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  Nightmare Wakey Wakey
Year: 1964
Director: Freddie Francis
Stars: David Knight, Moira Redmond, Jennie Linden, Brenda Bruce, George A. Cooper, Clytie Jessop, Irene Richmond, John Welsh, Timothy Bateson, Elizabeth Dear
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Janet (Jennie Linden) awakens in the night to follow the sound of a whispering voice around the corridors of this old building, creeping through the darkness as it calls her name. Eventually, she detects its source: a cell whose door is open so she enters to see a figure in white cowering in the corner. She approaches gingerly, when suddenly the door slams behind her and the figure turns out to be her crazed mother who advances with menace in her eyes... and then Janet wakes up screaming, also rousing the girls she shares her dormitory with who are less than pleased to be shocked out of their slumber at this time of night. So what's wrong?

It's not simple night terrors, Janet has been through a genuine trauma which returns to haunt her in her dreams, hence the title of the film, although exactly how real her dreams may or may not be is what detains us here. Written by Jimmy Sangster, this was another of Hammer's attempts to emulate the success of Psycho, or rather, take that twisting plot and draw inspiration from the film which inspired Alfred Hitchcock, Les Diaboliques, a French thriller which was immeasurably influential in its day, and still is to a certain extent even though its tricks have become clich├ęs, meaning it is difficult to watch this type of thing without feeling someone is trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

Which is precisely what is going on, draining some of the power of these old chillers as you are waiting throughout to have your suspicions confirmed about whatever scheming they contain. So when Janet's unstable mental state leads her to be taken away from her boarding school mid-term, this provides the ideal opportunity for her nightmares to increase in their intensity, although the fact that we now do not see her wake up from them is as significant as you might expect. Those bad dreams involve a woman in white with a scar on her face who wanders around the country house of Janet's family at night and leads the girl to see an apparition of her birthday cake and the mystery woman lying dead with a dagger in her chest.

By this time you should be thinking, okay, this is obviously some kind of set up, but even if the narrative is not impressing you can enjoy the rich atmosphere of foreboding and general creepiness conjured up by director Freddie Francis. His sure way with a camera means the shadowy black and white cinematography is one of the strongest elements of the production, as if it wasn't for these deep, dark visuals the acting would tend towards the stark and isolated in the contrived plotting. This is especially noticeable due to the histrionics of much of the performing, with the understandably troubled Janet frequently screaming her head off, and all because she is terrified that she is going as insane as her mother did.

Her parent stabbed someone to death and Janet witnessed it, so now the girl is growing convinced that she will end up the same way as if the madness was inherited. The story does improve once the first twist is out of the way by the halfway point and you can concentrate on who is really behind whatever is going on, although that ending may not be too guessable but it does beg the question if they knew what was up why didn't they act sooner? If you see the film you'll understand. As it was, Nightmare was better distinguished by the professional acting of its cast - who manage not to let on to the audience all the revelations until their proper time - and its selpulchral look rather than how many surprises it contained, which was enough to carry it through a speedy eighty minutes or so. Fans of British children's drama Grange Hill will note the presence of two of that series' janitors in the supporting cast, incidentally. Music by Don Banks.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Freddie Francis  (1917 - 2007)

A much respected cinematographer for decades, British Francis made his way up from camera operator on films like The Small Back Room, Outcast of the Islands and Beat the Devil to fully fledged cinematographer on such films as Room at the Top, Sons and Lovers (for which he won his first Oscar), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and The Innocents (a masterpiece of his art).

He then turned to direction, mostly in the horror genre, with familiar titles like Paranoiac, Nightmare, The Evil of Frankenstein, Dr Terror's House of Horrors (the first recognisable Amicus chiller anthology), The Skull, The Psychopath, Torture Garden, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, camp favourite Trog, Tales from the Crypt, The Creeping Flesh, Tales that Witness Madness, Legend of the Werewolf and The Ghoul.

Late in his career, he returned to cinematography with David Lynch's The Elephant Man, The French Lieutenant's Woman, Dune, Glory (winning his second Oscar), the Cape Fear remake and The Straight Story, his final work and one of his greatest.

 
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