TV Terror Guide: The Eyes of Charles Sand (1972)
Air Date: February 29, 1972 (ABC)
Production Companies: Warner Bros. Television
Running Time: 75 min.
Available on: Warner Archive (DVD)
Written by: Henry Farrell
Directed by: Reza Badiyi
Cast: Peter Haskell, Joan Bennett, Barbara Rush, Sharon Farrell, Bradford Dillman, Adam West, Cary Clarke
With it’s terrifying opening, The Eyes of Charles Sand (1972) unfortunately has nowhere to go but down. Flickering candles surround a coffin on which lies a black wreath. Charles Sand (Peter Haskell) approaches and opens it. The old man inside opens his eyes, which are all white, then suddenly sits up and points at Charles/us. Charles wakes up in bed; he’s had a bad dream.
Then his phone rings. It’s his Aunt Alexandria (Joan Bennett, Dark Shadows), who seems aware that he’s had this dream and knows it’s because his Uncle Edward just died. She insists that he come meet her immediately, even though it’s 3:00 AM. When he arrives, Charles learns that he’s inherited “the sight,” a psychic power passed down to the oldest male in the family when the one who previously possessed it dies.
Almost immediately, the movie becomes a standard, yet sometimes twisted, mystery, instead of the horror film it appeared at first to be. I can’t find evidence to prove it, but I’m almost certain that, because of the way the rest of the story unfolds, The Eyes of Charles Sand was a failed pilot for a television series. He’s the reluctant new owner of this power and becomes embroiled in an episodic plot, here one week, gone the next.
The screenplay by Henry Farrell (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, and What’s the Matter with Helen?) isn’t horrible. However, the mystery doesn’t need someone with ESP to solve it. All the clues reside in a person in the here and now, Emily Parkhurst (Sharon Farrell), her sister, Katharine Winslow (Barbara Rush), and Katharine’s husband, Jeffrey (Bradford Dillman.)
Veteran director Reza Badiyi focuses on camera trickery and atmosphere to generate thrills, some of which are successful, but not on the acting. Therefore, it’s over-the-top, especially with Farrell, and understated with Haskell. It’s a good cast, though, and fun to see Adam West as Jeffrey’s buddy, Dr. Paul Scott, who thinks Charles’s vision are simply hallucinations.
The climax is extended and a lot of the 75-minute running time is spent creeping around the big, spooky house, with characters avoiding, then popping out to surprise each other. The only thing missing is a thunderstorm while this is happening. The Eyes of Charles Sand isn’t bad, but it is disappointing, especially since I had to purchase the DVD to watch it. I thought that fact alone might have elevated it to something extraordinary instead of ordinary.