sat 26/09/2020

DVD: Dead of Night | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Dead of Night

DVD: Dead of Night

Long-lost 1970s TV gives up its secrets

Dead of Night: the object of a considerable cultBFI

In the age of big data where nothing escapes retrieval and the afterlife is a matter of cloud storage, the whole idea of "lost BBC tapes" seems about as inconceivable as a hunter-gatherer climbing out of an Iceland freezer cabinet. Dead of Night was broadcast in 1972 and has since become the object of a considerable cult. Thankfully, with this BFI release, it proves to be as odd, as arresting and as eerie as the best weird programming of the decade.

In the age of big data where nothing escapes retrieval and the afterlife is a matter of cloud storage, the whole idea of "lost BBC tapes" seems about as inconceivable as a hunter-gatherer climbing out of an Iceland freezer cabinet. Dead of Night was broadcast in 1972 and has since become the object of a considerable cult. Thankfully, with this BFI release, it proves to be as odd, as arresting and as eerie as the best weird programming of the decade.

Scripted, directed and produced by old-school, left-field, left-leaning BBC staffers – the kind of extinct animal whose return would have Paul Dacre boiling his face in rage – they bring the supernatural, gender politics and socialism to the all-mod-cons world of early Seventies Britain, muddying the psychiatric – voices, heard by some, not by others – with the ghostly, on the road to inexorable death. Comforting it is not, and the cast – including lead turns from Clive Swift, Peter Barkworth and Anna Massey – is excellent, especially Massey in A Woman Sobbing, the most powerful of the three, with trace elements of that malevolent modern house in The Grudge, awaiting us decades down the line.

The Exorcism is the best-known, mixing Marxist dialectic with spirit possession as a group of proto-yuppies negotiate the rocky road to riches without losing a socialist conscience. They soon find themselves cut off, along with the phone and the electric as they sit down for a doomed last supper. Return Flight merges psychological breakdown and supernatural interference, all crowding at the pre-computerised controls of a passenger jet captained by Barkworth’s disturbed, haunted, grieving pilot. Despite the lack of extras (scripts, stills) fans of the era's incredibly strange TV will feel compelled to Dead of Night as if they had no say in the matter...

Dead of Night proves to be as odd, as arresting and as eerie as the best weird programming of the decade

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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