Weekend Film Recommendation: Night of the Eagle

Burn-Witch-Burn-Blair

Our Halloween month of frightful films continues this week with a movie based on the work of Fritz Leiber Jr. He was a talented fantasy, science fiction and horror writer who is mainly remembered for the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books, which surprisingly have never been adapted for the cinema. In contrast, Leiber’s Conjure Wife has served as the basis of multiple movies, including this week’s recommendation: 1962’s Night of the Eagle (later re-titled Burn Witch Burn).

Peter Wyngarde stars as a hard-headed college professor who thinks that the supernatural is bunk. Imagine his surprise when he discovers that his wife (Janet Blair) has been a practicing witch for years, and claims that her magic has been advancing his career and protecting the couple’s well-being! He makes her promise to abandon her childish hobby, and almost immediately regrets it when a series of horrifying happenings befall the two of them. Could witchcraft be real, and is another witch in the college community out to get them?

The script is by two masters of economical, intelligent, unpretentious horror: Richard Matheson (who also wrote last week’s recommendation) and Charles Beaumont (who also penned prior RBC recommendation The Intruder). They pace the plot and the scares professionally, and slyly weave a feminist subtext into the proceedings.

I have to admit that I can’t name another movie of director Sidney Hayers, but his low profile wasn’t due to lack of talent. He keeps things suspenseful and crisp, gets solid performances from all the actors and brings in the good-for-the-time special effects at just the right moments. The pleasing result recalls Roger Corman’s many solid low budget horror films, such as those he adapted from Edgar Allen Poe stories (Including the Matheson-scripted prior RBC recommendation Tales of Terror). Not surprisingly, Night of the Eagle was released by Anglo-Amalgamated, the British partner of Corman’s company AIP.

This suspenseful sleeper is available to watch for free at the Internet Archive, just click here. As a taster, I embed the trailer below.

p.s. This film would make a fine double feature with an ever better film based on the same themes: Curse of the Demon. My recommendation of that film is here.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College Lonon. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over ten thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

3 thoughts on “Weekend Film Recommendation: Night of the Eagle”

  1. Mostly remembered for Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, yes, but there was a great deal more to Leiber. I've got a particular love for A Spectre Is Haunting Texas. For some reason, writing about actors brings out the best in SF writers. And his short story "America the Beautiful" managed to be somewhat prophetic despite the fall of the Soviet Union.

  2. Conjure Wife was one of his best works. I hadn't known that it had been made into a movie, I'll have to watch it this weekend.

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