'Fear In The Night' [Restored Version]
(Paul Kelly, DeForrest Kelley, Ann Doran, Kay Scotts, et al / DVD / NR / (1947) 2014 / Film Chest Inc.)
Overview: A meek and mild bank teller awakens one morning from a disturbing dream, in which he has killed a man, only to find that his dream may well have been real. Was he sleepwalking? Was he hypnotized? The suspense never lets up in this film noir original as the story unravels to reveal an eerie tale of murder and mind control.
DVD Verdict: This interesting film explores whether one can be hypnotized against his will and compelled to perform hideous acts contrary to his nature, even to the point of killing and self-destruction.
Mild mannered bank teller Vince Grayson (Star Trek's DeForest Kelley in his film debut) lives in a seedy hotel room and can't even drive a car. Yet he awakens from a horrible dream that he has killed a man in a mirrored room and stuffed him in a closet. Inexplicably, Vince finds thumb marks on his own throat, a scratch on his wrist and a button from the dead man's coat along with a key with which he locked the closet. Deeply disturbed, Vince cannot report to work and wanders the city pondering the mystery of this frightening experience.
Along the way, Vince receives support from his sister Lil Herlihy (Ann Doran) and her husband Cliff (strongly played by Paul Kelly). Cliff is a police detective who initially disbelieves Vince killed someone, then believes he did. A stream of interrelated events ultimately leads Vince back to the mystery house with the mirrored room.
Vince's inability to drive a car, a rather dated concept, clears him as a suspect in one murder. This contrasts with a deputy sheriff (Jeff York) who announces he has quit smoking, a somewhat novel concept for the time. Kelley tries hard to make Vince's character convincing, but this is 20 years before we know him as the feisty Dr. Leonard (Bones) McCoy aboard the Starship Enterprise.
Unlike some Noir efforts, the story is straight forward and simply allows the mystery to explain itself, a credit to Maxwell Shane's direction. However, much of this piece belong to the villain Lewis Belknap (veteran character actor Robert Emmett Keane) who almost steals the show as a betrayed husband and master hypnotist. At a critical moment, Vince gets the drop on Belknap and threatens to shoot him.
In response, Belknap slyly hypnotizes Vince using an open pocket watch case, begging Vince for a minute's time in increments of 15 elapsed seconds. This unusual scene is not to be missed. Even more chilling is Belknap's ultimate control over Vince once he is under hypnotic suggestion. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.