Oh no, it’s a bunch of right proper British people. Just looking at them in their identical suits, I can tell they’re going to tell the most tame unscary ghost stories and the others will act like it’s just so horrible they might spill their tea.

Mr. Craig (Mervyn Johns, 1951’s Bob Cratchit) arrives at a hotel, says he’s never been there and doesn’t know anyone but he has dreamt this and knows what will happen. Series of stories/flashbacks ensue, while a doubting psychologist with an overdone accent (German Frederick Valk) observes.

Cratchit and the German:

First we’ve got auto racer Hugh (Anthony Baird), who had a premonition of a creepy hearse driver that reminded me of the first story of The King in Yellow, skips riding a bus that ends up crashing. Not a terribly spooky way to start the movie, if you haven’t just read The King in Yellow, directed by Basil Dearden of The League of Gentlemen fame.

Next, Sally (Sally Ann Howes) recalls a party, and the only thing worse than uptight proper British adults is British youngsters. She meets a ghost boy who lives in the walls, and either this segment was quite short and nothing much happens, or I’m just blocking it from my mind due to all the youngsters.

A good one next, by Robert Hamer (Kind Hearts and Coronets), in which a wife (Googie Withers of One of Our Aircraft is Missing) gives her new husband (Ralph Michael) a haunted mirror, which shows him an alternate reality that entrances him for hours at a time.

Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob) directs the weirdest segment, a love triangle between two sportsmen who propose a golf game to win the hand of Mary (Peggy Bryan), who is delighted by the idea instead of appalled, because it was the 1940’s. The older Michael Caine-looking guy wins by cheating, so the other guy suicides into the water hazard, then returns as a ghost to torment his buddy during golf games. The two guys are Charters and Caldicott of The Lady Vanishes, Night Train to Munich and Crook’s Tour, and I wouldn’t normally welcome a wacky comedy golfing bit in the middle of my ghoul anthology, but they pull it off.

Finally, the obligatory ventriloquist dummy story, directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, who also did the framing story and the youngsters with the ghost in the walls. I’ve seen Cavalcanti’s gonzo silent Nothing But Time, but he has fully adjusted to the sound era, because all the characters talk too often and use too many words. Hartley Power is a balding ventriloquist who crashes the show of Michael Redgrave (also The Lady Vanishes, and The Go-Between), annoyingly creates a rivalry where there didn’t need to be one, while the psychologist has himself a flashback-in-a-flashback. I think one of the dummies is alive, but I was focused on the movie having a Harry Parker and a Larry Potter, and how close they came. Whole bunch of writers, including H.G. Wells, who did the golf story of all things.

“Everything’s prepared. We’ve left nothing to chance.”

A tight, charismatic perfect-crime heist movie. Guys with gambling problems, mean wives, fake personas (one pretends to be a priest) and mounting debts join forces under the instruction of a cranky ex-soldier. Turns out they’re all ex-soldiers, specially selected (aren’t they always) for their former military skills. Two heists ensue – first to get military weapons from a training complex (arguably the more exciting of the two), then a gas-mask assault on the bank (definitely the more photogenic). They’re sold out by an eight-year-old witness, going straight from the celebration party (where nobody tries to scam anyone’s share – gentlemen indeed) to the paddy wagon.

The gang’s (mostly) all here:

The film’s writer (Bryan Forbes) is one of the criminal soldiers, as are the great Roger Livesey (years after his Powell/Pressburger films), Lord Richard Attenborough (Flight of the Phoenix), Nigel Patrick (Pandora and the Flying Dutchman) and Jack Hawkins (The Small Back Room, Zulu, Land of the Pharaohs).

Highly enjoyable little movie by Basil Dearden, about whom I still know nothing because I rented this and didn’t get the liner notes. Here we go: “elegantly crafted… noir-tinged dramas that burrowed into corners of London rarely seen on-screen.” Looks like the other three in the box set were more explicitly about British social problems.

M. Koresky:

A lively crime escapade with melancholy undertones, this examination of the instability of a generation of British men may have appealed to Dearden and Relph’s social sensibility: the film takes place more than ten years after the end of World War II, but its main characters are veterans who have not been able to fully reintegrate into civilian life. They find the normal patterns of postwar behavior alienating—going to work, living with wives and children—and are haunted by nostalgia for the masculine community of wartime.