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Endless Night, directed by Sidney Gilliat in 1972 (the director's final feature film) adapts the 1967 novel of the same name by famed mystery/thriller author Agatha Christie. The story introduces us to Michael Rogers (Hywel Bennett), an ambitious young man who wants nothing more in life than to be fabulously wealthy and take ownership of Gipsy's Acre, a beautiful spot of land in the countryside. In order to make his fantasy a reality, he winds up marring a young woman named Ellie Thomsen (Hayley Mills), who comes from very rich stock indeed. In fact, Ellie has just become a legal adult and is no longer under the thumb of her stepmother, Cora (Lois Maxwell), and Cora's greedy husband Reuben (Peter Bowles). It also doesn't hurt things much, for Michael, the Ellie is an heiress.
Regardless, their marriage seems quite sound at first and they seem quite happy to pay handsomely an architect named Santonix (Per Oscarsson) to get out to design the home they've always wanted. Of course, as all of this plays out, the purity of Michael's real motivations towards his lovely new bride come to light. Ellie, quite naïve, remains blissfully unaware of anything being out of sorts, but when a woman named Greta (Britt Ekland), who has ties to her husband's past, arrives to stay with them for a while, strange things start to happen while supporting characters like nasty neighbor Miss Townsend (Patience Collier), American lawyer Andrew Lippincott (George Sanders) and local Dr. Philpott (Aubrey Richards) skulk about... and then someone winds up dead.
Although it takes a good hour or so for the first murder in the picture to happen, Sidney Gilliat does a fine job keeping the audience interested in the characters that populate the story. We're interested in these people and it's fun to question their motives as they're introduced and as we learn more about them. Once death rears its ugly head, there's no shortage of suspects to ponder, and the film offers up enough foreshadowing and quirky character traits in its early stage to hold our attention. The movie winds up being paced quite well, and the film's conclusion is a strong one, delivering a great twist that most won't see coming.
Haley Mills is quite good as the female lead. She certainly looks the part, she's cute and charming, and she manages to create a character that comes across as genuinely naïve, rather than just flat out dim (even if her accent isn't always on point). Hywel Bennett, who also serves as the film's occasional narrator, also delivers very strong work in the picture, getting more screen time than anyone else (even if Mills gets top billing over him!). we buy him in the part without any issues. Supporting players are all pretty strong across the board, with lovely Britt Ekland providing an interesting character, and George Sanders doing a great job as the hang-about lawyer even if he doesn't get as much screen time here as you might hope.
The film might not be as tense of suspenseful as better-known Christie adaptations like And Then There Were None, Ten Little Indians or Murder On The Orient Express but it definitely makes for fine entertainment. On top of everything else, the picture also benefits immensely from an excellent score from Bernard Herrman and some very strong cinematography from Harry Waxman.
Endless Night arrives on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics taking up 31GBs of space on a 50GB disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen taken from a new 4k restoration. It looks very good, showing excellent detail and very nice color reproduction. Skin tones look lifelike and accurate and we get good black levels throughout. There is some noticeable print damage that shows up from time to time, however. Some natural film grain is present, as it should be. There' good depth, detail and texture noticeable throughout and the image is free of any obvious compression issues, noise reduction problems or edge enhancement. All in all, the picture quality here is quite good.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. The track is clean and nicely balanced, letting the score really rise to occasion quite nicely. Dialogue is always easy to understand and there are no audible issues with any hiss or distortion to note. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.
The main extra on the disc is a new audio commentary with Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson. This talk covers a good bit of ground, covering Bernard Herrmann's work when the score kicks in and also discussing Agatha Christie's novel that inspired the film and how it compares to the picture. There's lots of talk about the cast and crew and about the cinematography, it's distribution history and box office, and quite a bit more. No dead air here, these guys do a fine job digging through the film and its history.
Aside from that, we get a theatrical trailer for the feature, bonus trailers for a few other Kino Lorber properties, menus and chapter selection.
Endless Night is a solid adaptation of one of Christie's more unusual works, but it's a decent mystery and quite an entertaining film with some nice direction and quality performances. Kino's Blu-ray looks and sounds very nice and the commentary is a good listen. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.