He had a memory, a memory about her…
Mike Rogers shares his dreams and tells of the nightmare that unravelled them with his killer twist.
ENDLESS NIGHT (1972) ORIGINAL TRAILER, UNSEEN FILMS
Sadly, in those all-star murder mystery whodunnits, characters don’t get enough screen time. You long to delve into their minds and learn about their personalities. Or in the case of the murderer or suspect, you hope for enough time to analyse their full motivations for doing the deed. So to rectify this, I recommend watching one of Agatha Christie’s film adaptations at least twice. This is because it’s more than interesting to observe things from the point of view of the murderer and the others in the storyline on an individual basis.
Interestingly one such character from an Agatha Christie novel and film adaptation, Endless Night (1972) got the complete treatment. But I won’t tell you if he is a suspect or a murderer… Mike Rogers’ story is told in this film as he narrates events in a nearly full film flashback. This British film falls easily into a description of a British neo-noir.
Writer Andrew Spicer in his paper on European Film Noir defines this sub-genre HERE,
British neo-noirs are variations of the crime thriller, differentiated from more conventional films by their highly wrought visual style, an emphasis on moral ambiguity and psychological complexity, and often a deliberate blurring of the boundaries between reality and fantasy, subjectivity and objectivity…
and he separates this as a sub-genre of noir adding that,
British neo-noirs strive to capture the dynamism of American films combined with a detailed, and also highly critical, exploration of British social mores. They are also preoccupied with the complexities of masculinity male violence, neuroses and unstable identities.
In watching Endless Night, you will observe both these descriptions easily describe the characteristics of its protagonist, Mike Rogers in this compelling movie. In this novel, a departure from her detective novels, Christie wrote his character in the first person. This novel was adapted into a captivating neo-noir that always captivates and shocks you right to your core…
Endless Night has a bombastically dramatic opening score from Bernard Herrmann. The perfect composer as he also wrote more than a few Hitchcock compositions. The names of the cast and crew are shown during a night-time scene of a stormy night at sea with crashing waves against rocks. This I believe symbolises the inner torment of the murderer. It is a far cry from the similar scenes in daylight which open A Summer Place (1959)… yet both share romantic and wistful themes.
The narrator, Mike Rogers (Hywel Bennett) recalls the rolling hills and scenic views of Gypsy’s Acre and an abandoned house that’s found there. It’s in the English countryside, situated near a wee village in Market Chadwell. After seeing this place, Mike falls in love with this place at first sight. As he eloquently talks about this place, the accompanying cinematography shows this place as idyllic, to say the least.
He then sees a woman, Ellie (Hayley Mills) and then as he says her name calls her Darling, and she turns towards him. Her face increasingly looks more terrifying as this repeats. He screams like a wounded animal, and we discover this faceless man is talking with another man, both are seen from the waist down. The other man encourages him to talk about things. Knowing his companion’s love of art, the other man suggests to his companion to talk about his life from the beginning, as the “Portrait of the artist as a young man”…
Mike Rogers does just that and we see him for the first time. Mike is a young, boyishly handsome man who has a “love of beautiful things”. As he attends an art auction in London, Mike bids for a Renoir painting. He is soon is one of two in a bidding duel with another collector. But Mike loses out on the final bid. As he explains later to his mother, he gets a thrill from owning it for that short time between his bids. After Mike leaves the auction and gets into an expensive car, he’s revealed as the chauffeur.
Mike visits his mother (Madge Ryan), using this work car. He has a strained relationship with her, and she sees her son as a man who drifts from job to job. She is appalled at his behaviour at the auction and that he uses his work for his ends often altering the books. He feels she doesn’t know him and tells her that he hated being watched as a child.
She reminds him of a picture he had above his bed as a child, with an all-seeing eye on it and the text, Thou God Seest Me. This picture she states disappeared from his room, yet we saw this picture thrown in some water in a wee flashback earlier explaining its fate. His mother is surprised after Mike says he has some work abroad the following week with this job.
