Fear in the Night (1947) Maxwell Shane
A bank teller named Grayson (DeForest Kelley) dreams he’s stabbed a man inside an octagonal room of mirrors, locking the body in a closet. Upon waking, Grayson discovers blood on his shirt cuff, a button, and an oddly-shaped key. When Grayson shares his nightmare with his brother-in-law Cliff (Paul Kelly) – who happens to be a cop – Cliff dismisses the whole thing as a bad dream. But Grayson, fearing he really killed someone, sets off to discover the truth.
For a low-budget film from Pine-Thomas Productions (and later picked up by Paramount), Fear in the Night isn’t a bad little noir. The opening dream sequence was clearly made on-the-cheap, but it gets the job done, setting up a weird thematic element that gets (and keeps) your attention.
It’s nice to see Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy as a young man (he was 27 at the time) in a leading role, but there’s a reason we had only a handful of McCoy-centric Star Trek episodes: Kelley – as much as I love the guy – was not a leading man. In Fear in the Night, Grayson is supposed to be something of a weak-kneed guy, but he never really comes across as a solid protagonist. Yet it is fun to watch him nearly 20 years before he stepped onto the U.S.S. Enterprise. (I almost expected to hear “I’m a bank teller, not a murderer!”)
Fear in the Night was based on the short story “Nightmare” by the great Cornell Woolrich (credited here as one of Woolrich’s famous aliases, William Irish. The film was remade, again by Maxwell Shane, in 1956 with its original title Nightmare, this time starring Kevin McCarthy as the protagonist (a jazz clarinetist) and Edward G. Robinson as the brother-in-law cop. I haven’t seen this one, but if any of you have, feel free to comment.
(Photos: screenshots taken from my phone)
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