Friday, October 02, 2015

The Night Has Eyes (1942)

Sometimes you can stumble upon a movie in the most unlikely of circumstances. I came across this one for the first time about 20 years ago, when I found a VHS copy from Goodtimes Home Video at a tent sale in a shopping mall parking lot in Pennsylvania. It sounded interesting enough from the description on the box cover copy, but I decided not to buy it (probably due to a lack of allowance money -- I was only 12 or 13!) and came away empty handed.

The description of the film stuck in my mind, and over the years I would try to find a copy, but to no avail. Recently, however, thanks to the magic of the Internet, I finally had the opportunity to see it for the first time, and was pleasantly surprised by what a really entertaining, tightly-constructed little thriller it is. The premise involves a couple of young schoolteachers on vacation in the Yorkshire Moors, where one of their colleagues had recently disappeared under mysterious circumstances. When they become stranded on the moor on a dark and stormy night, the women seek shelter in an old house belonging to a brilliant but troubled pianist (James Mason), with whom one of the women falls instantly, madly in love. But when it becomes apparent that Mason is harboring dark secrets from his past, and is given to violent episodes, the two women begin to fear that they are in danger, especially when they learn that their colleague had also been staying in the house at the time of her disappearance.

Directed by Leslie Arliss, from a script by Arliss and John Argyle adapted from a novel by Alan Kennington, with Gunther Krampf's stylish, high-contrast cinematography giving it just the right look, and a colorful supporting cast including Joyce Howard, Tucker McGuire, Mary Clare, Wilfrid Lawson and John Fernald, this is a superb wartime British thriller, oozing mystery and atmosphere, and perfect viewing for a cold, gray, rainy night.

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