In the first of these jobs, Mike drives a Greek tycoon and his partner to meet their architect in Italy. But this couple has to leave as soon as they arrive. The architect, Santonix (Per Oscarsson) who has worked hard on his presentation offers to show Mike his plans. The two men build an instant rapport. Mike tells him about his dream to build a house on Gypsy’s Acre. Santonix confides he has not long to live but wants to see this location to think of ideas, and asks Mike to send him some photos…
Later that night, Mike travels on to his next job, a chauffeuring job in Rome. This is to take an American couple on a European tour. In Amsterdam, he drops them off at a hotel and visits a museum. Footsteps are heard as he admires Rembrandt’s De_Staalmeesters – a group portrait of some men – and in the narration, he adds about this painting,
“Those faces …so strong … so sure of their own respectability. They seem to be quietly sizing me up … and finding me wanting.”
Mike meets with these Americans later and apologises for his lateness. He is reprimanded as he did not pick up this couple as planned, and they missed their evening plans. He angrily tells them hr the husband to the red light district as he wanted, and loses his job.
He visits his mother who is surprised by his chirpiness, and as he cryptically tells her,
“If the wish can be willed, then perhaps the means will follow..”
Mike goes to take photos at Gypsy’s Acre for Santonix. While he’s there he sees Ellie (Hayley Mills) for the first time… This blonde and beautiful American girl literally dances into his camera gaze, and then she notices him. They both love this place, and Mike vividly describes to her his dreams and she listens to him attentively. Ellie is saddened to know he can’t fulfil his hopes… as he talks about his job as a rental car driver.
Ellie gets caught in some barbed wire while navigating a fence, and he helps her up and they fall into each other’s arms. The now romantic chemistry begins… and the chills as they believe they are being followed. A bizarrely dressed woman Mrs Townsend (Patience Collier) appears from nowhere. She tells her fears for Ellie and tells her to “leave this place before the harms done”. Mike tries to make light of her talk, but Ellie seems shaken.
Ellie opens up to Mike, and she tells him she’s an orphan with a controlling family headed by her stepmother Cora. He kisses her passionately… As they begin to part ways, he impulsively asks her into having tea with him at a local hotel. She joins him and is keen on a second date, saying her best friend and one-time teacher (and hated by her family), the German, Greta (Britt Ekland) will help them cover her tracks when they meet up…
Ellie can’t wait to introduce them, and she jokingly (and nervously) hopes he isn’t attracted to Greta. Mike reassures her and says he doesn’t like “cold, calculating Krauts” and wants to be with her as Ellie is,
“small and elfin … the kind that do funny little dances when they think nobody’s looking.. “
They arrange to meet up again at Gypsy’s Acre in three weeks. Ellie stands him up but apologises and tells him that she must meet him in London. When he meets her, he’s angry as he has discovered through the press she lied about her name. He’s discovered she is Fenella Thomsen and she is super rich.
Then she tells him she bought Gypsy’s Acre and adds that she and Greta met with Santonix about building a house there. Mike is livid and devastated that she has stolen his dream… Ellie cries, blaming her allergies and adds loves him (and stresses she must take her medication)… he softens and tells her a relationship between them won’t work, but she insists they try…
They get married in Wales and secret and then meet with Santonix who is designing their dream house at Gypsy’s Acre. Mike meets her family – her cold and unemotional stepmother Cora (Lois Maxwell), her husband Reuben (Peter Bowles) – who married her for her money – and her bespectacled Aunt Beth (Helen Horton) and Uncle Frank (David Bauer). The only friendly face is her lawyer, (Uncle) Andrew Lippincott tries to pay Mike off with a big sum for a quiet divorce, but Mike insists that he loves Ellie…
Ellie introduces him to Greta at Gypsy’s Acre, Mike is on his guard and later animosity grows between him and this German woman. Mike finds Greta controlling and feels she manipulates Ellie. Greta and Mike come to blows both privately and publicly after she moves in with them for a short while to help out after Ellie has a riding accident…
After the house is built, it boasts an inside pool, secret rooms and patio doors with one-way mirrors.Cora and Reuben visit unexpectedly and can’t see the Rogers and Santonix inside the house… Later a small rock is thrown at the house, and the dream shatters, with more unexpected warnings from the “psychic” Ms Townsend frightening Ellie.
