Monday, September 9, 2019

DREAM NO EVIL (1970) Blu-ray Review

Dream No Evil (1970) d. John Hayes (USA) (84 min)

This offbeat, Psycho-inspired offering from writer/director Hayes (Grave of the Vampire, Garden of the Dead) is a meandering examination of young orphan Grace’s lifelong desire to track down her father (Oscar-winner Edmond O’Brien). After encountering our emotionally battered heroine in a pre-credits sequence, we flash forward and find a grown-up and curvaceous Grace (now played by Brooke Mills) dazzling the assembled masses via her high-fall act within a traveling salvation show headed by charismatic preacher Jessie (Michael Pataki), who just happens to be the brother of Grace’s beloved betrothed, Patrick (Paul Prokop).

Patrick is eager to marry, or more precisely, eager to get to his marriage bed, but Grace’s obsession with finding her blood relation holds sway, leading her to a strange combo of funeral home/bordello where she finds poor pater on the slab. Wouldn’t you know it, just as the mortician (hatchet-faced character man Marc Lawrence) is about to tap the embalming fluid, Dad is up and walking around and plunging scalpels where they don’t belong, then he and Grace hole up at a deserted ranch house on the outskirts of town.

The extended dreamlike scenes of Grace communing with her long-lost parent might have successfully raised the intended piquant question of “is she crazy or isn’t she?”… except for the fact that somebody somewhere decided in their infinite wisdom that the film would be much more appealing to general audiences with the addition of an offscreen narrator throughout, especially one that tells us how “Grace has begun to slip into a realm of fantasy.” This ongoing, dumbed-down explanation of onscreen events and character motivations kills nearly any suspense Hayes has attempted to cultivate.

Happily, there is enough sheer weirdness on hand to keep fans of outsider cinema occupied, but for general horror fans, it’s a bit of a drag. It’s also a shame to see actor O’Brien (Seven Days in May, The Wild Bunch) near the end of his once-respected career – he would only appear in two more feature films before his death in 1985 – trying to wring some sort of meaning from Hayes’ cryptic dialogue.


Audio commentary with Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan

“Melancholy Dreamer” with author/curator Stephen Thrower (Nightmare USA) (9 min)

“Hollywood After Dark: The Early Films of John Hayes,” a brand new video essay by Stephen Thrower looking at Hayes’ filmography (1959-1971), leading up to Dream No Evil (34 min)

“Edmond O’Brien: An Actor for All Seasons” with writer and film historian Chris Poggiali (22 min)

Archival 2005 audio interview with actress Rue McClanahan (The Golden Girls), conducted by Stephen Thrower, discussing her cinematic collaborations with director John Hayes (30 min)

Dream No Evil is available now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video (along with Dark August and The Child as part of its American Horror Project Vol. 2 and can be ordered HERE:


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