One of the delights of digging around for movies to feature in a Peter Cushing retrospective is that you end up stumbling across films you either haven’t seen for years, or had never even heard of in the first place.

And, to my eternal shame as a supposed horror buff, Nothing But The Night features in the ‘never heard of’ category, which is all the more surprising when you consider it not only features Cushing, but genre partner-in-arms Christopher Lee.

Released in 1974 by Lee’s short-lived production company Charlemagne, this is a film that flickers into vivid life on many occasions throughout its 90-minute running time, only to leave you with the overall feeling of a missed opportunity.

Things certainly get off with a bang with three murders back-to-back to open the film – all staged to look like suicides.Nothing_But_the_Night_poster

Turns out all three are trustees of the Van Traylen organisation, a group of wealthy benefactors who run an orphanage on a remote Scottish island.

Although the police seem happy they are indeed suicides, retired cop Colonel Charles Bingham (Lee) thinks otherwise, linking the three trustee deaths to a possible money-grabbing venture.

From there we are then shown a bus crash involving children from the orphanage (and which sees the driver go up in flames), which leads Bingham to rope in his old mate (and doctor) Sir Mark Ashley (played by Cushing).

So far so good, but things then take a nosedive pacing wise as the plot detours into a series of talky/flirty scenes between Dr Haynes (Keith Barron) and journalist Joan Foster (Georgia Brown), with Haynes convinced the child in his care, Mary (a survivor of the crash) knows a lot more than she is letting on.

Even worse, we then get the introduction of Mary’s mother, played in a bizarre over-the-top turn from Diana Dors.

The bodies continue to pile up and the action eventually switches to the Scottish isle, with things finally coming to a head in an effective climax at the orphanage that has echoes of the supernatural, science fiction – and wild implausibility.

To go into the various twists and turns of the plot would be to give too much away but let’s just say the script, adapted from a novel by John Blackburn, will certainly keep you guessing.

And the denouement certainly shifts Nothing But The Night into horror territory, with the film resembling more a police procedural up to that point.

Director Peter Sasdy, who also helmed the likes of Taste The Blood Of Dracula for Hammer, does a solid job, but there are a number of jarring cuts (both literally and in tone) that keep holding the film in check.

As said earlier, there are also real pacing issues, with a whole host of talky scenes furnished by an in-relative terms rushed climax.

Performances wise this is a real mixed bag – naturally Lee and Cushing produce fine work, with their scenes together being a joy, and there is also a fine turn from Gwyneth Strong as precocious youngster Mary.

But that is tempered by a ludicrous display from Dors, with the scenes of her trying to evade capture on the island likely to leave you chuckling.

Nothing But The Night certainly starts well and ends well – but the overly talky midsection stops this watchable movie from being a must-see one.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.