Santonix visits and is now critically ill. He cryptically warns Mike to turn back while he can… and Mike looks haunted as he hears his wife’s song which includes the haunting lyrics of William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence, (and quoted from HERE)
Every night and every morn.
Some to misery are born.
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.
The pair then kiss tenderly and passionately like there’s no tomorrow… The next day Ellie takes her allergy tablets and rides out alone, as both Mike and Greta have left with plans for their day. Later Mike discovers Ellie was thrown off her horse, she’s dead and he believes she’s been murdered.
The character of Mike Rogers builds up through the film and this neo-noir character will leave a deep impression on you. We get a real grasp of his character through the flashbacks and flashbacks within this flashback. Mike’s love for owning an auctioned item for a short time is ominously foreshadowed in the plot as is the portrait, Rembrandt’s De Staalmeesters as we return to this museum visit once again.
Using a well-used neo-noir trope, of a poor man meeting a rich girl. who marry and then she dies suspiciously.. we learn Mike is a complex man and prone to guilt, with an unaccepting mother – who feels she knows her son’s traits more than him – as he has flashbacks of his childhood. It seems, Mike got on better with his father, who was also a dreamer.
Those childhood-themed flashbacks are seen when little present day coincidences and comments remind and haunt him. His intense love for Gypsy’s Acre leads us to learn more about this character and personality. His childhood echoes his past and his fear of being watched as Mike moves into his dream house with one-way windows where he can’t be watched. He’s spooked out by a housewarming present from Greta, a cat statue with reflecting eyes as he lives in his dream home. Ellie’s Aunt and Uncle peer at him and appear to judge him from behind their spectacles.
It’s clear Mike loves Ellie. Hywel Bennett convinces us of this fact with a facial gesture, a warm comment and a passionate kiss. It is just as clear from those others who have motives to kill… with anger from Ellie’s stepmother conveyed in Lois Maxwell’s frosty performance as Cora. Reuben feels his wife has been unfairly treated. This couple moves to a new home near the newlywed Rogers. Then Ellie’s sinister aunt and uncle who suddenly decide to visit. George Sanders as Andrew Lippincott seems the only genial character, who genuinely loves and wants the best for Ellie and for her husband who he seems to welcome, and he gives him advice.
But it is the enigmatic Santonix who gets my attention in every rewatch. His nonverbal behaviours, his first warm then later chilling comments to Mike, his unwavering hatred of Greta and the concerned expression in his eyes tell you a thousand words in every scene he’s in… It’s clear as he tells Mike, how much he loves Ellie and that he wants the best for her. Sadly we don’t see those scenes where Ellie meets him for the first time with Greta. But the future Mrs Mike Rogers clearly left him with a strong impression…
On my first impressions of Mike with Ellie, they are a picture of happiness… but who knows what goes on behind closed doors, as only a couple themselves know their true picture. Also, what other memories is Mike repressing? As in the lyrics of the title song from The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), The Windmills of your Mind say…
“Like a circle in a spiral Like a wheel within a wheel. Never ending or beginning. On an ever-spinning reel… Like the circles that you find. In the windmills of your mind… “.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦😦😦😦 😦 😦😦 😦 😦/10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: 0 /10
The Movies Are Murder Blogathon No 22
This film review was added to Classic Movie Blog Association’s Movies Are Murder Blogathon. Other reviews on this site include Endless Night was also reviewed HERE in relation to the soundtrack and HERE. Hywel Bennett in Twisted Nerve and Eastenders. Britt Ekland also starred in The Man with The Golden Gun and The Wicker Man. Hayley Mills in Appointment With Death, Deadly Strangers, The Parent Trap and Whistle Down the Wind. Lois Maxwell in Roger Moore’s James Bond Films. Peter Bowles in Tales of the Unexpected. George Sanders in Village of the Damned and Rebecca.