Fear in the Night


1h 11m 1947

Brief Synopsis

Bank teller Vince Grayson wakes from a nightmare in which he and an unknown woman murdered a man in a strange, mirrored room. Only a dream...but Vince finds that he has physical objects and bruises from his "dream." His cop brother-in-law dismisses his story...until the family, on a picnic, takes shelter from a thunderstorm in a deserted mansion containing that mirrored room. Is doom closing in on Vince?

Film Details

Release Date
Apr 18, 1947
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Pine-Thomas Productions
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "And So to Death" by Cornell Woolrich in Argosy (1 Mar 1941).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 11m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6,448ft

Synopsis

Bank teller Vince Grayson dreams he is in a mysterious mirror-panelled octagonal room, where a man accompanied by a blonde woman is robbing a safe. Vince and the man fight, and when the man begins to strangle Vince, the woman hands him an awl, with which he pierces the stranger's heart. The woman flees, and Vince places the man's body behind one of the mirrored doors and locks it, taking the key. When Vince awakens, he discovers the key in his coat and thinks that he may be a murderer. Distraught, he calls in sick at work and visits his brother-in-law, homicide detective Cliff Harlan. Believing Vince is merely under stress, Cliff plans an outing with his wife Lil, and Vince's teller girl friend, Betty Winters. On a strange whim, Vince decides to picnic in Solanor, but a storm breaks, and they are forced to take refuge in a nearby unoccupied house. When Vince discovers the octagonal room upstairs, he is convinced he is a murderer. With the apparent evidence before him, Cliff now believes that Vince is guilty and has been using the dream as a subterfuge. A policeman named Torrence discovers the men in the house and demands an explanation, saying that he has been on detail at the house since a murder happened there the previous week. The house belongs to a wealthy couple named Belnap. The husband is away on business in Mexico, and the wife was found nearly dead down the road after being hit by the car of Bob Clune, her lover and the man who robbed the safe. Clune's body was found upstairs. Before dying, Mrs. Belnap woke to ask if Clune was alright, causing the police to deduce that she had fled the murderer, not Clune, and had been run over by the killer. At the Solanor sheriff's station, Cliff shows Vince pictures of Clune and Mrs. Belnap, and he blacks out. Vince later tries to commit suicide by jumping out of a window, but Cliff saves him. During the night, Vince recounts to Cliff a visit he had the night of the murder: Harry Bird, a man staying in an adjacent room, had entered Vince's room carrying a candle, ostensibly to inquire if Vince's lights had gone out. On a hunch, Cliff shows Vince a picture of Mr. Belnap, and Vince recognizes him as Harry Bird. Belnap had found out that Clune planned to rob him and run off with his wife and used Vince to kill him through hypnosis. Belnap returns from Mexico for his wife's funeral and finds Vince armed and waiting in the octagonal room with a hidden listening device. Belnap confesses his part in the murder, but then hypnotizes Vince, drives him to a river and orders him to write a suicide note and an admission of his guilt. The police follow, and after Belnap orders Vince to drown himself then flees, he is chased by the police and wrecks his car. Cliff saves Vince from drowning, and he pleads self-defense at his arraignment. The day of the trial, Betty and Lil greet Vince, who has returned to his former self.

Film Details

Release Date
Apr 18, 1947
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Pine-Thomas Productions
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "And So to Death" by Cornell Woolrich in Argosy (1 Mar 1941).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 11m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6,448ft

Quotes

I've got an honest man's conscience... in a murderer's body.
- Vince Grayson

Trivia

Notes

Although the title of Cornell Woolrich's story is listed as "Nightmare" on the screen, it was first published in 1941 as "And So to Death." It was published as "Nightmare" in Woolrich's 1943 collection I Wouldn't Be in Your Shoes. William Irish, the onscreen literary name, was Woolrich's pseudonym. The film marked Maxwell Shane's directorial debut, and the feature film debut of DeForest Kelley (1920-1999), a prolific character actor in both motion pictures and television who was best known for his role as "Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy" on the television series Star Trek and its subsequent feature film adaptations.
       Shane wrote the screenplay for and directed a 1956 remake of his story, Nightmare (see below), in which a murder takes place under hypnosis and the framed murderer thinks he was dreaming. That film was released by United Artists and starred Edward G. Robinson, Kevin McCarthy and Connie Russell.