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Dead of Night$
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Jez Conolly and David Owain Bates

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780993238437

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9780993238437.001.0001

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‘You don’t know what Hugo’s capable of’

‘You don’t know what Hugo’s capable of’

(p.95) ‘You don’t know what Hugo’s capable of’
Dead of Night

Jez Conolly

David Owain Bates

Liverpool University Press

This chapter studies Dead of Night's most potent and well-remembered story, ‘Ventriloquist's Dummy’ directed by Alberto Cavalcanti. The peculiar three-way relationship between the ventriloquist Maxwell Frere (Michael Redgrave), his dummy ‘Hugo’, and rival ventriloquist Sylvester Kee (Hartley Power) raises many fascinating issues concerning masculinity. Indeed, this relationship has come to be regarded as a metaphorical homosexual love triangle. If one reads the ‘courtship’ of Frere by Kee as being indirectly enacted through his interest in Hugo, it is straightforward enough. What makes the theme more compelling is Frere's tortured jealousy of his Hugo persona. The chapter then traces the origins of bestowing animacy upon inanimate objects and the relationship this has to the concept of the Uncanny. It also considers the ‘fourth man’ in this story, the ‘doubting Thomas’ psychiatrist Doctor Van Straaten (Frederick Valk), responsible for the telling of the tale and the rational foil to Walter Craig and the other guests throughout the film as they share their respective supernatural experiences.

Keywords:   Dead of Night, Ventriloquist's Dummy, Alberto Cavalcanti, ventriloquism, masculinity, love triangle, Uncanny

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