Dave Stuart (Lon Chaney Jr.) is an artist. He is engaged to Heather Hayden (Jean Parker). Davis is currently working on a portrait of his model Tanya Czoraki (Acquanetta). Tanya is in love with Dave. It’s obvious to Heather but Dave is clueless. Heather’s father Stanley Hayden (Edward Fielding) is happy about the engagement of his daughter to Dave. He thinks of Dave as a son. In that respect marrying Heather would be incestuous. But I digress. Alan Bittaker (Paul Kelly) is a friend of Dave’s. Alan is in love with Tanya but, of course, she is only interested in Dave. Nick Phillips (George Meeker), another family friend is also in love with Heather and feels that Heather is only marrying Dave because her father wants her to. He thinks that he’s such a great catch that that could be the only reason Heather wouldn’t want him. I’m sure it has nothing to do with him being a sniveling whiner. Again, I digress.
Every day, after working on his current painting, Dave puts boric acid on his eyes to sooth them. On the same shelf are bottles of several other acids, one of them is acetic acid. Tanya mistakenly mixes the order of the bottles on the shelf when taking them down to get a tissue. When Dave goes to put the boric acid on his eyes he ends up taking down the bottle of acetic acid instead. The acid burns his eyes and he is blinded.
Doctor Welles (Jonathan Hale) tells Dave that the only possible way to restore his eyesight would be a corneal transplant; however, the operation is risky and there is the possibility that it wouldn’t work. There is also a waiting list to get the proper corneas for the operation. In the meantime Dave will need help around his apartment until he is use to being blind. Tanya has admitted that she mixed up the bottles and feels responsible for Dave’s blindness. She offers to take care of him.
Feeling sorry for himself and feeling like a burden Dave breaks his engagement with Heather. Tanya hopes that Dave will turn to her. Nick hopes that Heather will turn to him. Hayden tells Dave that when he dies he will donate his eyes to Dave. When Hayden dies mysteriously Dave is the number one suspect.
“Dead Man’s Eyes” was released in 1944 and was directed by Reginald Le Borg. It is a mystery and a film noir. The film is the third in the series of six films done by Universal as part of the Inner Sanctum franchise. The films were based on the radio program “Inner Sanctum” which in turn was based on the Inner Sanctum books by Simon & Schuster. All six films in the series starred Lon Chaney Jr.
The Inner Sanctum radio program ran from January 7, 1941 to October 5, 1952. The program was created by producer Himan Brown. There were 526 episodes broadcast. The sponsors of the program were Carter’s Little Liver Pills and Lipton Tea.
The first two offerings in the series, “Calling Dr. Death” 1943 and “Weird Woman” 1944 were psychological thrillers. “Weird Woman” even had a supernatural undertone to it. “Dead Man’s Eyes”, on the other hand, is a straight up mystery. The mystery itself is interesting and the movie was actually pretty good. It’s a short movie so it goes fast. The acting was OK. Nobody’s performance was great.
Acquanetta’s performance in particular was dumped on. Yes, she’s not great, not even really good, but I’ve seen a lot worse than her. Her resume is a little sparse so acting could not have been her main form of bread and butter. Most of her career she played jungle girls. Her real name was Mildred Davenport and she was born in Ozone, Wyoming. Her mother was Arapaho and her father was white. Despite her being totally American, Universal tried labeling her as the “Venezuelan Volcano”.