Sunday, January 23, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Two of my very favorite film festival screenings of 2013 were REPEAT PERFORMANCE (1947) and NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (1948).

The movies, which were originally released within roughly 18 months of each other, share otherworldly stories and themes regarding what might be called "second chances." Both films were long missing from home viewing; as far as I know neither was ever released on either VHS or DVD. And amazingly, both films are being released on Blu-ray within weeks of one another!

NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES came out from Kino Lorber's Studio Classics line in November, and REPEAT PERFORMANCE is scheduled for a Flicker Alley release this week. (Update: Flicker Alley has announced a slight delay for REPEAT PERFORMANCE, with the release now scheduled for February 1st.)  It's a great time to be a classic film fan with beautiful Blu-rays of movies like this now available for the first time!

I first became acquainted with NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES in 2011, thanks to a friend providing a "grey market" copy to watch. The movie really rose in my estimation when I saw it in 35mm at the 2013 Noir City Film Festival and then topped off that experience with a remarkable 35mm nitrate screening in 2017 at UCLA. I was thrilled to see the movie on a big screen once more just last October, at the 2021 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Fest.

Clearly it's a film which not only holds up to repeat viewings, it has become more special to me each time, thanks to the performances, the excellent script by Barre Lyndon and Jonathan Latimer, and the stunning black and white photography of John F. Seitz. (The script was based on a story by Cornell Woolrich, whose works provided an impressive list of noir inspiration in the '40s.) John Farrow directed this spellbinding 81 minutes, scored by the great Victor Young.

Edward G. Robinson plays John Triton, who once had a vaudeville act as a clairvoyant, only to suddenly find that his "visions" weren't just a clever entertainment routine -- they were actually coming true.

Triton's visions allow his partner Whitney (Jerome Cowan) to make financial investments which will secure their future, but Triton becomes distraught when he is powerless to prevent tragedies he foresees. He disappears and becomes a recluse, leaving behind his love Jenny (Virginia Bruce), who eventually marries Whitney.

Triton only reappears after many years to attempt to save the life of Whitney and Jenny's grown daughter, Jean (Gail Russell). I'll leave off describing any more of the plot, which I think is best discovered while watching this very unusual, moving film.

The performances of the entire cast, in roles large and small, make the viewer willing to suspend disbelief and "buy in" to the story. Robinson is excellent, and the ethereal Russell makes a perfect Jean. The underrated John Lund plays Jean's steadfast fiance, who supports her throughout a very strange experience.

William Demarest, playing the skeptical police detective, stands in for the audience questioning Triton's story and provides a nice light touch in an otherwise moody film.

The cast also includes John Alexander, Roman Bohnen, Onslow Stevens, Richard Webb, and Douglas Spencer.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray print is lovely, showcasing the movie's deep, rich blacks. It's not completely perfect, but I was more than pleased, especially given how long the film has been unavailable.

Blu-ray extras are the trailer; a trailer gallery for five additional films available from Kino Lorber; and a commentary track by the excellent Imogen Sara Smith.

I put together a gallery of photos from the film when I saw it a few years ago; the pictures are all different from the illustrations seen here, and I invite readers to click over to that post for a look.

NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES is a special film which has become an all-time favorite. Most highly recommended.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Seth said...

I was very excited to have received this Blu-ray for Christmas. As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I first heard it years ago as a radio adaptation starring Robinson and was enthralled by the story. The disc is still under the tree (which I’ll take down in a week) with all the other gifts, but I do plan to watch it for the first time soon.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I hope you'll enjoy the movie, Seth! I'd be interested in your feedback when you catch up with it.

Do you wait to take down your tree at Candlemas? If so I think you're the first person I know who does that!

Best wishes,

12:57 PM  
Blogger dfordoom said...

If you start with a Cornell Woolrich story you can't go far wrong. He wrote great stories which really lent themselves to film adaptation. There were so many great Woolrich movies in the 40s and Truffaut made a couple of very good ones in the 60s.

NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES works perfectly, with Edward G. Robinson's performance being a major asset.

2:52 AM  
Blogger Seth said...

I do keep decorations up till Candlemas, mostly because the tree is fake and I only put it up on Christmas Eve (but also because I'm kinda lazy). i will say that it makes cold and snow Januarys more enjoyable.

9:25 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

DforDoom, that's very true about Woolrich. I've seen so many great films based on his stories! And NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES is one of my favorites.

Seth, that makes sense you leave the tree up till then if you're a Christmas Eve decorator! Mine is up from roughly around the start of Advent until Epiphany. I like what you say about it making January nicer! I remember visiting the Boston area in February years ago and being surprised how many red wreaths were still on front doors -- I suspect they were there for the same reasons!

Best wishes,

7:04 PM  

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