Nightmare (1964)

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*. Nightmare is a typical “modern” thriller from Hammer. It’s representative of their work in this field — very much of a piece with Paranoiac and Maniac (both of which were released the previous year) — but it’s far from their best in the genre.
*. The credits tell you most of what you need to know. Written and produced by Jimmy Sangster (who also wrote Paranoiac and Maniac) and directed by Freddie Francis (who directed Paranoiac). So you know the drill. A Boileau-Narcejac plot involving mental manipulation and people who might not be dead, atmospherically shot at Oakley Court.
*. I can’t really explain what’s going on. I have a hunch it doesn’t really make any sense. I don’t just mean the improbability of the old latex-mask trick, or the larger game being played by the downstairs staff, but questions like what was up with Janet’s mother, and why Janet’s murder of Baxter’s wife seems to surprise and upset no one at the time and is written off so lightly.

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*. There just seems to be more plot here than the movie can digest. The film also awkwardly splits in two, with the character of Janet disappearing into an asylum at the half-way mark, never to be seen or heard from again.
*. On our first sight of Janet at boarding school I thought she was too old. In fact, Jennie Linden was 25 and was brought in to replace Julie Christie, who would have been 30.
*. Was Freddie Francis a great director? He was a great cinematographer, but there’s a difference. He does the deep, gothic noir looks nicely here, but he had little feel for building a narrative or working a scene.
*. In short, it’s a lovely little picture to look at, but not one you want to spend any time thinking about. You may go mad.

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