The Night Has Eyes
the night has eyes | mystery | thriller | leslie arliss | james mason | wilfried lawson | mary clare | based on | novel | alan kennington | united kingdom | joyce howard | tucker mcguire | john fernald | old dark house | dorothy black | amy dalby | isolated | isolation
Film: The Night Has Eyes
Director: Leslie Arliss
Writer: Leslie Arliss
Starring: James Mason, Wilfried Lawson and Mary Clare
This is a movie that I learned about thanks to Letterboxd for horror from 1942. This is one that I had to buy a bootleg copy since I couldn’t find an official release. I feel like when I was searching for this, I figured out that it had James Mason in it. He’s an actor that I like as he just has a presence about him. Other than that, I came into this one blind.
Synopsis: two teachers, man-hungry Doris (Tucker McGuire) and restrained Marian (Joyce Howard), visit the Yorkshire moors a year after their friend Evelyn disappeared. On a stormy night, they take refuge in the isolated cottage of Stephen (Mason). They get trapped there for a few days where things aren’t as they seem and their host might know more about their missing friend than they realized originally.
Now the synopsis that I found was long so I decided to cut it down as much as could. As it said though, Marian and Doris are heading out for a holiday as school lets out. We get a fun scene to show these two women and their personality when Doris bickers with another teacher. Doris has a lack of respect for the institution that she works.
They take a train to head to the Yorkshire moors. Doris wants to have fun and meet men, where Marian just wants to get there. She even booked them a woman’s only car. Despite this, they meet a Dr. Barry Randall (John Fernald). Doris comes on to him, but he sends her away so he can get to know Marian. When they arrive, he even offers to drive them to where they need to go.
The two women get out in the middle of nowhere and try to traverse the moors. A strong storm rolls in and the two women have a rough go. They luck out when they come upon a manor. Stephen happens to be outside and rescues them. He invites them in to dry off. It is there that he overhears Doris. He is already short with them and this doesn’t help. The two women end up staying the night, with the understanding to get up early and leave. They are also to lock their door at night. Doris has a cold though. She is struggling. They realize they can’t leave yet. The land is flooded. They’re allowed to stay a few days until the land dries.
Soon after, they meet two others that help Stephen. There is a repair person by the name of Jim Sturrock (Wilfrid Lawson) who has a capuchin monkey. There’s also Mrs. Ranger (Mary Clare). While there, Marian and Doris learn that there is a secret room within the house. Doris wants to find it. Stephen would rather them not search his house. There seems to be something more to it though. Their friend Evelyn might have also sought refuge here. Stephen is hiding secrets and his mental health might also be in question as well.
That is where I’ll leave my recap as that gives you more of the set up without spoiling and introducing our characters. Where I’ll start is that I didn’t know what type of movie we would get here. What is interesting is that this has a similar set up to An American Werewolf in London. The difference here is that we have two women and they’re from the United Kingdom. They are walking across the moors. This is terrifying for a couple reasons. The first is that their friend disappeared here a year ago. The other part is that if you don’t know, moors are like marshlands or at least this one is. There is quicksand here that can swallow up a person quickly. This area seems extra dangerous as there is only one path through them.
Once at the house, we have a host that doesn’t fully want them there. In the beginning of that, this points to Stephen just wants to be alone. Through dialogue and learning his history, he is a famous pianist. He fought in the Spanish Civil War and the effects have left him shell-shocked. Stephen is dealing with PTSD. There could be more to it than that though. I didn’t know if this was going to go as far to say he was a werewolf or a similar creature, but it seems that he blacks out and kills animals. He might even kill people. He wants to be alone to protect himself as well as others. The only ones he trusts are Jim and Mrs. Ranger.
What I like with this movie is that we’re following Marian. We see that she is reserved and because of it, men are attracted more to her than Doris. That might not be true completely. I know that Dr. Randall and Stephen are. This annoys Doris so she wants to leave as soon as possible. What I like about Marian is that she is intrigued by Stephen. In their short time together, she doesn’t want to leave. My first thoughts is that she falls fast for him. To be honest, there is a bit more to it than that. I think she does because Stephen shows interest in her and then wants her to leave at once. From her point of view, it could be read that he is playing hard to get. There is also that he is broken and needing to be fixed. I could be reading into this a bit too much with modern eyes, but that’s what I’m seeing.
The last thing here would be the setting. I love this house being in the middle of the moors. It is isolated so it almost feels like it is an island when the land floods. Even when the water isn’t that high, the marshes are dangerous. I like that added element here. The house itself is also interesting. Another movie that I think might have borrowed from this is Deep Red. I wouldn’t at least be shocked to know that Dario Argento saw this. I won’t spoil the reveal, but this house has a bit of the ‘old dark house’.
That should be enough for the story and setting so let me go to the acting. It was interesting to see a young Mason. I’m used to him in older roles. He was quite a good-looking guy though. I like the tortured role he plays as it is vulnerable. He also has a presence about him. Lawson and Clare are good as the two helpers for Stephen. I like Howard as Marian. McGuire adds a bit of levity as Doris and the same could be said for Fernald. Other than that, the rest of the cast was fine in support.
I’ll then take to this the filmmaking. The cinematography we get here is fine. It doesn’t necessarily do anything to stand out. I will give credit to making the house feel isolated like it is. Making the moors come to life was also good. There aren’t a lot in the way of effects, but it also doesn’t need it. Having the storm seem real which helps. I also like the look we get at the standing water afterwards as well. I had no gripes here. Other than that, the soundtrack fit for what was needed without standing out.
In conclusion, this movie was a fun watch. It was one that I came in not knowing what I was getting and just enjoyed my time with it. We have a great lead in Mason. I like the tortured character he plays. The rest of the cast around him was good. I love the setting and the although the premise isn’t necessarily new, I like what they do with it. This is one that I wouldn’t be surprised if filmmakers saw and incorporated elements into their works from it. I’d also say that this is a well-made movie overall. I’d go as far to call this a hidden gem. The issue is that it can be hard to find.
My Rating: 7 out of 10