Fear in the Night


Year 1947

DeForest Kelley as  Vince Grayson
Paul Kelly as Cliff Herlihy
Ann Doran as Lil Herlihy
Kay Scott as Betty Winters
Robert Emmett Keane   as Lewis Belnap
 
Director - Maxwell Shane  
Screenwriter - Maxwell Shane

Who knew that when Kirk and Spock referred to McCoy as "Bones" they weren't alluding to his profession but referring to his physique? He's the star of this, uh, work and in more than too many scenes, he's dressed in an undershirt. As threatening as "a bag of hangers" to borrow from Terry Pratchett, he's supposed to have been able to commit a violent murder. He must have wiry strength because I saw a more robust mummy at a museum in Chicago.

(Chicago is a neat city and the museum had more than one mummy. No foolin'. I'll bet the mummies were thinking, "This is not my beautiful pyramid." Anyway, back to the movie.)

Vince Grayson (DeForest Kelley) has a problem. He had a bad dream about mirrors and murder. One second he's driving an awl into someone's side and the next, he wakes up from the nightmare. Oddly enough, there are souvenirs of his dream on his flop house table. So, now he's fretting, in his athletic style undershirt.

Vince, a bank teller, uh, sorry, a "cashier" at a bank calls in sick. Throughout the movie, he continues to call in sick. For about a month, he doesn't go to work. Yet, he gets to keep his job. I would've thought that after three days, he'd have been told to clean out his (teller's) cage and never darken the money zoo again. But that doesn't happen in this movie.

He decides to confide in his brother-in-law Cliff Herlihy (Paul Kelly). I don't know about you, but I'm not that close to my brother-in-law. I could "confide" in him about things that are kind of superficial, but I'd never ask his advice on what to do if, say, I'd dreamt that I'd killed someone.

Yet Vince does this and Cliff tells him to not worry about it. But Vince does worry about it and some rainy afternoon later he inexplicably takes Cliff to the house in his dreams.

How they got there deserves a little acknowledgement because it makes Vince's dream look positively ordinary. The day begins with a drive for a picnic. "No, not that spot," as they drive and drive and drive just to get to the place where the house is. It supposed to supply plausibility to how they came to be where they were.

It might sound reasonable until you hear the ham-fisted seque. "We always go to the beach," one says. "Then why did you dress for a country picnic and bring a basket of food?" I repost. So of course there just has to be a picnic. While they're cavorting with the ants (or something) no one sees the sky get dark. But it's suddenly black as night and the accompanying thunderstorm is heavy. I'm sure the gale just must have appeared without warning the way storms that last for hours usually do. "Watch out for them clear skies, Vinnie. That's what we call angel bowling weather."

Then, to make absolutely positively sure that the plot will be advanced, one of the girls on the picnic has a deadly fear of thunderstorms. They need to get to a house because she can't take riding in the car without working wipers, especially if there's thunder crashing. My, those plot devices just keep piling up, don't they?

Vince knows of a place for sanctuary. Of course, it's the place. They knock and no one answers, so they go in. Huh? I never, ever remember this sort of casual type of unspoken but still understood mi casa es su casa societal convention. But, they go in. Later on, a cop stops by and...makes sure that everyone's cozy. Talk about country hospitality!

About this point, Vince shows Cliff the room where his dream happened. This precipitates some cathartic rage where people takes turns slapping Vince around. Poor Bones. Cliff thinks that Vince is using him to establish a case of homicide with extenuating insanity, so he slaps him around some because...he always wanted to. You know the kooky cops in B-movies just need to smack someone around or they'll be full of unvented angst. At this point, Vince should have changed his name to "Piņata" and been hung from the ceiling.

This is a potential murderer?

My other favorite part in the movie and by that I mean in a, "Am I really expected to buy that?" sort of way, is when Vince gets a clue about what happened.

In a flashback, we hear Vince telling a story about how he had tried to end it all and failed. He muses that if he'd used gas, maybe he would have been able to finish the task uninterrupted. So far, so good. Maybe he'll try it again, and soon. He does but, everything is electric, including a lightbulb that had burned out, so he can't try the gas idea. This is a jackhammer seque into the grand revelation.

The only movie excuse for this pivotal non-sequeter is that Vince's subconscious bubbled up the datum because it knew that it was important and a conversation about not being able to use gas seemed as good a time as any to work it in.

I won't give it away, but Vince continues to demonstrate what a clueless individual he is throughout the remainder of the movie. The solved mystery made me wince. Its solution is so outlandish as to be patently incredible. Vince's whole penance for his part in the murder is a court appearance. The end.

It's typical B-movie fare. The only redeeming aspect is getting to see DeForest Kelley attempting to act whimpy and succeeding a little too well.


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