Dead of Night (1945)

1h 17m / Not Rated / Supernatural

Dead of Night is a 1945 British anthology horror film that directly inspired both a Goosebumps book and a cosmological theory that spent decades as the most widely supported alternative to the Big Bang. We’ll come back to that.

Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns), an architect, is summoned down to a country farmhouse by a prospective client whom he does not know. When he arrives, he realizes he has seen all the assembled guests in a recurring dream. The guests (Michael Redgrave, Roland Culver and Sally Ann Howes among them) each recount strange events they’ve experienced, hoping to connect them to Craig, and these stories make up the tales in the anthology. The most famous of the stories is the last, The Ventriloquist’s Dummy, in which a vent performer is menaced by his supernatural doll, Hugo. It’s the first major film example of the “vent dummy takes control” trope, leading to everything from Devil Doll of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame (s8 e18) to Child’s Play and Puppet Master.

But Dead of Night also had an impact on astrophysicists Fred Hoyle, Hermann Bondi and Thomas Gold: “Gold asked suddenly, “What if the universe is like that?’ meaning that the universe could be eternally circling on itself without beginning or end. Unable to dismiss this conjecture, they started to think seriously of an unchanging universe, a “steady state universe,” and this Steady State model was credibly regarded as having equal explanatory power to the Big Bang theory until the 1960s.

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