Directed by Peter Sasdy [Other horror films: Journey Into Darkness (1968, segment ‘The New People’), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970), Countess Dracula (1971), Hands of the Ripper (1971), Doomwatch (1972), The Stone Tape (1972), I Don’t Want to Be Born (1975), Witchcraft (1992)]
Based on the 1968 novel of the same name by John Blackburn, this British film can be quite engaging at times, but I think that some elements hold it back, such as the conclusion and the eventual answer to some of the questions the ongoings in the movie put forward.
Certainly anytime that Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing share a scene, it’s a good time (previous to this film, they appeared together in movies such as The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Mummy, The Gorgon, Night of the Big Heat, I, Monster, Dracula A.D. 1972, and Horror Express), and that’s no different here. I’ve always personally preferred Cushing, but both of these actors put in great performances here, story issues aside.
Save those two, it’s hard to really point to anyone else that stands out. Georgia Brown (who later appeared in a segment of Tales That Witness Madness) was decent, but I didn’t think the finale really gave her character a lot to do. I didn’t love Diana Dors (Craze and Berserk) character, but she also did okay. Despite his short time on-screen, Keith Barron was reasonably solid, and of mild interest, though he’s difficult to pick out, Michael Gambon appears in a few scenes also.
If the movie could survive from solid performances alone, we might be talking about an early 70’s classic, but unfortunately some story elements suffer here. I definitely enjoyed the mystery that they had going on, and I did enjoy some things about the finale (which almost felt like The Wicker Man, though nowhere near as epic or memorable), but the solution to the mystery just didn’t interest me that much, and there’s also a bit of over-explanation toward the end by an antagonist, and it just felt off. One of the final scenes is great, but it’s not a flawless ride getting there.
Of course, being the sheltered American lad that I am, I enjoyed the British and Scottish accents and countryside, and though I didn’t care that much for the film overall (which is, on a side-note, about the same reaction I had to this one the first time I saw it some years ago), it still has that British charm to it, which may not amount to much when it comes to rating, but it was something that I appreciated.
Generally, I think that Nothing But the Night is okay. Below average, no doubt, but still worth seeking out if, at the very least, you’re a fan of Cushing or Lee (or the pair of them together). For me, I didn’t dig where the story went, and I think to an extent, things fell apart a little toward the end, but it’s not a movie that I’d never give another chance to, if only for the names involved.