The Night Has Eyes (1942)


aka Terror House

UK. 1942.


Director/Screenplay – Leslie Arliss, Based on the Novel by Alan Kennington, Producer – John Argyle, Photography (b&w) – Gunther Krampf, Music – Charles Williams, Makeup – Bob Clark, Art Direction – Duncan Sutherland. Production Company – Associated British Picture Corp


Joyce Howard (Marian Ives), James Mason (Stephen Derryman), Tucker McGuire (Doris), Mary Clare (Mrs Ranger), Wilfred Lawson (Jim Sturrock), John Fernald (Dr Barry Randall)


Marian and Doris, two teachers from Carne House Girls’ School, go hiking on the Yorkshire moors in an effort to find what happened to their friend and colleague Evelyn who disappeared there a year earlier. Caught in a storm, they seek refuge at the house of the brooding composer Stephen Derryman. He does not want them there but is drawn to kiss Marian despite himself. They leave in the morning but Marian decides she loves Stephen and returns to be with him. Stephen and his nurse warn her that he is disturbed as a result of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War and has a habit of killing small animals. Increasing evidence indicates that he may also have been responsible for Evelyn’s death.

The Night Has Eyes is a modestly celebrated film noir thriller. Although what it belongs to more than film noir is the genre of Gothic thrillers that stretches back to the 19th Century and Wilkie Collins and Mrs Radford.

The Night Has Eyes is a passably brooding affair. James Mason brings his morosely sinister looks to the role. In his youth, Mason was definitely not a romantic idol and the film plays on this in its casting – director Leslie Arliss is always cutting into sinister closeup on Mason, from beneath, in profile or ominously giving us glimpses away to the gun in the drawer. That said, all the blatant sinisterness that surrounds Mason is far too obviously stated for him to be the villain in the end and the denouement predictably reveals everything to have been conducted by others. Joyce Howard is a bland romantic lead. Disappointingly, the film writes the most spirited actress (Tucker McGuire) out about a third of the way through – the film would have been much more interesting had she been cast in the lead.

The film has definitely been made on the cheap – all the sets of the moors have been clearly and obviously shot as studio interiors. There is one superb shot where we first see Mason’s house that stands stark and brooding in silhouette amidst the storm with the single small frame of an open door ominously lit up.

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