Home » Nothing but the Night Retrospective – A Lost Classic

Nothing but the Night Retrospective – A Lost Classic

Poster for Peter Sasdy's Nothing but the Night.
Poster for Nothing but the Night.

Nothing but the Night begins with a series of mysterious deaths befalling the board members of an orphanage. A police officer (Christopher Lee) and a physician (Peter Cushing) team up to investigate. What they discover is much more shocking than anything they could have possibly imagined.

Nothing but the Night is a clever blend of horror and suspense. The killer’s identity and his or her motives are a complete mystery until the final scenes unfold. It walks the line between horror film and murder mystery and will likely appeal to fans of both genres.

Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are perfect together in Nothing but the Night. It’s a pleasure to see them re-team. The pair can communicate more with a single facial expression than most onscreen duos can convey with an entire conversation. Their chemistry is undeniable and both performers deliver memorable performances.

The film’s pace is certainly slow burn and while that may be off-putting to some viewers, the wait is will be worth the while for patient viewers. The ride to the third act is filled with twists and turns to keep the audience guessing along the way. The conclusion is entirely unexpected until moments before the twist is uncovered. The big reveal offers a stunning realization that would not be out of place in a science fiction film. Some fans will find the ending of Nothing but the Night preposterous but I think it’s on point.

Nothing but the Night is directed by B-Movie auteur Peter Sasdy and adapted for the screen by Brian Hayles. It is based on a John Blackburn novel of the same name. The tome translates to the screen quite well and Peter Sasdy proves to be a director that gives his performers the room to do what they do best. It’s apparent that he has faith in his highly capable leads and Cushing and Lee don’t disappoint. Sasdy puts heavy emphasis on atmosphere, which is crucial for the success of slow burn horror and his efforts pay off.

The film is produced by Christopher Lee’s production Company, Charlemagne Productions. Unfortunately, Nothing but the Night is the only title ever produced under that banner. Lee proves highly competent in the dual role of actor and producer so it’s unfortunate that he didn’t go on to produce more titles under the Charlemagne label.

Nothing but the Night isn’t reliant on carnage. It is much more focused on building atmosphere than delivering epic kill scenes. There’s very little violence in this slow burn horror film. The body count is kept fairly low and the deaths that do transpire throughout the course of the film are pretty tame. But the film doesn’t suffer as a result of this approach. It is successful in creating tension and keeps the viewer on his or her toes until the credits are rolling.

The cinematography has its ups and downs. There are some stunning scenes featuring the European countryside but there are some very bland shots that don’t complement the wardrobe or the set pieces at all. The bland cinematography is probably the films biggest shortcoming but it’s not so dreary that it will derail the whole film. It just serves as a missed opportunity.

Nothing but the Night makes some interesting social commentary about our society and its obsession with youth. The observations are right on point and give the movie a modicum of depth that isn’t always present in horror cinema.

Nothing but the Night is somewhat of a lost classic. It was largely forgotten until a recent re-issue from Scorpion Releasing.  The Scorpion DVD presents a startling lack of special features but it’s still nice to have the film on a Region 1 DVD with a clean transfer. If you haven’t seen Nothing but the Night, it is another fine outing with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing that most horror fans will find worthwhile.

WICKED RATING: 6/10

Director(s): Peter Sasdy
Writer(s): Brian Hayles, John Blackburn
Stars: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing
Year: 1973
Studio/ Production Co: Charlemagne Productions
Budget: Unknown
Language: English
Length: 90 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Supernatural Horror

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Written by Tyler Doupé
Tyler Doupe' is the managing editor at Wicked Horror. He has previously penned for Fangoria Mag, Rue Morgue Mag, FEARnet, Fandango, ConTV, Ranker, Shock Till You Drop, ChillerTV, ComingSoon, and more. He lives with his husband, his dogs, and cat hat(s).
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