Welcome back to TV Tuesday, cheese lovers! I have got a topping for your nachos this week in the form of 1972’s The Eyes of Charles Sand. This is the type of over-the-top paranormal offering I’m looking for every week. Here we have it all: psychics, hysterics, jump scares, old Hollywood ingenues slumming it on TV, and Adam West.
The movie begins with a dream sequence. Charles Sand dreams that his uncle is lying in a coffin, presumably dead, but suddenly the reposing corpse sits up and opens horrifying all-white eyes. The phone rings in the waking world. It is Charles’s Aunt Alex (the maaaarrrrvelous Joan Bennett) informing him that he has to come over to her house right away. But Aunt Alex, he protests, it is three in the morning, and you live in East Bumble Fuck. You just dreamed your uncle died, and he has, she counters. Get your ass over here.
The sleepy and confused Charles gets into a cool 70s muscle car and hotfoots it over there, but that’s not good enough for the ghost of his uncle, who appears in the back seat and in the middle of the road! That’s no way to keep your heir alive to do your bidding! At Aunt Alex and Uncle Creepy’s house Charles is shown to a big book, which explains that he has inherited psychic powers, and there is nothing he can do about it.
This being the 70s, Charles consults his analyst, Adam West. Dr. Adam takes him to a guy who specializes in psychic phenomena, and it is determined that Charles can’t predict whether there is a star or some wavy lines on those cards like the ones Peter Venkman had in Ghostbusters. Yet still the visions persist. At his uncle’s funeral, Charles sees an apparition of a red headed hag outside an ornate mausoleum owned by a very wealthy family with whom he happens to be doing business. He also sees a girl in a fur coat, running. Later the girl and the hag both appear in his house; the girl, a member of the family who owns the mausoleum, is corporeal, and she wants him to solve the mystery of her brother’s murder.
Charles goes to the girl’s home only to find that, according to her older sister and brother-in-law (Barbara Rush and Bradford Dillman), the concerned younger sister is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs and her brother is supposedly away on business in London. But still the visions persist, as Charles tries to play handball with Dr. Adam and a corpse comes crashing through the wall, a corpse that only Charles sees. Is it the missing brother? So is the girl really crazy? Who is the hag? Charles can’t explain or will away his powers, and evidently he has to help the girl if he ever wants to play any sports or drive his hot car in peace again.
First of all, let me get out the way that despite the fact that we’ve all decided to laugh for all time at his portrayal of Batman, Adam West was once upon a time really kind of hot. Moving on, this Peter Haskell guy who plays Charles Sand does a good job here, and it’s obvious The Eyes of Charles Sand was intended to possibly become a series. I wish that it had. (Why did they never let the psychic dude have a full series of mystery solving with these TV pilot/movies? The same thing happened with Granville Van Dusen in The World Beyond!) Sharon Farrell as the damsel in distress is kind of annoying, but that’s because we’re supposed to think she’s crazy, and she really gives it all she’s got. Bradford Dillman looks aristocratic and convinces us with little effort that his character may be a douchebag. Of course we all know Joan Bennett from Dark Shadows and Suspiria, and she’s reliably authoritative and snotty here as Alex.
But the one who steals The Eyes of Charles Sand right out from under all of them is Barbara Rush as the older sister of the distressed Sharon Farrell. What an unexpected and explosive turn her character takes! She chews up all the scenery and spits it right in Peter Haskell’s face, spitballing Bradford Dillman in the process, in her effort to snatch her younger sister baldheaded (in a figurative sense, of course). The movie turns from a paranormal mystery right into a slasher/let’s run around the mansion film for the last few minutes, and it couldn’t be more delightful. My only gripe is that attention is technically taken away from the psychic stuff, since in my heart psychological horror comes first. But that’s a minor grievance. If you like TV movies, and you have either a subscription to Warner Archive Instant or don’t mind buying the DVD from their site, you have to see this one.
Four postscripts: I’d like to point out, just because I think it’s interesting: at one point during the last few minutes of the movie, a mirror moves before it smashes and you can see a crew member sitting there.
Also, the producers of The Eyes of Charles Sand decided to go ahead and use the music from Wait Until Dark without asking Henry Mancini if it was okay, and he sued them and won. They also stole music from The Omega Man! Maybe that’s why this didn’t get picked up.
Third, I can find no credit for the actor who played Charles’s uncle.
Finally, have you ever in your life had a dream where everything was happening in front of a solid black background? It seems like every time there is a dream sequence in a 70s movie that isn’t The Exorcist, dreams happen in front of a black blackground, and it is a trend that I love with a love that is less than love. I noticed it in Beyond the Door, All the Colors of the Dark, and now The Eyes of Charles Sand, and probably a bunch of other films I can’t name off the top of my head. I wonder why they thought that was a good idea to film dreams that way?