The Night Digger

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The Night Digger
Night digger.jpg
original film poster
Directed byAlastair Reid
Produced byAlan D. Courtney
Screenplay byRoald Dahl
Based onNest in a Fallen Tree
by Joy Cowley
StarringPatricia Neal
Pamela Brown
Nicholas Clay
Jean Anderson
Christopher Reynalds
Peter Sallis
Music byBernard Herrmann
CinematographyAlex Thomson
Edited byJohn Bloom
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • 12 May 1971 (1971-05-12) (U.S.)
Running time
110 min
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Night Digger is a 1971 British thriller film based on the novel Nest in a Fallen Tree by Joy Cowley.[1] It was adapted by Roald Dahl and starred his then wife Patricia Neal.[2] The Night Digger was the American title; it was originally released in the United Kingdom as The Road Builder.[3]


In a decaying mansion on the outskirts of London, middle-aged spinster Maura Prince (Patricia Neal) lives a life of drudgery caring for her blind and domineering mother (Pamela Brown). Into their dysfunctional lives, a handsome stranger appears, riding on a motorbike and looking for work as a handyman. Young Billy Jarvis (Nicholas Clay) soon makes himself indispensable around the house, but his angelic features mask dysfunctions that threaten both women's lives.


Critical reception[edit]

In a contemporary review, the New York Times wrote, "It begs for empathy for its tortured principals, but despite the clearly dedicated contributions of Patricia Neal, Roald Dahl, her scenarist-husband; Pamela Brown and a young newcomer, Nicholas Clay, the strain on credibility is a good deal more notable than the impact on the emotions";[4] while more recently, DVD Talk wrote, "The Night Digger doesn't carry much of a reputation, but I found it highly unusual, and more than satisfying";[5] Cinema Retro called it "an underrated gem";[6] and the Radio Times concluded, "director Alastair Reid's neo-Grand Guignol chamber piece exudes a peculiar fascination";[7]


  1. ^ "The Night Digger (1971)".
  2. ^ "The Road Builder aka The Night Digger". Turner Classic Movies.
  3. ^ "The Night Digger".
  4. ^
  5. ^ "DVD Savant Review: The Night Digger".
  6. ^ "DVD REVIEW: "THE NIGHT DIGGER" STARRING PATRICIA NEAL - Celebrating Films of the 1960s & 1970s".
  7. ^ "The Road Builder – review - cast and crew, movie star rating and where to watch film on TV and online". Radio Times.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]