This is a gem of British cinema, and a landmark piece from Ealing Studios. It’s the first film to offer a collection of short tales, loosely connected by a centre thread, and also offer some key root plots which have been lifted over and over and over by later movies. This is where it all began and it’s perfect.
The backbone plot involves a reoccurring dream scenario. An architect is invited away for the weekend to inspect a property. Upon arrival, he is greeted by a familiar situation, a country cottage and a room full of faces seen recently in his dream. One by one the guests discuss and offer anecdotes of supernatural and horrific nature. These range from child ghosts, a ventriloquist doll, a guy who cheats death, a suicide leading to haunting and a possession. These all sound familiar? These are great, not only because these where first, but because they are all exquisitely well executed.
A few stand out for me. The tale of a man who becomes possessed by the former owner of a mirror which has been given to him as a gift from his fiancée. He starts seeing an old gothic room through the mirror as he is slowly taken over by the dead man’s spirit. Another tale, based on the HG Wells short story, one of polite British-ness involves a game of golf to claim the hand of a lady. One guy cheats, the other walks to a watery grave with his clubs, only to return to haunt his old friend and destroy his handicap. There are some other stunning moments in this fine movie. The moment the ventriloquist doll stands up still sends chills down my spine and the great line, ‘Just room for one inside sir’ is also very memorable from the Hearse Driver story.
I cannot recommend this film more highly.