Nightmare – UK, 1963 – overview and reviews

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‘Three shocking murders did she dream them? …or do them?’

Nightmare is a 1963 [released April 1964] British psychological thriller horror film from Hammer Films, co-financed by Universal International. The film was directed in glorious black and white “Hammercope” by Freddie Francis from a screenplay by producer Jimmy Sangster. David Knight, Moira Redmond, Jennie Linden and Brenda Bruce star.

Jennie Linden was an eleventh-hour casting choice replacing Julie Christie (Don’t Look Now) who dropped out to appear in Billy Liar. This was the final film performance of American actor David Knight who subsequently focused on theatre work.

Principal filming took place in and around Bray Studios in Berkshire from 17 December 1962 to 31 January 1963 and heavy snow affected most of the location shoots.


On 28 November 2016, Final Cut Entertainment released the film on Blu-ray in the UK with special features:

  • Nightmare in the Making
  • Jennie Linden Remembers


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Janet is a teenage student attending boarding school named Hatcher’s School for Young Girls. After a number of nightmares concerning her mother, whom she saw kill her father when she was young, the troubled young woman is sent home to her guardian, Attorney Henry Baxter. At home, she is assigned a nurse. Janet begins having more nightmares this time concerning an unknown woman with a scar and a birthday cake. The dreams get worse and worse.

Finally, her guardian brings home his wife, whom Janet has never met. Janet is introduced to the woman at her birthday celebration. The cake and woman from her dreams with the scar appearing at once are enough to make Janet snap. She kills the woman by stabbing her – the same way her mother killed her father. Janet is committed.

Meanwhile, her guardian Henry and the nurse, who was disguised to look like the woman with a scar to drive Janet mad, celebrate the loss of Janet. However, the two will not go unpunished…



A heavily manipulative plot by way of Diabolique, delightfully overwrought performances from most of the leads and stylish black and white imagery from Freddie Francis and John Wilcox make Nightmare one of the most enjoyable 60s Psycho-influenced thrillers, alongside Paranoiac and Dementia 13. 

Adrian J Smith, MOVIES & MANIA

Other reviews:

This may be only a low-budget thriller and the twists may be a bit mechanical (if ingenious) but there is a polished sheen to the film that compensates for the basic absurdity of the premise (the plans of the conspirators are full of holes and incredibly unlikely to succeed).” Tipping My Fedora

“Francis’s direction is professional and he makes good use of starkly contrasted black and white images which are particularly suited to the ghostly appearances of a woman-in-white played by Jessop…” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“It doesn’t push the limits of the horror of personality subgenre (Hitchcock still remains the master) and it has been unfairly overshadowed by the studio’s color monster movies, but it does give the psychological horror film a heavy gothic makeover, throws in some “ghosts,” and petrifies anyone who hates creepy old dolls.” Steve Habrat, Anti-Film School


Buy Blu-ray:

Nightmare, despite all evidence to the contrary, ends up being one of Hammer’s most well-crafted and influential films. It is one of the few horror films that have actually surprised me and kept me guessing right up until the end. I highly recommend it for all fans of classic horror and people of good suspense.” Jenn Dlugos,

” … doesn’t manage to successfully square its show-stopping central conceit. It remains notable, however for its atmospheric title sequence – the credits appear throughout a protracted stagger around a dank asylum.” Marcus Hearn, Alane Barnes, The Hammer Story

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“Though it has been undervalued, it is more than passable entertainment […] Despite some effective moments, Nightmare is fairly easily forgotten.” Tom Johnson, Deborah Del Vecchio, Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography

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“Little of it would work without effective cinematography, which fortunately is first rate. Nightmare’s gaudy use of light and shadow is reminiscent of Ealing’s Dead of Night, even from the opening scene during which an asylum corridor becomes something far more sinister and claustrophobic.” The Big Whatsit

nightmare_1964_poster_01“At its most effective, it’s incredible, leaving several icy, beautifully shot images firmly embedded in the brain which epitomise, maybe more than anywhere else with the exception of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, the concept of the ‘crazy mad-woman’ with which we now are so familiar.” D.R. Shimon, The Shrieking Sixties: British Horror Films 1960 – 1969

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“The film’s second half, which plays like a straightforward whodunit, may not be as polished as those early scenes in which an excellent Linden brings pathos and hysteria to the fore, but it does give Moira Redmond, playing Janet’s nurse with a hidden agenda, a chance to strut her stuff.” Kultguy’s Keep


Choice dialogue:

“Where does the dream finish and reality begin?”

“Mummy was very ill.”

Cast and characters:

  • David Knight … Henry Baxter
  • Moira Redmond … Grace Maddox
  • Jennie Linden … Janet
  • Brenda Bruce … Mary Lewis
  • George A. Cooper … John – Doomwatch; Dracula Has Risen from the Grave
  • Clytie Jessop … Woman in White; The Innocents
  • Irene Richmond … Mrs Gibbs
  • John Welsh … Doctor
  • Timothy Bateson … Barman
  • Elizabeth Dear … Janet as a Child
  • Isla Cameron … Mother (uncredited)
  • Julie Samuel … Maid (uncredited)
  • Hedger Wallace … Sir Dudley (uncredited)

Filming locations:

Bray Studios, Berkshire, England


The film’s original title was Here the Knife, Dear – Now Use It

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