6 March 2007 | ferbs54
A Pedestrian Thriller Elevated By Some First-Rate Acting
"Fear in the Night" is a somewhat contrived and lesser Hammer picture from 1972 that somehow still manages to work up a fair amount of suspense and one or two chilling moments. The film concerns young Peggy Heller (excellently portrayed by Judy Geeson), who, after suffering a nervous breakdown, moves with her new teacher husband to a large, private boys' school on 1,200 acres of English countryside. Poor Peggy is soon made the victim of a string of attacks by a stalker with a prosthetic hand, and her lot is hardly made more comfortable by the presence of the very strange headmaster (Peter Cushing) or his haughty young wife (Joan Collins). The film builds to a surprise ending of sorts that probably won't surprise many, especially those viewers who have already seen a certain classic Vincent Price horror movie from 1958. Still, the film does offer some compensations, including very fine performances by the actors just mentioned, as well as by Ralph Bates, playing Peggy's husband. Viewers will appreciate just how fine the acting is, perhaps, after a second viewing, with a greater knowledge of all the characters' secret motivations. The film also offers some beautiful scenery, both in terms of the autumnal Hertfordshire countryside AND Ms. Collins herself. Thirty-nine years old here, and nine years prior to incarnating TV's ultimate bitch on wheels, Alexis Carrington Colby Dexter, etc. on "Dynasty," she really is quite gorgeous to look at. (Sadly, she and Cushing, though playing man and wife, share no screen time whatsoever in this picture.) But the film belongs to Geeson, who appears in every single scene (with one major exception). Just five years after her "To Sir, With Love" debut, she turns in a very credible and ingratiating performance. Indeed, it is the sterling acting by all four principals that elevates this rather pedestrian thriller into something quite admirable indeed.