Saturday, February 18, 2012

NIGHT OF THE EAGLE (Sidney Hayers, 1962, UK)

Norman Taylor must face his disbeliefs and intellectual limitations, his home a volatile house of tarot cards, summoning his charm to conjure wife. Director Sidney Hayers casts a cinematic spell of witchcraft and trickery by utilizing tight framing and solid compositions often dominated by looming statues, creating a sense of impending doom in a rational world. Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont adapt the classic Fritz Leiber novel into a believable domestic melodrama amid the politics of an English College. 

Norman is a young and successful professor, well liked by his students and colleagues. He teaches the psychology of superstition, that it's the believer who powers the supernatural with post hoc fallacies and wishful thinking, not the ability to control reality with secret ceremonies and trinkets. But his wife Tansy believes that her charms guard Norman against the sinister urges of the faculty wives. Like the protagonist of Matheson's HELL HOUSE, Norman cannot accept the possibility of magic superseding science and it could drive him to madness. What makes the story so intriguing is that each encounter has a potential rationale explanation, either hypnosis or self-fulfilling prophecy. When Norman destroys his wife's protective charms and bad things begin to happen, he must race against time to save her from the evil clutches of a crippled witch...or from her own crippled beliefs. 

The dénouement brings poetic justice to the vengeful and plotting antagonist: the eagle finally makes its landing. 

Final Grade: (B+)