B&W, 1948, 81 mins. 3 secs.
Directed by John Farrow
Starring Edward G. Robinson, Gail Russell, John Lund, Virginia Bruce, William Demarest
Indicator (Blu-ray) (UK RB HD), Kino Lorber (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC), Koch (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL), Elephant Films (France R2 PAL)
One of the most frequently adapted crime writers of the 1940s, Cornell Woolrich (who also wrote under a variety of pen names) proved to be a perfect fit with the rise of film noir and adaptations like Phantom Lady, The Leopard Man, Black Angel, I Wouldn't Be in Your Shoes, and The Window, with several European directors following suit later on after the success of Rear Window. Injecting more supernatural elements into the formula than usual, Irish's 1945 novel Night Has a Thousand Eyes (written under the name George Hopley) was quickly adapted with major narrative alterations as a Paramount production directed by John Farrow in between two other noir classics, The Big Clock and Alias Nick Beal. Less flamboyant in execution than those films, Night does carry over the ticking deadline aspect of his prior thriller and its sense of encroaching fatalism. Despite getting a prestige push from the studio, it's also a film that's gone largely under the radar for a long time with only very rare repertory or TV screenings and no home video trail until it finally started turning up on DVD in Europe starting in 2015. Eventually a new 2K master created by Universal was used for a U.S. Blu-ray from Kino Lorber in 2021, featuring an excellent commentary by Imogen Sara Smith and the theatrical trailer. A greatly expanded special edition arrived on Blu-ray in 2023 from Indicator, but more on that below.
Seconds before hurling herself off a metal scaffold in front of an oncoming train in the dead of night, star-fearing heiress Jean (The Uninvited's Russell) is saved by her boyfriend, Elliott (Lund). They retreat to a Chinese restaurant where they meet John Triton (Robinson), a supposed psychic who has predicted her death. To fend of Elliott's accusations of being a scheming racketeer, John tells them the story of how his once fraudulent stage appearances as the clairvoyant Triton the Mental Wizard were thrown into disarray many years earlier when he found he could suddenly foretell the future for real-- much to the misfortune of his fiancée Jenny (Bruce) and her father. Now with his vision of Jean dying under the stars at a foretold hour, the clock is ticking before her time might be up for real.
Mixing spiritualism with crime thrillers is usually a fascinating blend, and somehow 1948 managed to get two worthy examples with this one and The Amazing Mr. X. This one had the advantage of studio resources on its side and ended up costing more than planned, but it really soars whenever Robinson is on screen doing his vulnerable tormented noir persona that also worked so well in films like Scarlet Street, The Woman in the Window, and The Red House. Russell and Lund have less to work with (and sit out the film for a fairly significant stretch), but they're fine enough with Russell (who had worked with Farrow on Calcutta) compelling as always despite the unfortunate personal issues that were consuming her life.
For the U.K. Blu-ray from Indicator, the presentation is the same master provided by Universal taken from the best vault materials, a good condition print by the look of it. This one always looked very dark and ragged on TV and DVD, so it's nice to see it looking fresher here even if, as is the case with many titles passed over from Paramount, the existing material isn't necessarily pristine. The LPCM 1.0 English mono track sounds solid and features English SDH subtitles, while a new audio commentary with authors and critics Glenn Kenny and Farran Smith Nehme does an entertaining and informative job of covering all the bases including the radical changes from the book, Farrow's career and very strange, colorful life story, background on all the leads, and and much more. In "Between Heaven and Earth" (23m38s), Tony Rayns focuses on Farrow and his noir cycle in particular as well as the often overlooked filmmaker's artistic interests including his abiding interest in Catholicism and the issues with categorizing him as a major Australian director. He also goes a bit into Woolrich's background including his own tormented life story. Also included are a 30-minute 1949 Screen Directors Playhouse radio production of the story with Robinson and William Demarest, directed by Farrow, and a 1946 episode of Suspense, "The Man Who Thought He Was Edward G. Robinson" (28m12s) with the actor himself riffing on his persona in what amounts to a dual role. Finally you get the original trailer, a 33-image gallery of stills and promotional material, and an insert booklet featuring a new essay by Jill Blake, archival interviews with actors Lund and Russell, an archival profile of screenwriter Jonathan Latimer, and sample critical reactions.
Reviewed on July 21, 2023.