Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948)
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The atmosphere created here has an almost hypnotic effect. Robinson is completely into his role and totally convincing.
That this film has not yet to date made it on video is incredible. Of all the lesser films that did so, this movie warrants attention. Paramount Pictures [us]--please take note.
Edward G. Robinson is a clairvoyant who worked with Jerome Cowan in a mentalist act. Only one problem - Robinson discovers he actually can predict the future. Unfortunately, in Woolrich's realistic view of the seen and unseen world, having a psychic power is not necessarily good. Robinson can foresee good things (he forsees that Cowan's buying into a potential oil field operation will make millions), but he also sees tragedy frequently. The woman he loves (the third person in the act) wants to marry him, but he suddenly refuses - he sees problems about her pregnancy. She marries Cowan - and dies giving birth to the daughter who becomes Gail Russell. Robinson soon discovers he cannot stop tragedy. When he warns a newsboy to be careful going home, he tries to reassure the boy by giving him a large tip. The boy starts running home, and gets hit (and presumably killed) by a car.
Robinson has contacted Cowan to warn him that he should not go flying. Cowan's plane crashes and he is killed. Robinson than contacts Russell to try to help her. Her boyfriend John Lund, at first, rejects Robinson's warnings, but as they uncannily come true becomes increasingly convinced that Robinson not a faker. But Detective William Demerest (in a curious mixed role, half serious and half comic) is not sure - it seems somebody tampered with the wiring of Cowan's plane.
So the movie progresses - is Robinson legitimately psychic, and trying to help Russell, or is he the evil genius in some plan to get control of the fortune. And as Cowan was in the middle of a major oil merger when he died, many others are interested in knowing the truth...or hiding it.
This film, for some reason, always gets mediocre reviews in the New York Times movie reviews. Actually it's quite compelling, and far more inviting a story about sixth sense powers than many more important, and expensive productions. I feel that it is close to Robinson's most sympathetic role, and the conclusion of the film certainly makes it almost Shakespearean in it's tragic denouement.
It tells the story of a man who discovers he really has the ability to see into the future. He becomes a recluse out of the fear that his predictions always come true. That same fear brings him out of reclusion when he seeks out the daughter of a woman he once loved to warn her of impending danger.
The only thing I dislike about this film? It never made it to video. For anyone that would like to see this film's plot, I recommend "The Clarivoyant" with Claude Rains.
John Farrow modified the book ,but he remained faithful to Woolrich's spirit;in the novel,it's the father of the girl who has got to die in a lion's jaws .Read it,even if you watched the movie,cause Woolrich's sense of tragedy has no equal in the Roman Noir.Only the ending is a bit embarrassing ,being somewhat contrived and adding a wrong track which weakened the intense emotion :too bad they did not keep the final lines between the girl and her friend.
The opening scene on the railroad track can rival with the best films Noirs of the forties/early fifties,like those of Robert Siodmak (who took Woolrich's "phantom lady" to the screen) and Mitchell Leisen (whose "no man of her own" is a thousand times better than the pitiful FRench attempt called "J'Ai Epousé Une Ombre" ).Gail Russel,a relatively obscure actress has wonderful eyes which the director films in the scene in the car as bright as two stars in the night.
The-man-who-can-predict-future was a secondary character in the book ,but Edward G.Robinson made it a winner;he added a guilt feeling ,which overwhelmed him and his performance was extraordinary all along the way;this part was tailor -made for him:remember Lang's "woman in the window" ,Duvivier' s "flesh and fantasy" or Siodmak's "the strange affair of Uncle Harry",all tormented characters who have perhaps done nothing and who are feeling guilt.
A lot of bizarre details (the cushion,the gun which doesn't shoot,the flower under the shoe,the little boy on the street ,the strange music hall -a scene not unlike the contemporary adventure of Tintin:"Les Sept Boules DE Cristal") create a heavy atmosphere devoid of any providence.
John Triton (Edward G Robinson) is a clairvoyant with a phony act who begins to realize that he can predict the future for real. However, he feels this gift is more of a curse because, although he knows what will happen, he is never able to reverse the outcome.
