Things Happen At Night (1948)

Things Happen At Night (1948)‘l don’t want to go to bed. I want to sit up and listen to the jolly chamber music.’

An insurance investigator arrives at a stately home to settle a damage claim and discovers the household in the grips of hysteria due to poltergeist activity. A psychical researcher believes that the spirit has possessed the family’s youngest daughter, Audrey.

Fairly antique British spook business that was based on ‘The Poltergeist’, a stage play by Frank Harvey. Most of the action revolves around lugubrious insurance man Gordon Harker, who faces the usual assortment of floating port decanters, revolving candlesticks and things that go bump in the night. Most famously, Harker’s voice and delivery were the model for the character of ‘Parker’ on 1960’s TV hit ’Thunderbirds’, although he appeared in many UK films, including two early efforts by a young Alfred Hitchcock. There’s quality in the rest of the cast too, with butler Wylie Watson also appearing for that great director as Mr Memory in ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’ (1935) and lady of the house Olga Lindo best known for a leading role in J.B. Priestly’s ‘An inspector Calls’ (1954) starring Alastair Sim.

Unfortunately, the cast are ill-served by a vague, unfocused script which fails to strike a consistent comedic tone. There’s very little plot either, as our well-respected thespians wander around the house, seeing flowers wilt, hats get burnt and finding coal scattered on the library floor. The laughs mostly falls on Harker’s shoulders, but the veteran actor is given so little to work with it’s almost criminal. ln terms of production values and SFX, the film is as basic as it comes, with the one set serving as the basis for all the ‘action.’

The most interesting aspect of the film involves ‘possessed’ daughter Audrey (Gwyneth Vaughan). Her mother is worried about her changeable moods, and she is threatened with expulsion from the local school, although we never find out why. Not surprisingly, the film never examines her deep, psychological problems, but there’s an interesting sequence where she channels the power of the Poltergeist. Her savage joy when she commands the unseen force to pick up and smash her bedside lamp belongs in another film entirely, although it’s by far the film’s best sequence.

Things Happen At Night (1948)

‘Dancin’ apples, is it? Where are the bleeding’ pears?’

Rather than investigate this promising aspect of the tale, the film predictably dissolves into a climax of broad slapstick with flying vases, bric-a brac, and other household objects. No effort is made to tie up any of the plot, even in the most rudimentary fashion.

A talented cast are left flailing around in a half-cooked story that bares all the signs of being knocked out in a couple of hours, rather than being based on an existing literary source.

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