A timid young bank teller wakes from a murderous nightmare to find it’s true. (Pine-Thomas Productions 1949, Directed by Maxwell Shane 72 mins).
Fear in the Night, is a very good b-thriller-cum-noir, based on a Cornell Woolrich story, Nightmare, adapted for the screen by the director, Maxwell Shane, and shot by cinematographer Jack Greenhalgh. The movie was remade less successfully in 1956 as Nightmare by the same director and production company.
The direction is tight and the action never lags over 72 minutes, with inventive camera work by Greenhalgh that creates exactly the dark signature mood of the Woolrich story. The nightmare scenes are powerful and the use of voice-over narration flashback adds to the mystery. The performance of noir regular Paul Kelly as a cop with a conflict of interest is on target, and the troubled protagonist is well-played by De Forest Kelley, with good support from Ann Doran as his sister, and Kay Scott as his girl-friend.
I found the performance of bit-player Scott in her first role as Betty Winter, particularly engaging: her portrayal is so unaffected that the whole bizarre story seems real and grounded in the familiar. Her incomprehension at her boyfriend’s paranoia and strange behavior, and the dark mood established by the deft camera work and direction, establish exactly the nightmare Woolrich world of existential dread.
A strong climax with a doomed car-chase at night nicely ends the action. Definitely a B+.