Sidney Gilliat’s 1972 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1967 mystery novel, Endless Night is an intriguing film in how it unveils itself, but it’s not wholly successful in what it attempts to achieve. Almost Hitchockian in tone – in part thanks to the Bernard Herrmann score – Gilliat’s film lacks a central focus, often meandering when it should be more precise so that it can build tension. Plot deviations may work in a novel but a much more streamlined narrative is necessary for a film such as this. These issues don’t make Endless Night a bad film, it’s just that they stop it from being a very good one.
Endless Night has a strong line-up of actors who all deliver solid turns, even if their character motivations always seem a little vague. Hayley Mills and Hywel Bennett play the young couple who build their dream house in the English Countryside (designed by Per Oscarsson’s dying architect). Their honeymoon period hits a rough patch when Britt Ekland moves in and causes friction in the relationship. Aside from the main cast, Endless Night also features a wonderful line-up of supporting actors including George Sanders, Peter Bowles, Windsor Davies and even Miss Moneypenny herself – Lois Maxwell.
What ultimately hobbles Endless Night is that it’s a thriller without any real thrills and a mystery where nothing mysterious really happens. The plot is there (it’s based on an Agatha Christie novel, how could it not) but Gilliat is more interested just letting characters do things rather than focusing on the mechanics of the story. There’s no drive, just listless meandering. Endless Night isn’t bad and it’s worth watching for the finale – which in itself feels a little rushed due to lazy pace of what precedes it.
A curiosity rather than essential viewing, Endless Night is worth 95 minutes of your time. The performances are good, the production design is intriguing and the Bernard Herrmann score is great.
The limited Indicator Series release from Powerhouse films features a new restoration of Endless Night from a 4K scan. The blu-ray comes with a British Entertainment History Project interview with Sidney Gilliat from 1990 which runs a punchy 100 minutes (longer than the film). It also features a vintage 53 minute talk with Bernard Herrmann (recorded in 1972), a new interview with Hayley Mills and other pieces on Hermann’s music. A brilliant package.