THE NIGHT MY NUMBER CAME UP (Leslie Norman, 1955)

According to this British airflight thriller, the Chinese are “medieval” in their “superstitiousness,” believing that nightmares are premonitions of disaster. The flight in question, in The Night My Number Came Up, is from Bangkok to Tokyo. Its details, including a deadly storm, are shared at a Hong Kong dinner party, and the flight the next day, one by one, begins to conform to these details, in some cases, seemingly impossibly, out of the blue. Some who scoffed at the dream’s validity aren’t so dismissive now. Another problem: You know how pudding-headed pilots are. It was definitely a bad idea for someone to have shared the dream with the pilot, who is starting to crack up.
     Written by R.C. Sherriff from an article by Victor Goddard, this film is directed by someone I never heard of: Leslie Norman. I note my ignorance in the matter because he has done a crackerjack job. This is one of the most terrifying films in creation. It isn’t about anything, really; there is no thematic substance. (Some may disagree, arguing that the detour for one important passenger to see Nagasaki and Hiroshima must mean something.) But as an exercise in pure suspense, it bloody well shakes the pulse. Those who love the also-British Dead of Night (1945) should especially apply.
     An excellent cast, including Michael Redgrave as a composed air marshal rather than a batty ventriloquist, delights throughout.

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