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Dead Man's Eyes (Universal 1944)

Dead Man’s Eyes (Universal 1944)

The third in Universal’s Inner Sanctum movie series, and the follow-up to 1944’s Weird Woman, came with Dead Man’s Eyes later the same year. This instalment starred Lon Chaney Jr as usual, and took the franchise down a morose, rather miserable new track.

Classic Monsters of the Movies Magazine issue #6

Check out the feature on the Inner Sanctum series in Classic Monsters of the Movies issue #6

The movie seems to have been the subject of apathy and indifference all round. During filming, series overseer Ben Pivar told director Reginald LeBorg he was too busy to offer his input on the director’s proposed rescripting of a scene which was proving difficult for co-star Acquanetta. The second assistant director was promptly dispatched by an irritated LeBorg to find out what was so important, only to report back that Pivar was busy playing a hand of gin rummy.

Acquanetta and Lon Chaney in Dead Man's Eyes (Universal 1944)

Tanya (Acquanetta) has mixed feelings when Dave (Lon Chaney Jr) alerts her to a clue in Dead Man’s Eyes (Universal 1944)

Sadly, Dead Man’s Eyes might have been so much better had Pivar paid attention. Acquanetta’s is a notably wooden performance as sultry Tanya. Chaney, too, seems strangely stuck in a rut as painter Dave Stuart, as though the relentless self-analysis of his previous roles in the series has ploughed him into a furrow of worry.

Lon Chaney in Dead Man’s Eyes (Universal 1944)

After ‘accidentally’ blinding himself with acid, Dave Stuart (Lon Chaney Jr) is in need of a Dead Man’s Eyes (Universal 1944)

Some strong elements are to be found in Dead Man’s Eyes, such as the bond between Stuart and ‘Dad’ Hayden (Edward Fielding), and the dilemma faced by Heather (Jean Parker) when it becomes apparent that the eyes of her recently-murdered papa are bequeathed to her ex-beau Dave, who it seems to all the world committed the murder in the first place. After the enjoyably overwrought mysticism and hysteria of Weird Woman, though, Dead Man’s Eyes seems to take itself too seriously, plodding through its script without much enthusiasm. Events (and the movie’s pace) only pick up a little as questions arise about exactly how blind Dave is following the apparently unsuccessful eye transplant.

Dead Man's Eyes (Universal 1944)

Poster art for Dead Man’s Eyes (Universal 1944)

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