23 February 2014 | kevinolzak
Seen on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater in 1968
1944's "Dead Man's Eyes" was third of the six 'Inner Sanctum' mysteries, later included in Universal's popular SHOCK! package of classic horror films issued to television in the late 50s. Unlike its predecessors, this pretty much ranks as a straight up whodunit, with some macabre touches borrowed from a previous SHOCK! title, "Mystery of the White Room," a 1939 'Crime Club' mystery wherein one character has his sight restored by a corneal transplant from the murder victim. Lon Chaney again is a tortured victim, the (justifiably) starving artist Dave Stuart, whose latest painting is believed to be the masterpiece that will put his career on the path to success. Engaged to wealthy Heather (Jean Parker), Dave is blind to the devotion of his attractive model, Tanya Czoraki (Acquanetta,) who mishandles identical bottles on the artist's top shelf, one containing eye wash, the other acetic acid (surely any man keeping such items side by side gets what he deserves). The unthinkable happens, Dave falling victim to the (intended?) switch, rendered sightless by the acid's corrosive effects. Heather's devoted father (Edward Fielding) wills his eyes to his prospective son-in-law, then winds up murdered in his own home, the blind Dave himself stumbling over the body before his fiancée discovers what happened. Were it not for the endless bickering and/or bellyaching, it might have been the best of the entire series, the too-slow buildup and mostly mediocre acting sinking the whole enterprise. After a horrendous showing in "Jungle Woman," the woeful Acquanetta is once again entrusted with dialogue, displaying all the downtrodden acting prowess of Rondo Hatton in a sadly indifferent display that cannot be considered a performance; rather fittingly, this was her farewell to Universal. Underrated beauty Jean Parker was enjoying her best year in the genre, starring with Lionel Atwill in "Lady in the Death House," Bela Lugosi in "One Body Too Many," and John Carradine in "Bluebeard." As the police inspector, Thomas Gomez, usually cast as villains, doesn't enjoy the kind of juicy dialogue that J. Carrol Naish had in "Calling Dr. Death," but he definitely has more depth than his successors in both "The Frozen Ghost" and "Pillow of Death." The smarmy Paul Kelly is certainly in his element as a psychiatrist mooning over Tanya's questionable qualities, with similar turns in "Star of Midnight," "The Missing Guest," and "The Cat Creeps." Beatrice Roberts, Queen Azura in "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars," had an almost continuous run of unbilled bits, her beauty always standing out, as it does here, easily catching the eye of police guard Eddie Dunn. As for Chaney, this pity party is just a dreary bore, unfortunately foreshadowing the very next entry, "The Frozen Ghost," which at least boasts a much stronger cast. "Dead Man's Eyes" made three appearances on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater- Mar 23 1968 (following 1962's Mexican "The Bloody Vampire"), July 30 1977 (following 1967's Japanese "King Kong Escapes"), and Feb 26 1983 (solo).