By far the best episode in Dead of Night is Hamers, concerning a mirror in which Ralph Michael sees the reflection of a much older room where a murder was committed. Also starring the admirable Googie Withers, the episode exploits the magical possibilities of mirrors and interiors and is swift and frightening. For several years Hamer lived up to that debut, even if he made black comedies rather than suspenseful subjects. He started as an editor in 1935 and worked on Vessel of Wrath (38, Erich Pommer), Jamaica Inn (39, Alfred Hitchcock), and Ships with Wings (41, Sergei Nolbandov).
Of his earlier films four are exceptional: It Always Bains on Sunday has an ambitious structure and a true feeling for the East End underworld; Pink String and Sealing Wax is a fond recreation of Victoriana with Googie Withers, again, as a Brighton poisoner; The Spider and the Fly is a gripping study of complicity and duplicity set in France at the beginning of the First World War; Kind Hearts and Coronets is an English classic, with an elaborate but lightly borne scheme of flashbacks. Its comedy is at the expense of English eccentricity, tied to the alien, amoral, but appealing hero figure played by Dennis Price. It also introduced Hamer to Alec Guinness, a pairing that was restored for Father Brown, To Paris With Love, and The Scapegoat.
Those later films are all disappointing, and one has the feeling that Hamer needed more discipline to concentrate his stvle. It should be added that Hamer’s career was blighted by alcoholism, and that he now looks like the most serious miscarriage of talent in the postwar British cinema. In the year he died, he was credited for additional dialogue on Fifty-Five Days at Peking (Nicholas Ray).