Friday, June 05, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Night My Number Came Up (1955) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

THE NIGHT MY NUMBER CAME UP (1955) is one of a pair of excellent British aviation films recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

Two weeks ago I reviewed the other of those films, THE SOUND BARRIER (1952).

THE NIGHT MY NUMBER CAME UP immediately became a candidate for my "Favorite Discoveries of 2020" list. I loved everything about it -- the cast, the look, the screenplay, the aviation theme, even the title. Small wonder to discover that it has a high 7.1 IMDb rating, out of over 800 votes.

The movie has been described by some as a mashup of aviation disaster film with THE TWILIGHT ZONE, and that's not off base, although I have to say that I rarely enjoy THE TWILIGHT ZONE; those stories, with their oddball, creepy "surprises" just aren't my thing. On the other hand, this film, while it has an otherworldly aspect, delighted me start to finish, right down to the last line.

The movie grabs the viewer from the opening scenes, when a British naval commander named Lindsay (Michael Hordern) rushes to an RAF base in Hong Kong with urgent information about a missing flight to Tokyo. He describes where he believes the search should take place but is evasive as to the reasons why. Nonetheless, the search is launched.

The action then shifts backward in time to Lindsay attending a recent dinner party at the home of Robbie Robertson (Alexander Knox). He recounts to the other guests a strange dream about a plane trip gone badly wrong; he presents it with vivid details, down to the number of passengers and the presence of a lone woman on the flight.

Air Marshal Hardie (Michael Redgrave, THE LADY VANISHES), another guest, is due to fly to Tokyo the next morning, and Robbie, who hates to fly, is a last-minute addition to the flight. They're not worried about Lindsay's dream, as they're flying in a Liberator, and the plane in the dream was a Dakota. And then the scheduled plane is switched to a Dakota...and they learn that Mary Campbell (Sheila Sim, A CANTERBURY TALE) will be the lone woman on the flight.

Everything in the dream seems to be coming true, bit by bit, but Robbie, Hardie, and Hardie's aide McKenzie (Denholm Elliott) are relieved when they safely reach their stopover for the evening. The number of passengers for the final leg of the flight the next morning won't match the dream...until someone urgently tries to book two seats on the plane...and the Air Marshal has to decide whether to give credence to the dream or let the men on the flight.

It's almost hard to describe the film, as nothing much happens for lengthy passages of time, yet I found it completely engaging thanks to the vividly sketched characters and engrossing, natural dialogue.

The movie also presents some interesting questions, ranging from "Would you get on the flight?" to free will versus destiny.

The final third of the film is gripping aviation suspense, in the tradition of other wonderful movies such as ISLAND IN THE SKY (1953), ZERO HOUR! (1957), and AIRPORT (1970), to name just three notable entries in the genre. I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect, particularly the interaction between Air Marshal Hardie and the pilot (Nigel Stock).

I found THE NIGHT MY NUMBER CAME UP a very enjoyable 94 minutes and believe anyone who shares my liking for films of this type will also find it excellent entertainment.

The supporting cast includes Ursula Jeans as Robbie's wife. Jeans was the sister of actress Isabel Jeans and the wife of Roger Livesey (I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING!). Doreen Aris plays Robbie's daughter.

THE NIGHT MY NUMBER CAME UP was directed by Leslie Norman and filmed in black and white by filmed by Lionel Banes. The screenplay by R.C. Sherriff was based on a story by Victor Goddard.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray is a lovely print. The disc also features the trailer, two additional trailers for films available from Kino Lorber, and a commentary track by Samm Deighan which I hope to listen to in the very near future.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Filmperlen said...

I watched this film three years ago and was also quite impressed with its first two thirds. Unfortunately, the last part ruined it for me with the story line becoming suddenly foreseeable towards the ending.
Nevertheless - great review, thanks! It made me appreciate the film's qualities.

1:19 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

The intriguing title is a draw and your review definitely has cemented a desire to check out this movie with such an incredible cast.

5:37 AM  
Blogger DKoren said...

oooh! I've never heard of this but the title and your description has also made me really want to see it. This sounds fascinating!

8:30 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all for your comments! I'm glad to know Filmperlen also (mostly) enjoyed it, and I hope you can check it out, Caftan Woman and Deb! Such fun to discover a movie like this. :)

Best wishes,

10:32 AM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Really glad you liked the film,Laura, including the parts where nothing much happens yet is engrossing due to a fine screenplay by playright, R.C. Sheriff,and underplaying by fine actors like Redgrave, Elliott, Hordern, Stock etc. Another film from the great Ealing Studios.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

It was a treat, Jerry! What an amazing cast, indeed.

Really fortunate that Kino Lorber has been bringing out a number of British-made films this year. I have more in my stack thanks to their latest British noir boxed set!

Best wishes,

10:58 AM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

That KL British Noir set is a dandy, Laura! Five good films, all of which I do have and really like, perhaps especially "THE OCTOBER MAN" (1947) starring long-time Brit favourite, John Mills. A real gripper!

2:14 PM  
Blogger dfordoom said...

THE NIGHT MY NUMBER CAME UP is a fantastic and shamefully overlooked little movie.

But then I adore any aviation movie!

11:42 AM  

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