Fear in the Night

“Not surprisingly, perhaps, given the (often unconscious) risks sometimes taken in the lower reaches, Woolrich tended to survive more recognisably in more modestly budgeted features like Arthur Ripley's excellent, tortuously bizarre The Chase (though even here the softening device of a dream was introduced). The shoestring production values of Poverty Row adaptations (Monogram made Fall Guy, The Guilty and I Wouldn't Be in Your Shoes) tended to enhance Woolrich's particular brand of raw, splintery angst, redolent of cracked walls and peeling wallpaper; and one of the best films from this period, as far as Woolrich is concerned, is the incredibly cheap and tatty, but also incredibly effective, Pine-Thomas production Fear in the Night. Scripted and directed by Maxwell Shane, it is studded with expressionistic effects - occasionally embarrassingly crude - that ought to be absurd but are in fact extraordinarily effective. The reason for the film's charge is not hard to find: because it uses an off-screen subjective narration for the hero in his tortured attempts to wrest the truth from a nightmare in which he committed a murder that subsequently proves to have happened for real, the authentic voice of Cornell Woolrich speaks through the film.”

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