A troubled man, he withdraws into anonymity for 20 years. He returns when he predicts the death of an old friend, and then that of the man's daughter, Jean Courtland (Gail Russell). Eventually he tries to alter the course of the prediction, which also portends his own death.
The seductive style of this film, told for much of its length in flashback, is due to inspired choices in script, direction, photography and music, and of course to Cornell Woolwich's original novel, although most of his plot and characters were jettisoned. What the film did retain was the novel's all-pervading mood. Like other films based on Woolwich's stories such as "Rear Window" and "Original Sin", not much beyond the original idea was ever retained.
Most importantly, "Night Has a Thousand Eyes" has actors who draw you into the story and hold you there. As the story unfolds you feel that Edward G Robinson's character has gained painful wisdom - he is infinitely patient with all his doubters. Robinson is the focal point of the story and his mellifluous narration sweeps us along.
The other person who gives this film depth is the beautiful and ethereal Gail Russell as Jean Courtland. Her performance has added poignancy when you know of the star's real fate - she died at 36 from self-doubt as much as from anything else. She always seemed to project a sense of sadness in her films. What a presence she had; she was always good, but especially so here.
Look how much mood is generated with all the references to the stars above; John Triton predicts that Jean " will die at night, under the stars." Jean becomes haunted by the thought and feels the stars are, "Like a thousand eyes. Watching!" Although there are only a couple of shots of star-studded skies in the film, much of the story is set at night and we feel the presence of the stars all the time. Adding to the sense of something beyond the tangible is Victor Young's velvety score.
The film has a measured pace, particularly Gail Russell and Edward G Robinson's delivery. Expatriate Australian director, John Farrow (Mia's dad), directed the film and much of its style must be down to him. The film was shot mainly on studio sets except for a very effective sequence in San Francisco.
Odd that this film has been so hard to track down, it is simply one of the best of its kind, and is impossible to forget.
I don't think it was all that bad, but definitely could have used room for improvement. Sweethearts John Lund and Gail Russell seek out Robinson who was an old friend of her parents. Back in the day all three were involved in a phony mind reading act when Robinson started showing psychic powers for real. A tip on a horse and another tip on a burgeoning oil field made Russell's father Jerome Cowan a rich man. Robinson who is scared of these new and unwanted abilities just leaves it all to go into obscurity leaving Cowan to marry Virginia Bruce who dies in childbirth bearing Russell as Robinson predicted.
Now however Russell is feeling strangely threatened and seeks out Robinson. After this however the plot gets truly muddled.
The first half of the film is the best and the second half bad, so much so you would think it was two different films spliced together. Some mediocre directing is compensated for by the performances of Robinson and Russell. For Gail it was more of the same as she did in The Uninvited.
Fans of both of these players will probably like it more than Edward G. Robinson apparently did.
The first half is kind of interesting. Robinson is wheeling through his fakery when he's interrupted by a sudden vision. He urgently sends an audience member home because her house is on fire. After the show his puzzled assistants ask what it was all about and Robinson dismisses it as a passing thought he'd had, and after all what difference does it make? Later they find that the house really WAS on fire and a child was barely saved. Robinson is troubled but his partners aren't.
Eventually he leaves the act, holes up for twenty years, and reappears in time to save a girl who might well have been his own daughter except for an act of self sacrifice. The girl is Gail Russell and she's well worth saving. Russell was plucked out of a local high school because of her looks, hurriedly given a few acting lessons and thrust before the cameras. But she was self conscious and terrified of appearing in the movies, took to drinking to steady her nerves, wrecked her life, and died in her mid-30s, desolate. Any wrecked life is a misfortune but in her case it was a little more than that because she was almost infinitely appealing -- not gorgeous by Hollywood standards, but, with her tentative girlish voice, her mane of curly black hair, and her pale blue eyes, she radiated a combination of vulnerability and sex appeal. In this film she winds up with John Lund, which may have been a milestone along her downward trajectory -- or maybe the cause of it.
Robinson turns in a competent and thoroughly professional performance as the showman who changes from a free-wheeling bankrupt into a man genuinely tormented by the possibility that he himself -- through his visions -- is somehow CAUSING the disasters he predicts.
