Friday, January 03, 2003


These are two B-mysteries featuring Edward Arnold as blind detective Duncan Maclain. Both are structured similarly: they begin with scenes showing Arnold (thick-bodied and middle-aged) getting the best of some strapping policemen in a self-defense/wrestling match, and they end with Arnold breaking out, rather improbably, from a tight spot of imprisonment and using his agile physical skills to kick the bad guy's ass. Everyone, good and bad alike, underestimates Arnold's powers of deduction, based largely on his other four senses and on his seeing eye dog, Friday. EYES is the better film, a little more tightly plotted and with a stronger cast. Ann Harding is concerned that her stepdaughter (a very young Donna Reed) is keeping company with a slimy third-rate community theater actor (John Emery). The trick is that Harding has a history with Emery and Reed thinks that her stepmom is jealous. One night, Emery is found murdered and Harding and Reed both think the other is involved. Family friend Arnold investigates. The bulk of the film takes place over one long night in the family house and the case winds up involving the usual 40's elements of foreign spies and secret weapons. Allen Jenkins is Arnold's sidekick, who spends most of the last half tied up in a basement, and who is spectacularly rescued by Friday, the dog. In THE HIDDEN EYE, Frances Rafferty calls on Arnold for help when her father is killed, apparently by someone looking to settle some past scores. Her fiance is the chief suspect, but the villain is someone much closer to the victim. William Phillips (replacing Allen Jenkins) and Ray Collins are also featured. This might have made a decent series of films if it had started a few years earlier, when the Falcon and Saint movies did. By 1945, this kind of movie was seeming a little out-of-date and no more Duncan Maclain films were made. I recommend the first one, but the second is negligible.

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