Movie review double feature: The Sun Sets At Dawn & Eyes In The Night

Hey gang, it’s been a while. I think I said in the last post that it’d be a little light on the dot com. That’s because I finished the coloring book (!). I won’t have any for sale for a bit, I’m waiting for “test” copies to arrive. I appreciate people who have asked about getting a copy. Maybe in another month or so. I painted the cover myself (that should be obvious) after spending the previous week working on the final layout. So, woo. Afterward, I watched a bunch of old timey movies. Here’s two quick recaps.

The Sun Sets At Dawn (1950)

The movie does not take place at the North or South Pole at any point, so this title makes no sense, scientifically. There are only four locations: a bus stop/diner, a prison office, “the boy’s” jail cell, and the electric chair and viewing area. It’s a weighty crime drama that someone somewhere labeled “noir” because it’s in black & white and deals with wrongful convictions. It also pulls a few suspense tricks on the audience who sit through a story about a cub reporter (“the boy,” no name) framed for a murder. A gaggle of reporters bounce back and forth between the diner & electric chair viewing room, recapping the crime to each other, while “the boy” fills in the details to the priest who is supposed to give him his last rites. It’s the movie that cried wolf, because just when you think there’s no going back for anyone as the true criminal is revealed, the movie keeps going, torturing “the girl” (“the boy’s” girlfriend) as she waits for “the boy” to be executed. There’s a mysterious gangster and a sullen ex-con who just happen to be hanging out in the diner as well, eyeing each other as police and reporters pass through. The movie’s gimmick is more about the suspense than about, say, the loss of innocence. And if you catch that last bit from The Player, then you might know why this drama doesn’t cut it as film noir. Some fun stuff from the character actors playing the reporters, but I’d rather see a story about the mystery gangster. A lot of melodrama with “the boy,” but he just rambles on in his cell, so not a lot of action there. Written & Directed by Paul Sloane well into his career.

Eyes In The Night (1942)

Edward Arnold is detective MacClain…a detective who is blind and wealthy. I think he’s a detective, I haven’t read the novels this movie and its sequel are based on. Well anyway, his friend Norma stops by: her stepdaughter Barbara is interested in a man (Paul) that Norma used to date years ago (eww). Barbara sees it as a way to get back at Norma for marrying her wealthy scientist father. All scientists in these movies are wealthy and famous, and Norma’s husband/Barbara’s dad happens to be one working on a top secret thingy thing for the war effort. Like, everyone knows he’s working on something top secret. “He’s working on a project, in Manhattan,” everyone might as well say.

Norma confronts Paul about dating Barbara. (Apparently it will shatter Norma’s marriage if her husband finds out that she used to go out with someone else long before they met, but I have no idea how uptight people were in the 40’s). Later, Barbara goes to see Paul at his apartment, and she finds him…dead! And then Norma walks in from the other room. Barbara assumes that Norma has killed Paul, and blackmails her in leaving her father. SO, Norma pleads with MacClain to look into Paul’s death, claiming she had nothing to do with it. No police have been called, of course. MacClain heads into Paul’s apartment, and the body is gone.

From there, the movie goes off the rails when a delivery man comes in with a rug to cover up the spot where Paul’s body used to be, and MacClain successfully subdues the man. He gets his assistant to take the uncooperative delivery man back to his mansion, instead of calling the police, which must violate all kinds of laws. I mean, I know you want to find out why someone is dropping off a rug, but that’s what being a detective is for, right? You figure out the mystery. Not KIDNAP a suspect when you’re NOT THE ACTUAL POLICE. I guess I’m not supposed to question it because the movie lets the audience in that it’s old fashioned WW II espionage, and that Paul was part of an Axis sleeper cell made up of actors and servants hovering around Norma’s family to blackmail her husband into giving up the formula.

At least Edward Arnold is completely entertaining, especially when he makes his cover as Norma’s long lost boorish uncle who insists on driving the traitorous staff crazy with his antics. I would rather have a mystery where this detective and his streetwise assistant actually solve the murder, but I’m not living in 1940’s America where I have to ask my neighbors who the Cubs are playing that day in order to figure out if they’re real Americans or not. (Not a plot point of the movie, but you get what I’m saying.)

Barbara is played by Donna Reed, who had a prolific career. Reginald Denny plays her father/scientist, who probably had a resume longer than everyone here combined. His last movie role was the incompetent Navy Admiral who sold a weapons grade submarine to persons unknown in Batman: The Movie. This movie also features Rosemary DeCamp in a bit role, you might remember her from the original Thirteen Ghosts as the very funny matriarch. This movie has a lot of talented people is what I’m saying. Buy war bonds.

It looks like both movies are public domain, and are on youtube courtesy of several people. I don’t think anyone has found prints that look all that great. The Sun Sets At Dawn seems to have multiple versions at different lengths, so I don’t know which one is the original version, but wikipedia has it at 71 minutes.

Two more reviews coming up!

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