I'm not going through the plot because, if the first half is simple and neat, the second half has a loopy logic and turns into a high-budget Charlie Chan mystery. Well, I'll give one example. Robinson has had a vision of Russell being murdered under the stars (the titular "thousand eyes") at eleven o'clock at night. He's taken seriously enough that the police have guards all around her mansion. She's also attended by some skeptical business managers of her estate. The rooms are guarded, the doors locked, and all that. The tension increases as eleven o'clock approaches. At about fifteen minutes before eleven, a hand reaches slowly from behind a curtain and moves the time on the grandfather clock ahead by ten minutes. When the clock strikes eleven, everyone breathes a sigh of relief. Whew. It's now past eleven and Russell still breathes. Of course the REAL eleven o'clock hasn't yet got here. So when the relaxed Russell wanders out alone into the garden a few minutes later, she's attacked by the murderer, who is a person of no significance whatever to the plot and who is just trying to stop a business deal from going through.
Okay. So why did the murderer move the hands of the clock ahead? Why didn't he wait until the REAL eleven o'clock had come and gone. After all, what the hell does HE care about what time he murders Russell? This is Charlie Chan territory.
But I enjoyed it. The hint of the supernatural is always fascinating. As Robinson observes, we've all felt something similar at one time or another -- we know who's on the phone before we pick it up, or we enter a strange room and we're certain we've been there before. And Robinson may be right about it. It was about twenty years ago that the American Association for the Advancement of Science finally added a Section H, covering paranormal phenomena. Who knows?
This is one of the darkest of noirs, both literally and figuratively. Generally, the lighting is too shadowy to catch the ethereal Russell's pale blue eyes, a feature that would have added to the overall mood. It's also nicely ironic that the real occult would step into the life of a magician who only pretends to conjure other dimensions for the delight of paying audiences. It's like a punishment for presuming to toy with the surreal. I also like the way others remain militantly skeptical since that would be a natural reaction.
In my book, the movie's clearly underrated by the professionals and I'm not sure why. If the production's got an overriding flaw, I can't find it, though I could have done with less of the theramin whose eerie sound is like gravy on soup. Nonetheless, for me, the overall result is one of the best to deal with a topic that's usually made hokey as heck by Hollywood, and that's besides having one of the most intriguing titles in movie annals.
John Triton (Robinson) is a nightclub fortune teller who suddenly finds he really does posses psychic ability. As his predictions become more bleaker, Triton struggles with what was once a gift but now is very much a curse.
During a visually sumptuous beginning to the film, a girl is saved from suicide, it's an attention grabbing start and sets the tone for what will follow. Mood and strangulated atmosphere born out by photographic styles, craft of acting and Young's spine tingling score are the keys to the film's success, with the pervading sense of doom ensuring the narrative never falls into mawkish hell. It's a film that shares thematic similarities with a 1934 Claude Rains picture titled The Clairvoyant, only here we enter noir territory for Triton's cursed journey, where as the Rains movie was ultimately leading us to the savage idiocy of mob justice.
Farrow's (The Big Clock/Where Danger Lives) film falls into a small quasi supernatural group of black and whites that are formed around a carnival/psychic act. It's a situation for film that film noir makers sadly didn't explore more often, making the likes of Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Nightmare Alley and The Spiritualist little treasures to be cherished. Farrow gets as much suspense out of the story as he can, of which he is helped enormously by the great work of Robinson. At a time when the HUAC was breathing down his neck, Robinson turns in a definitive portrayal of a man caught in a trap, his fate sealed. His face haunted and haggard, his spoken words sorrowful and hushed, Robinson is simply terrific.
The world of prognostication gets a film noir make-over, death under the stars indeed. 8/10
This film has a good story and a good cast. Elliott (John Lund) is pretty annoying as a doubter but by the end of the film he has changed his tune. The film starts well with a suicide attempt and we are then taken back in time through flashback sequences to understand the characters before returning to the present as we wait for the death of Jean. There are some omens we are told to look out for - a trampled flower, a gust of wind, a broken vase, lion's feet, some spoken words - and sure enough, they all come true until we arrive at the moment of death - 11pm.
