Blind detective Duncan "Mac" Maclain (Edward Arnold) solves crimes with the assistance of his incredibly intelligent seeing eye dog Friday, played by himself, & his not as intelligent his right-hand man Marty (Allen Jenkins), in Eyes in the Night (1942). He also has a butler, Alistair, played by black character actor Mantan Morland, who does comic relief shtick with the dog.
Mac is visited by his friend Norma (Ann Harding) who solicites his advice in coping with a seedy old boyfriend, Paul (John Emery), who is now courting Norma's angry but naive step-daughter Barbara (Donna Reed, very young here & never more beautiful).
Norma tried to warn Barbara about what a rotter the age-inappropriate Paul is, but Barbara's convinced Norma is just jealous, & has never adjusted to another woman living in the house with her & her father.
When the horny old goat turns up dead, Barbara is convinced her step-mom did it, & is callously eager to blackmail her to get her out of the house. Mac sets out with his smarter-than-people dog Friday to sort out what really happened.
Instead of a regular murder mystery, however, it turns out that Nazi spy tale, with a second murder in the bargain.
It seems Barbara's father/Norma's husband Stephen (Reginald Denny) has invented something that will be useful in fighting the Nazis (this being Hollywood's way of saying the reluctant American armed forced had better enter the European theater soon). While Steven's away testing the formula, the spies descend upon the Barbara & Norma's household.
Mac shows up at the house with his dog pretending to be Norma's uncle & knowing full well something nasty is afoot. There are several scenes that are fun or suspenseful or both, but the real winner is when Friday is sent out to really save the day. He's almost tempted by a babe of a French poodle, but he first attends to duty. The scene where Friday is trapped in the basement & has to figure out how to escape is a pure delight.
The human characters aren't bad either, with some of the best character-actors & support cast in top form. Edward Arnold in particular is amazingly effective & convincing as a blind detective. In one scene when Mac has taken down a tough guy named Gabriel (Stephen McNally), Gabriel asks Morty, "Is that guy blind?" To which Marty replies, "Demoralizin', ain't it."
By the end good has vanquished bad; Barbara has realized what a fool she has been & comes to terms with having a step-mother; & Stephen's secret formula, whatever the hell it was, promises to do injury to evil Teutons.
Loosely based on Baynard Kendrick's novel The Odor of Violets (1940), the original Captain Maclean was blinded in the first world war & set up a detective agent with his pal Spud, & had not one but two amazingly well trained German shepherds who sniffed out clues. The character of Mac Maclain was obvioiusly inspired by Ernest Bramah's blind detective Max Carrados. The first volume of Max Carrados tales appeared in 1914.
Eyes in the Night really deserves to be better known. The characters were carried over into a second film of an intended series. But The Hidden Eye (1945) was not the equal of the original film, despite the return of Edward Arnold in the starring role & his brilliant dog Friday at his side.
Mantan was replaced by Leigh Whipper as Mac's valet/butler, & Allen Jenkins was replaced by Bill Phillips as Marty, Mac's Watson. Their comic relief bits were overdone compared to the restrained character performances in the initial film.
A merely serviceable murder mystery regards the usual damsel (Frances Rafferty) whose fiance (Paul Langdon) falls under suspicion of murder. It's up to Mac to find out what is really going on, the scent of an Oriental perfume being his major clue, & climaxing with Mac showing his judo expertise.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl