Directed by: Leslie Norman
Countries & Regions: United Kingdom
Length: 91 mins
Released: 29 March 2010
Cat No: OPTD1710
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The Night My Number Came Up is one hell of a ride: a suspense yarn with a supernatural flavour that builds to a terrifying climax.
The opening scenes are shrouded in mystery. Commander Lindsay (Michael Hordern) barges into an RAF base in Hong Kong and demands to see the officer in charge. He thinks he knows where a missing plane has downed, but he won’t say how. In flashback, we find out.
It is the week before, and Lindsay is recounting a chilling dream in which a flight carrying eight passengers, including air marshal Michael Redgrave and civil servant Alexander Knox, crashes by a snowy fishing village, with all lives lost. At first, they laugh it off, but as the film unfolds, each detail of the premonition seems to slot into place, until they’re hurtling through a storm in the pitch black, their fuel supplies perilously low and with nowhere to land.
It’s an ominous, insidiously eerie film with an ingenious script from Journey’s End playwright R.C. Sherriff, supposedly based on real events. The characters, from cool-headed Redgrave to nervy war hero Denholm Elliot, neurotic first-time flyer Knox and showy salesman George Rose, are neatly etched, each with a clever back story and a different take on the question of fate. Knox wants to tinker with the passenger list, Rose wants to throttle the pilot and Redgrave – though sceptical about the supernatural – isn’t sure he’s going to sleep tonight.
The tight, atmospheric direction boasts tremendous use of sound, employing a portentous score and Hordern’s words of warning to often startling ends. The actor had a unique gift for voiceover – witness the gold dust he sprinkled over Young Sherlock Holmes through nostalgic narration – and he’s just the man you want to soundtrack your worst fears.
This is another gem from Ealing Studios and further proof of the film factory’s ability to craft unforgettable dramas as well as first-rate comedic fare. Not that The Night My Number Came Up is without humour. Its pay-off line, with more than a nod to past hits Dead of Night and Green for Danger, is both absolutely petrifying and utterly hilarious.