William Demarest has some funny lines as "Lt Shawn", the policeman in charge of stopping the tragedy from happening and the story is cleverly tied up. I wasn't too convinced by Gail Russell's ability to negotiate business deals - she seems far too fragile a character to be involved in the hard-edged corporate world. But so what. It's a good film.
Meanwhile John is haunted by the bad premonitions he is getting about which he can do nothing. The last is the worst though. He sees the future of his love, Jenny (Virginia Bruce). In his premonition the two marry, there is a child, the child lives but Jenny dies. So one night he clears out and decides to become a recluse. If he doesn't talk to anyone he can't see their bad end which he can't seem to change anyways. He knows Whitney will take care of Jenny, and he does. The two marry, have a child, and just as in his premonition, Jenny dies in childbirth. Gail Russell's character, Jean, is the daughter that would have been his, so he does keep track of her over the years. He moves to L.A. just to be in the same town as she and her dad. And then the trouble starts again. First he gets a premonition about Whitney's death when he hears about him trying to break a flight record. Thus he chances meeting Jenny's daughter Jean and warns her about the premonition he has. She tries contacting her dad, but it's too late. His plane has cracked up and Whitney is dead. Then John gets a premonition about Jean's death "under the stars", and we are back to the present, in the café.
John wants to retreat back into his little world, but not until he can finally save someone, and not just anyone. He wants to save the daughter that might have been his had things been different. Of course now he has the suspicious fiancé to contend with along with the police whom the fiancé calls who say they found foul play involved in the crack up of Whitney's plane and suspect John as being part of some conspiracy plus they think he could be a little nuts and have the police psychiatrists examining him. Meanwhile Jean is in danger and is being guarded by skeptics. How will this all pan out? Watch and find out.
Edward G. Robinson plays the melancholy clairvoyant just brilliantly as you can see how this supposed gift is weighing him down. Like Peter Boyle in the X-Files episode "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose", a gift is not much of a gift if all it does is give you visions of pain and death you can't seem to change. It is a very gloomy film from the start with the atmosphere of a noir, but not with the kinds of characters and situations normally associated with noir. Highly recommended.
We soon learn that all of Triton's troubles started when he was working on stage as a psychic with both Jean's parents Whitney & Jenny, Virginia Bruce, Courtland some 20 years ago. It was then that Triton suddenly developed these psychic powers in seeing the future that completely freaked him out. Now seeing what's in store for Jean he's doing his best to prevent that from happening. The story is a long one but it's all about Whitney's involvement in the oil business. Having made millions over the years he now wants to cash in his chips, or oil interests, but there's someone behind the scenes that's trying to prevent him from doing it. Going so far in fixing his plane to make sure that Whitney end up crashing in it on his coast to coast flight from NY to LA. And it's Triton who foresaw that and couldn't prevent it from happening. Now the very same person is trying to murder Whitney's daughter Jean to keep her from inheriting her father's millions so that he, by both father and daughter dead, can get his hands on it!
****SPOILERS*** No matter how accurate Triton's predictions are the police lead by Let. Shawn, William Demarest, feel that he's a phony and in fact is the one trying to murder Jean to get his hands on her father's money. This goes on throughout the entire movie until his predictions about her and who's behind her father's murder comes true with devastating accuracy! And it also ends up killing Triton in the process. A fact that Triton knew all along but kept from the police as well as himself ! In one of his most unusual roles Edward G. Robinson gives a realistic performance as psychic John Triton that knocks everyones socks off. He's so convincing as a man who can see the future that even his biggest detractors soon realize that there's something to his strange predictions even when there's no logic to them. Like at the very end the one about Jean's impending death, in being killed by an escaped lion, that's so on target that even the not so convinced Let. Shawn, who thought the guy was full of it, had to grudgingly admit that he's the real deal.
Director: JOHN FARROW. Screenplay: Jonathan Latimer, Barré Lyndon from the 1945 novel by Cornell Woolrich. Photography: John F. Seitz. Film editor: Eda Warren. Music: Victor Young. Art director: Hans Dreier and Franz Bachelin. Costumes: Edith Head. Producer: Endre Bohem.
