The Night Has Eyes (1942)
(Associated British Pictures) 79mins. BW.
Aka: TERROR HOUSE (US).
Credits: Dir. & Sc: Leslie Arliss; Prod: John
Argyle; Prod.Manager: Hamilton G. Inglis; Ph: Gunther Krampf; Ed: Flora Newton; Art:
Duncan Sutherland; Mu: Bob Clark; Mus: Charles Williams.
From the novel by Alan Kennington.
Cast: James Mason, Wilfred
Lawson, Mary Clare, Joyce Howard, Tucker McGuire, John Fernald, Dorothy Black, Amy
THE NIGHT HAS EYES is one
of the all too few chillers that Pathe produced during the late Thirties, preferring
instead to churn out dated romantic comedies that hardly claimed "classic"
status, but nevertheless managed to turn a profit.
Leslie Arliss, director and scriptwriter for the film, was better known for his costume
dramas made for Gainsborough, but with this film he succeeded in creating an atmospheric
chiller that blended elements from JANE EYRE and Universal's The Old Dark House.
Schoolteachers Mariam Ives, (Joyce Howard),
and Doris Drake, (Tucker McGuire), venture onto the fog enshrouded Yorkshire Moors to try
and discover what became of their friend Evelyn who disappeared there one year ago. The
weather unexpectedly takes a turn for the worse, and the two women soon become lost amid
the dense fog, howling winds and gnarled trees, a scene heightened by Charles Williams'
effective music score. In the distance Mariam notices an isolated house where they meet
the reclusive Stephen, (James Mason), who is apparantly less than pleased with their
Although Stephen insists that they stay just for one night, the house becomes cut off by
intensive flooding in the area forcing the women to continue their stay. Slowly Mariam
becomes infatuated with Stephen who she learns was once a composer until he was captured
and imprisoned during the war. After his release and a spell in hospital,
Stephen moved to the isolated house with his nurse Mrs. Ranger, (Mary Clare), now employed
as his housekeeper. A brain specialist warned that after Stephen's experiences, he would
at times experience an irresistable urge to kill.
Finally the women are escorted away by odd-job man Jim Sturrock, (Wilfred Lawson), when
the flood waters receed, but against her better judgement, Mariam returns as she has
fallen in love with the mysterious Stephen and begs for him to love her in return and let
her help him. One night, under the gaze of the full moon, Mrs. Ranger administers
Stephen's pills as usual, but Mariam learns that these drugs only make Stephen unconcious
while Mrs. Ranger and Jim prepare a dead animal to look as if it has been killed by
Stephen. His sickness has been cured long ago, but he is led to believe that he is still
ill so that the pair of ne'er do-wells can continue to command their handsome salaries. When Mariam discovers that they were also responsible for her friend
Evelyn's disappearance, the couple taker her onto the moor to sink in one of the many
bogs, but Stephen comes to her rescue and forces his domestics to wander the moors knowing
that they will succumb to the same fate they had prepared for Mariam.
Entirely studio bound, this chiller
contains some grisly moments amid the effectively lit, and economical sets superbly
photographed by Gunther Krampf.
Krampf arrived in Britain during 1931 after earning a fine reputation in his native
Germany with such calssics as Orlac's Hande
(1924), Henrik Galeen's Der Student von Prag (1926) and G.W.
Pabst's Die Busche der Pandora (1928). His
inspirational photography also added to the dramatic effect for Gaumont's prototype train
thriller ROME EXPRESS (1932) and later in Gaumont's The Ghoul (1933).
Always a treat to watch is Mary Clare who
found herself being cast as a villainess in the early Thirties with such genre offerings
as The Clairvoyant (1934), Passing of the Third Floor Back (1935) and Hitchcocks
seminal train thriller THE LADY VANISHES (1938).
Wilfred Lawson on the other hand found it
difficult to stay employed due to his alcohol problems, but during the Thirties he was
cast in The Terror (1938), the crime suspenser THE
GAUNT STRANGER (1938) and later as an insane lighthouse keeper in Tower of Terror (1941).
THE NIGHT HAS EYES is
certainly one of the better chillers Britain was "allowed" to release during the
height of World War Two even though it received the restrictive H for Horror
classification that prevented anyone from under sixteen from viewing the film.
Consequently many cinemas refused to show THE NIGHT HAS EYES, as they
believed the war torn public preferred more wholesome family entertainment during these
Nevertheless, this is still an effective thriller that made the most of its small budget
and provides enough suspense for any discerning audience.
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