Nightmare Film Details
Overview: An ex-gambler helps a beautiful widow, and becomes involved with a murder, secret agents, and saboteurs.
Review: Flat broke, American gambler Dan Shane (Brian Donlevy) steals into what he thinks is an empty townhouse during a blackout in London looking for something to eat. He’s discovered by the owner, Ambassador’s daughter Leslie Stafford (Diana Barrymore), who desperately needs his help and offers to pay him to dispose of her husband’s body (Henry Daniell), lying upstairs with a knife in his back. Intrigued, Dan agrees and, pretending to be a pair of drunks, loads the body into a taxi and takes off. The next day he goes to see Leslie and she tries to give him the brush-off but they end up on the run from the police after they discover her husband’s body exactly where they first found him -upstairs. Leslie and Dan flee to Scotland to enlist her cousin Abbington’s (Gavin Muir) help and rush headlong into a nest of Nazi spies… This 1942 Universal entry had a twofold purpose: it was typical, topical, morale-boosting wartime entertainment showing solidarity with our Allies as well as being the third attempt to turn John Barrymore’s daughter, Diana, into a major star. The first third of the movie is pure pulp fiction with the protagonist wandering into a web of murder and intrigue by becoming involved with a woman who may have killed her husband. Beginning with a rainstorm during a blackout, the dark and shadowy cinematography foreshadows later Film Noir using Universal’s back lot as a stand-in for London and Scotland. The story, some of it told in flashback, by mystery writer Phillip MacDonald (THE LIST OF ADRIAN MESSENGER), starts out with a cynical, hard-boiled attitude before becoming sidetracked in a routine “good guys vs. Nazi spies” finish. Sample dialogue: “You’ve got a Tiffany front but a hock-shop in back -I can see through you like cellophane” and some of it is slightly risqué: Dan tells Leslie that her name isn’t a woman’s and he might as well call her “Butch” -which he does for the rest of the film. There’s also plenty of anti-German propaganda later on once the film switches gears. Leslie’s cousin in Scotland owns a distillery (where explosives are packed in whiskey bottles) but she’s quick to explain that Abbington isn’t a Scot, telling Dan that he was adopted as a child in Germany. That’s all Dan needs to know, saying, “They get ’em young and train ’em early.” Abbington’s attack dogs are, of course, German as well. Earlier, Leslie coerced Dan into helping her by hiding his ticket home to the States -he spent his last dime trying to get back to enlist in the service. Paramount’s THIS GUN FOR HIRE was made the same year and also blended film noir with flag-waving propaganda. This dark trend would continue throughout the war years, culminating in 1944’s MINISTRY OF FEAR. Diana Barrymore, an attractive and capable actress, started slipping down the cast lists and made only three more films before leaving Hollywood in 1944. Her odyssey of alcoholism and police blotters was chronicled in her autobiography, TOO MUCH, TOO SOON, which was made into a film starring Dorothy Malone as Diana and Errol Flynn as her dad in 1958. Diana killed herself with an overdose of pills and liquor in 1960 after falling hopelessly in love with Tennessee Williams when she appeared in his play “Garden District” (aka SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER). NIGHTMARE gets a solid 8/10 as Golden Age entertainment but only a 5/10 on the noir-o-meter -for the reel darkness during the first third of the movie …and the real darkness behind the scenes.
Duration: 81 min
Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery
Also known as: Incubo,Noche de pesadilla,Painajaisuni,Pesadelo,Pesadilla,Mardrömmen,Wie ein Alptraum,Nightmare,Nattens mareridt