Ealing Studios is best known for its sometimes dark comedies, but in 1945 they released this early example of horror anthology — the type of film that another British studio, Amicus, would turn out regularly 20 to 30 years later.
While it’s often remembered for its final segment, there are other good and spooky stories presented here, original material or adapted from writers such as EF Benson and HG Wells. Four different directors worked on the individual segments. And the implications of the framing story are even more unsettling.
Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) is driving along a country lane somewhere in Kent. As he approaches a rather charming half-timbered house, he stops and stares at it for a moment before going on.
Eliot Foley (Roland Culver) is waiting at the gate to greet him, and the chatty dialog informs us that Craig is an architect whom Foley has invited down to his home, Pilgrims Farm, to have a look at the house with an eye toward expanding it.
While Craig says that “I’ve never been here before. Not actually,” he seems strangely familiar with the place. He knows already that they need more than the two bedrooms they currently have and another living room, and that the converted barn, where the Foleys are currently putting their guests, has central heating and modern conveniences. When they enter the house, he knows where to go to hang up his hat and coat before Foley points the alcove out. He also knows that the other guests for the weekend are having their afternoon tea before Foley takes him into the parlor, where Mrs. Foley (Mary Merrall), Eliot’s mom, is pouring out tea for the group.
Let’s meet the rest of the party:
- Psychiatrist Dr. Van Straaten (Frederick Valk). In those days, psychiatrists were all Freudians and had foreign accents, and the good doctor is no exception.
- Hugh Grainger (Anthony Baird).
- The Courtlands, Peter and Joan (Ralph Michael and Googie Withers).
- A teenaged girl named Sally O’Hara (Sally Ann Howe) who is a neighbor of the Foleys.
I’m familiar with most of these actors later in their careers, so it’s always interesting to see them so young.
As the group is introduced to him, Walter Craig seems to find them all as familiar as Pilgrims Farm. He even says that Dr. Van Straaten will treat him; he always treats him.
This baffles the doctor, since he’s never met Walter before, and Walter at last explains his deja vu:
“I’ve seen you in my dreams. Sounds like a sentimental song, doesn’t it? I’ve dreamt about you over and over again… Everybody in this room is part of my dream. Everybody.”