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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Endless Night
Endless Night
Starz / Anchor Bay
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted June 25, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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Viewers expecting a classic Agatha Christie murder-mystery from Endless Night will be thrown for a loop, because the film, though based on the novel of the same name by Christie, is decidedly strange. Not only is the movie bereft of any of the familiar detective figures, but it's quite different in tone, structure, and plot from the more traditional Christie mysteries that have been rendered on film.

The movie starts with a strange shot of two people walking – only showing their walking feet, not the upper half of their bodies – and then a surrealistic flashback to "Gipsy's Acre" with a creepy view of a faceless woman. The movie then shifts to a more conventional narrative, following events in the life of Michael Rogers (Hywel Bennett), with voiceover commentary from Michael himself as he recalls certain events that led up to his fascination with a plot of land called Gipsy's Acre, a plan to build a beautiful house there, and his involvement with the beautiful Ellie (Hayley Mills).

The movie has a strange and introspective feeling throughout; it's as though the attempt is being made to have Endless Night approximate the subjective experience of the character, Michael, himself. In addition to his voiced thoughts, the camera work tends to focus on odd parts of images, parts that Michael is fixating on for some reason. Other visual and sound "tricks" tie the viewing experience closely to what he's feeling as well as seeing and hearing.

This all sounds a lot more interesting than it turns out to be, in practice. For the first half hour or so, Endless Night is quite promising, if rather odd. However, the promise is never fulfilled, as the movie never really goes anywhere to deliver on the intriguing setup. After the initial mysterious "hook," and the introduction of the main characters, the movie drags on without seeming to have any point; at 99 minutes, it actually starts to feel too long. After dragging on without seeming to have much direction, there's a quick, and admittedly surprising, denouement. This conclusion puts a whole new angle on the events of the movie... but unfortunately, by this point it's difficult to muster much enthusiasm about it. A good mystery makes the viewer wonder during the movie about what's going to happen, what did happen, who did it, why, and how it will be resolved. In Endless Night, there's no puzzle until the very last minutes of the movie, so there's nothing to engage with. The ending does hint at an interesting subjective perspective on the events of the film, but it's a case of too little, too late.

It's worth noting that the person who wrote the back-of-the-box copy on the DVD appears to have not seen the film. The description is inaccurate in its facts as well as in the impression it presents of the movie.

Picture

The image quality of Endless Night is lackluster. The transfer is anamorphic, with the original aspect ratio of 1.77:1, but it's apparent that no effort went into cleaning up the film before transferring it to DVD. There's a recurring flaw in the print: a vertical line from top to bottom of the image, about a third of the way from the left-hand side. This was visible, and distracting, during much of the movie.

The contrast was also not very good. Scenes with dark images sometimes were too dark, with image information lost in the blackness, while in other scenes, the image looked overexposed. There's some noise in the image as well, and it's not particularly sharp.

Sound

The sound quality is disappointing as well. The Dolby 2.0 mono sound should have been adequate, if not impressive, for this dialogue-driven film, but the sound is muffled on occasions, and the dialogue is not always clear. Additionally, it was necessary to crank the volume nearly to the maximum in order to get the DVD's sound to an acceptable level.

Extras

There's a trailer.

Final thoughts

Endless Night isn't a terrible film, exactly. The fact that it's a strange viewing experience isn't a fault; the problem is that it's directionless as well as strange, resulting in a rather unsatisfying viewing experience. It's worth a rental if you're in the mood for a vaguely surrealistic mystery movie, or if you've read the book and want to see how it was portrayed on the screen; otherwise, you'll probably want to pass.

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