range of Kelley, who went on to earn a nice living as a character actor and western heavy before landing STAR TREK. If you can buy Woolrich’s premise, FEAR IN THE NIGHT may be easier to take, and even though the film is pretty silly, it doesn’t bore, even if the entertainment comes from its campy elements.