Sunday, April 28, 2013

Eyes in the Night

I believe I have never blogged about the film Eyes in the Night before. It's airing tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM on TCM.*

Edward Arnold stars as Duncan MacLain, a blind detective with a seeing eye dog, an assistant Marty (Allan Jenkins), and butler Alistair (Mantan Moreland). Into Duncan's life walks an old friend, Norma Lawry (Ann Harding). She's got a step-daughter Barbara (Donna Reed), who doesn't exactly appreciate her step-mother for having gotten married to dad Stephen (Reginald Denny). As such, Barbara is rebelling against Dad and stepmom by going out with older men who, Norma realizes, aren't right for Barbara. Specifically, it's an actor in a traveling theater troupe who many years ago was also Norma's boyfriend. (What a way to rebel.) Is there anything Duncan could possibly do to prevent Barbara from making a big mistake? Later that evening, Norma and Barbara each separately go to the actor's apartment and find him dead, a murder which is never quite fully explained.

Norma tries to get away from it all by going to her house in the country, which is where the real action of the story begins. Duncan follows her there to investigate, using the ruse that he is Norma's uncle. Barbara shows up with the director of the theater troupe who, it turns out, has other reasons for wanting to be there. The murder was almost a Macguffin. Stephen, in fact, is working for the US government as part of the war effort, having developed a secret formula for something that obviously has to be important in the fight against the Nazis, because the Nazis want it, and have gotten a whole bunch of spies in that big house trying to get the formula. Can Duncan save the day? Well, thanks to the Production Code, you know the answer is "yes", so seeing how he saves the day, with some help from that seeing eye dog, is what makes the movie worth watching.

Eyes in the Night is quite entertaining, despite a plot that's rather problematic. I already mentioned that the murder is never really cleared up. How the Nazis were able to get so many spies working as Stpehen and Norma's servants, or how they got the one other spy, all to show up together and get involved with the various parts of the Lawry family, is also left as an exercise to the viewer. And how did this blind guy get so wealthy? (Presumably he was wealthy before going blind.) What makes the movie entertaining is a strong performance from Edward Arnold as the blind man. He's assertive, and quick-witted: in one scene where he gets stowed in a basement, he foils a gunman by taking his cane and smashing all the lightbulbs to make the gunman just as blind as him; it's an idea that would be used a generation later in Wait Until Dark.

Eyes in the Night has received a DVD release, but from one of those low-budget companies, implying that it entered the public domain at some point and wound up with a crummy print.

* (Eyes in the Night is listed as having a running time of 80 minutes, which means that the next film ought to begin at 7:30 AM. However, TCM's on-line schedule has the following film, Kid Glove Killer, as starting at 7:15 AM, and having a running time of 74 minutes, which makes the day's third film, Little Mister Jim scheduled to begin at 8:30 AM. Even my satellite box guide has the same schedule. Either the running time for Eyes in the Night is wrong, or the other movies are going to get pushed back.)

No comments: