NIGHTMARE. (1964) DIRECTED BY FREDDIE FRANCIS. WRITTEN AND PRODUCED BY JIMMY SANGSTER. STARRING JENNIE LINDEN, MOIRA REDMOND, CLYTIE JESSOP, BRENDA BRUCE, GEORGE A. COOPER, IRENE RICHMOND AND DAVID KNIGHT.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This is a terrific old vintage Hammer Horror that’s similar in theme to another of their films, TASTE OF FEAR (1961), in that it deals with a woman who is a victim of the phenomenon known as ‘gaslighting.’
The term derives from the 1938 Patrick Hamilton play GASLIGHT and the two subsequent film adaptations of the play in 1940 and 1944. The 1944 film starred Ingrid Bergman and was a huge hit.
The term ‘gaslighting’ means to make another person doubt their own sanity or perceptions of reality by, basically, playing tricks on them and causing them to think that they’re losing their mind. It’s a nasty, despicable thing to do and is nearly always carried out for nefarious reasons and not for good ones.
Women are usually the victims and men the perpetrators, certainly in films anyway. I suppose you could ‘gaslight’ a man but it would just be harder, naturally, in view of their being made of sterner stuff than we hysterical, weak-minded females, who are so vulnerable and impressionable compared to our male overlords. Hahaha…
Anyway, NIGHTMARE is a gorgeously gothic and atmospheric black-and-white horror film in which a young woman at boarding/finishing school, Janet, is haunted by the shadowy memories of something that happened to her in her past.
Janet saw her mother stab her father to death when she was only eleven years old. The mother was declared insane and locked up in an asylum for life. Janet not only has the nightmares about the stabbing to contend with, but she’s also plagued with the most terrible fears that she’s going to end up like her mother, that she’ll inherit her mother’s insanity and end up going out of her mind and being incarcerated for life just like her Mum. They do say that these things run in the family, don’t they?
A nervous, impressionable young girl like Janet, with all her doubts and fears and issues regarding her traumatic past, would be a prime candidate for a spot of gaslighting. After a particularly severe bout of nightmares, Janet is sent home from school and back to High Towers, her old home, where she is now under the care of a man called Henry Baxter. Quite how he became her guardian after the death of her father and the incarceration of her mother I’m not exactly sure, but her guardian he indisputably is and he decides what’s good for her.
Accompanied by her teacher, Miss Lewis, Janet returns to High Towers to be greeted by the housekeeper, Mrs. Gibbs, and the chauffeur-cum-gardener-cum-handyman John, played by the wonderful character actor George A. Cooper. These two are old family retainers and are faithful friends to Janet and staunch defenders of hers as well. They give her all their loyalty, which is lovely to see.
There’s a new member of staff at High Towers now too though, an attractive nurse called Grace Maddox whom Henry Baxter has hired to be Janet’s ‘companion.’ Once she’s installed back home, however, Janet’s nightmares only seem to worsen.
Now she’s seeing a white-shrouded woman with a hideously scarred face roaming around the house wherever she looks. Janet feels like she’s going crazy with fear and doubt. These visions culminate in a horrible, unforeseen murder at High Towers. Who is the murder victim?
And who is the real victim here, the victim of a cruelly sadistic gaslighting campaign that causes a young woman to be locked up in an insane asylum and two vicious murderers to crawl out from under their stones for a brief period of basking in their mutual cleverness?
Of course, the evildoers in films nearly always get their richly-deserved come-uppances, as you know, and NIGHTMARE is no exception to this rule. I won’t tell you what happens but the ending is brilliantly worked out.
Those ingenious Hammer lads, Freddie Francis and Jimmy Sangster, have done it again. NIGHTMARE is well worth your time, and it’s vintage Hammer gold as well. Make sure you watch it.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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