Although it’s had to think of it now, but there was a time when the works of Cornell Woolrich were prime material for film adaptation. Best known today through Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of Rear Window (1954), some of the more notable film adaptations of his novels and stories include The Leopard Man (1943), Phantom Lady (1944), Black Angel (1946), The Window (1949) and The Bride Wore Black (1968). One of the more unusual adaptations of his works was Night Has a Thousand Eyes; released by Paramount, Kino has licensed the film from Universal (the current rights holder) for its home video debut.
The Production: 4/5
When vaudeville stage mentalist John Triton (Edward G. Robinson) suddenly acquires true clairvoyance, his gift of precognition soon turns into a living nightmare as he finds himself unable to change what he foresees. Descending into despondency when one of his visions involves the woman he loves, Triton leaves show business altogether and spends the next several years living in seclusion. However, a vision involving the heiress daughter of his former partner Whitney Courtland (Jerome Cowan) causes him to break his self-imposed exile and try to avert tragedy. Although met with disbelief, the heiress – Jean (Gail Russell) – and her fiancée Elliott Carson (John Lund) reluctantly allow Triton into their lives, but nothing can prepare them for the final twist that may or may not prove Triton’s final predictions correct…
A hidden gem of a noir, Night Has a Thousand Eyes brings a novel twist to noir genre while hemming to it roots. While screenwriters and stalwarts of the genre Barré Lyndon and Jonathan Latimer are faithful to the tone of Cornell Woolrich’s novel, the addition of the supernatural element to the proceedings help to make this stand out amongst other noirs that used spiritualists/mentalists around the time of this movie’s release. Lending a solid element of moodiness to the proceedings is the camerawork of John F. Seitz, who makes great use of not only the stage bound settings, but also on location photography in Los Angeles. The only true demerit against the film is that the story does slip into corniness at times, but those moments are fleeting due to the slick direction of John Farrow and solid performances by the cast. While not really talked about today, Night Has a Thousand Eyes is a well done affair that’s worth revisiting due to its melding of noir and supernatural elements into a solid whole.
As the mentalist who mysteriously gains the gift (or curse) of precognition, Edward G. Robinson is convincing as John Triton; shortly after this film, his career took a hit when he was “gray listed” during the Second Red Scare in Hollywood, but he was still able to find work albeit in B movies. Gail Russell – who rose to stardom on Paramount’s roster due to the success of The Uninvited (1944) – has one of her best roles and performances as the heiress Jean Courtland, who may or may not be predestined to die “under the stars”; tragically, her career and life were cut short due to chronic alcoholism that ended her life at the young age of 37 in 1961. Virginia Bruce makes the most of her time as Triton’s stage assistant turned wife of Jerome Cowan’s Whitney Courtland while character actor William Demarest chews the scenery as the cynical Lt. Shawn, who’s skeptical of Triton’s claims, but not enough to not assist him in trying to prevent Jean’s potentially tragic end. Other notable appearances here include John Lund as Jean’s equally skeptical fiancée (he also narrated the film’s theatrical trailer), Onslow Stevens and Douglas Spencer as doctors who also doubt Triton’s psychic abilities, Roman Bohnen as the special prosecutor, Mary Adams as the Courtland’s housekeeper, John Alexander and Luis Van Rooten as members of Courtland’s company – one of whom might have ulterior motives – and uncredited appearances from Julia Faye, Margaret Field (Sally’s mother), Stuart Holmes, Minerva Urecal and Philip Van Zandt in bit parts.
3D Rating: NA
The film is presented in its original 1:37:1 aspect ratio, taken from a new 2K master created for this release. Film grain is organic, with fine details and gray scale given a very faithful representation; there’s few cases of scratches, dirt, tears and vertical lines present here. For a movie that had never been released on home video until now, this is a very solid presentation and likely the best will ever look on Blu-ray.
The film’s original mono soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release. Dialogue is strong and clear, with sound effects and Victor Young’s score all faithfully represented as well; there’s minimal instances of crackling, popping, hissing or distortion present here. Overall, this is likely the best the movie will ever look on home video.
Special Features: 3/5
Commentary by film historian Imogen Sara Smith – Recorded for this release, Smith looks into the making of the film as well as the cast and crew of the movie in this informative commentary.
Theatrical Trailer (2:23)
While underperforming at the box office and garnering mixed reviews during its initial run, Night Has a Thousand Eyes is still a very intriguing film noir due to the solid lead performance of Edward G. Robinson and the addition of the supernatural to the proceedings. Kino continues its run of bringing unavailable films to home video, with a solid HD transfer and an informative commentary track for a bonus feature. Very highly recommended.
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