Copyright and U.S. release 22 October 1948 by Paramount. Released 4 October 1948 (U.K.), 4 November 1948 (Australia). 7,307 feet. 81 minutes.
COMMENT: The film noir revival has brought some of John Farrow's films back into focus. Due to a somewhat hokey script (the killer's identity is not only obvious but motives did not convince me) and a discordantly "comic" performance by William Demarest, this one is not half as interesting as The Big Clock, Alias Nick Beal or Plunder of the Sun.
But nonetheless, the movie does present Edward G. Robinson, perfectly cast as the troubled Triton who could foretell the future but had neither the power to forestall it nor "change evil into good."
Gail Russell is also immaculately cast and, aside from William Demarest (who is usually quite good but misses the bus here), the rest of the players do solid work.
Suicidal heiress Jean Courtland (Gail Russell) is standing on a bridge, poised to leap in front of an on-coming train, when her fiancé Elliott Carson (John Lund) suddenly appears and prevents her from jumping. When the young couple retreat to a nearby café and meet up with the man who'd saved Jean's life by alerting Elliott to the danger that she was in, their conversation proves to be very enlightening.
John Triton (Edward G Robinson) explains that twenty years earlier, he and Jean's parents, Whitney (Jerome Cowan) and Jenny (Virginia Bruce), had been partners in a touring vaudeville act in which he was a phoney mind-reader, his best friend Whitney played the piano and his fiancée Jenny was the glamorous assistant. During this period, John started to have visions that proved to be accurate predictions of future events and Whitney capitalised on this by using John's tips to prosper through gambling and playing the stock market. One night when they were all on stage together, John became terribly upset and had to bring the performance to a sudden end when he had a vision of Jenny, after their marriage, dying in childbirth. In order to prevent this premonition from becoming a reality and without telling his partners what he'd "seen", he decided to leave the act and simply disappear (but not before giving Whitney some advice about making an investment in an oil business).
John became a recluse and after some time had passed with no word from him, Whitney and Jenny married but Jenny subsequently died in childbirth. John went on to live a very quiet and lonely life in the Bunker Hill district of L.A. until a short time before Jean's suicide attempt, when he contacted her because he'd had a vision of Whitney dying in a plane crash. Jean's efforts to contact her father proved unsuccessful and as predicted, he perished in the wreckage of his plane.
Elliott is very sceptical and thinks that John's a charlatan working on some sort of scam to get his hands on Jean's money but Jean trusts him implicitly. This is because she remembers how fondly her father had spoken of his best friend and his impressive psychic powers. John then becomes distraught after having a vision in which he foresees Jean's death and despite the apparent futility of the idea, becomes absolutely determined to prevent her demise.
This moody thriller has a strange mesmeric quality and a level of tension that grows steadily with each new development. Its ominous atmosphere is beautifully complemented by Victor Young's effective score and John F Seitz's top class cinematography, but it's the knockout performance by Edward G Robinson that provides the real icing on the cake. His tragic character sums up his predicament at one point when he says that "this gift which I never asked for and don't understand has brought me only unhappiness". Having lost the love of his life and his best friend because of his gift and being condemned to a life of isolation and loneliness , he then gets openly disrespected by most people who think he's a fraud or a criminal and knows that all he faces in the future is the unending torment that he'll inevitably experience until his own demise.
What Robinson captures so brilliantly is John Triton's innate decency as well as the melancholia that has understandably engulfed him as a result of his experiences. The supporting cast is also consistently good with Gail Russell standing out as a great choice for her role because her appearance and deportment make her privileged but troubled character so convincing.
A former magic act sees things happen to people in the future. He then realizes that these things all happen. 20 years after his magic act has ended he sees a vision of a former friend and it's not a good one. He goes to tell his friend's daughter and the next day...it comes true. That same night she comes to visit him and he sees her death is....imminent. From this we get the suspense and a lot of it. Who's gonna get her?
This is a very suspense laden film. Edward G. plays the former magic man/mystic very well and you will believe everything he says. He had a way of turning any average film into something you remember for a few days...and not a few hours after you see it.
This is a really creepy little film to look out for. Jump on this one if you get a chance and tell me I'm wrong.