Friday, August 6, 2010

1962 - NIGHT OF THE EAGLE, women really are witches

A film version of Fritz Leiber's horror/science fiction classic novel called Conjure Wife, Night of the Eagle is an excellent film about witchcraft and the occult.

The film was written by Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson, two very good writers who had worked with Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone.  The director was Sidney Hayers and the producer was Albert Fennell, these two men were associated with the original Avengers TV show in England. 

The beauty of this film is that for the most part the occult and witchcraft stuff is played very seriously but left open in such a way that you could make an argument that the witchcraft is basically a manifestation of the characters psychological state, the "it's all in their head thing."  The film gets away with this trick with clever writing and good acting.

I haven't really heard of any of these actors but that also works in favor of the film, no big name stars to muddy up the narrative of the story, their acting is also very good too.

The filmmakers add an action climax towards the end and kind of wrap up things a little to neatly, but this is a film after all and audiences like action in their films, otherwise this would be an occult chamber piece.  They do manage to retain the overall mood of creepiness throughout the story.

The director Sidney Hayers did a good job on this film but his career never really went anywhere.  He ended up in the United States directing lots of crappy TV shows like Lobo, Baywatch and Knight Rider.

90 minutes.

1 comment:

Matthew Bradley said...

NIGHT OF THE EAGLE (or BURN, WITCH, BURN, as it was released in the U.S.) turned out so well that it's a shame Matheson and Beaumont never collaborated on another film, although they did work together on some early TV scripts for Western and detective series. Since horror and fantasy was their area of expertise, they saw no need to collaborate on TWILIGHT ZONE teleplays. There were two other film versions of CONJURE WIFE, neither of which I've seen: WEIRD WOMAN (1944), an Inner Sanctum mystery with Lon Chaney, Jr., in which the supposed supernatural activity was given a rational explanation at the end, and the ill-fated comedy WITCHES' BREW (1985) with Teri Garr, Lana Turner, and Richard Benjamin. Peter Wyngarde, who played the husband in NIGHT OF THE EAGLE, had a memorable non-speaking role as a ghost in THE INNOCENTS (with which Fennell was also involved), based on Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw." For further information, see my book RICHARD MATHESON ON SCREEN, tentatively due out in early October.