This double-feature disc is a bit unusual, containing two separate discs in a wide box rather than two movies on two sides of a DVD. The price is more than right, as either of these movies could sustain a full-priced release on its own, and the box even comes with a handy booklet containing historical essays on both movies. Dead of Night (1945), produced by Michael Balcon and directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, and Robert Hamer, is the better known of the two movies, and perhaps the most popular and respected horror movie to come out of England prior to the advent of the Hammer Films horror era of the late '50s. The film appeared very briefly on laserdisc during the late '80s in a clean but otherwise unremarkable edition that disappeared very quickly. The edition at hand is well transferred off of a very clean source, with some signs of slight framing problems that have been corrected in the transfer in some of the early sections of the movie. There is some detail lacking in the wide shots, but the medium shots and close-ups, apart from a few light blemishes in the film elements, are generally better. At 19 minutes in, there is also a decided shift to a softer image with some of the detail washed out, as though there is suddenly too much light being pumped through the print. Then, at 20 minutes and 25 seconds, in a series of dissolves into another sequence, the tone of the film elements changes yet again, remaining soft; and at 22 minutes in, the image sharpens up and the contrasts deepen again. There are other moments like that throughout the movie, but not quite as jarring, as all of those shifts take place in a matter of a few minutes. There are inconsistencies in the ghost sequence, but those can be chalked up to the nature of the scene and the shooting. At 36 minutes in, however, the image gets grainy and vertical lines appear intermittently, and there are similar inconsistencies elsewhere. Additionally, the audio has been mastered at a very low volume level, and yet, the title music is nearly overloaded to the point of distortion in the opening credits. The bonus features, accessible through a simple two-layer menu, consist of publicity and production stills broken into two groups and augmented by some poster art. The 103-minute movie has been given 19 chapters which are well chosen in terms of dividing and delineating the plot.
Thorold Dickinson's The Queen of Spades (1948) has fared far better over time, with a much better source print and a volume level that is generally a bit higher than that of Dead of Night. The actual print quality isn't necessarily that much better so much as it is consistent throughout, capturing the richness of Otto Heller's cinematography. The movie was always a delight to the eye, and the disc does it full justice, justifying the purchase of this set by itself. The disc also includes the original trailer, which is fascinating -- the producers, not willing to "sell" the film using Pushkin's name as the author of the underlying story, instead pushed the producer, Anatole de Grunwald, and, to a lesser degree, Dame Edith Evans, Ronald Howard, and Anton Walbrook among the cast members. There is also a manually advancing array of publicity and production stills. The disc opens automatically on a simple two-layer menu that offers the bonuses on a separate access level. ~ Bruce Eder, All Movie Guide