Edward G. Robinson, John Lund, and Gail Russell in Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948)


director: John Farrow; screenwriter:from the novel by Cornell Woolrich; cinematographer: John F. Seitz; editor: Edna Warren; music: Victor Young; cast: Edward G. Robinson (John Triton), Gail Russell (Jean Courtland), John Lund (Elliott Carson), Virginia Bruce (Jenny Courtland), William Demarest (Lt. Shawn), Richard Webb (Peter Vinson), Jerome Cowan (Whitney Courtland), Onslow Stevens (Dr. Walters), Luis Van Rooten (Mr. Myers), Roman Bohnen (Prosecutor); Runtime: 80; Paramount; 1948)
“Unfortunately, director John Farrow stripped most of the dark obsessions that fueled the excellent novel and instead made it into a conventional cinema thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

At the time of filming Edward G. Robinson was undergoing an investigation by the HUAC because of his liberal beliefs and the congressmen were also concerned that he was born in Hungary, at that time a communist country. This put a strain on him during the filming, but it didn’t stop him from his support of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. This film is adapted from the story by the great mystery writer Cornell Woolrich. Unfortunately, director John Farrow stripped most of the dark obsessions that fueled the excellent novel and instead made it into a conventional cinema thriller. He also gave it a somewhat happy ending which seemed out of place. Though it still remains a worthy psychological thriller, with a superb performance from Edward G. Robinson as John Triton a clairvoyant who is deeply haunted by his gift to predict terrible incidents in the future.

The film opens in the railroad yards of L. A. with Elliott Carson (Lund) saving his fiancée Jean Courtland (Gail Russell) from committing suicide in the nick of time. He was sent there by the mysterious seer John Triton, who was engaged to Jean’s mother but didn’t marry her because he had a vision she would die at childbirth. Triton tells his biography to Jean and the skeptical Elliott in a café, of how he had a phony vaudeville act with Jean’s now wealthy oilman father Whitney Courtland (Cowan) and Jean’s mother Jenny. But John began to get real visions that predicted tragedies, and this frightened him. It was because of a horrible vision he had predicting the death of Jenny, that he became so shaken that he left the act and became a recluse for the last twenty years living for awhile in an abandoned Arizona gold mine. Before John left the act, he told Whitney where to strike oil. When he vanished without contacting them, Whitney and Jenny presumed he was dead and decided to marry.

When John heard that Jenny indeed died during childbirth, he moved to L.A. to be near his wealthy friend Whitney and his daughter. But John doesn’t reveal himself until he has a vision of Whitney dying in a plane crash. When John warns Jean to stop her father’s flight — it is too late, but the police later discover he was murdered by someone who tampered with the propeller.

Warning: spoiler to follow in next paragraph.

Elliott believes John is a charlatan who is working a scam to get money from Jean, but she believes him because she recalls her father mentioning him with warmth and telling about his gift as a psychic. When John told Jean that he had a vision of her dying under the stars, that was when she attempted the suicide. But Elliott has now called the police because he believes Jean is in danger from Triton. A hostile wisecracking Lt. Shawn (Demarest), who makes it clear that he doesn’t believe in tea readers, is assigned the duty of having a detail of detectives protect Jean in her house, where Jean is having a business meeting with her father’s business associates. And since John has predicted she will die at 11 p.m., the police do everything possible to keep Jean safe — they even lock John up. But John has also seen a vision of his death while saving her. John feels that is the last thing he can do in life — prevent one of his fatalistic premonitions from coming true. To do that John has to get out of jail, so he predicts the suicide of a convict in custody and therefore the prosecutor is convinced he’s not a fake and brings him to Jean’s house just before the predicted time of her death.

“Night Has A Thousand Eyes” reveals a film noir world of doom, where the seer is a captive of his gift and the dark night is a deadly place where tragedies occur. Edward G. Robinson is seen as a noir figure who despite his great knowledge of the occult and his ability to see things in the future, can’t live a happy life or even save himself from his own vision.