Wicked Wednesday: Night of the Eagle (1962)

Some films really stand the test of time. They’re story speaks years beyond its initial release due to great storytelling.

Then there are films like Night of the Eagle. Which, while not terrible in any way, just comes off as incredibly dated. And not in a fun, 80’s perm kind of way.

Norman Taylor is a successful psychology professor at a university. He is a critic of the mystical and superstitious. He lives his very nice, clean-cut life with his seemingly nice, clean-cut wife.

One night, after hosting a party for his co-workers, his wife Tansy begins to act strangely. He later finds two dead spiders in her drawer, which she claims is just a memento of their honeymoon in Jamaica.

But he later discovers a plethora of unusual objects after searching through Tansy’s things (!). After he argues with her, she admits she’s a practicing witch. She tells him that she only wants to protect him, and that there are plenty of bad forces after him. But he’s a man and she’s just a stupid, superstitious woman! So he then burns her things as she watches. So he really won’t be winning and Husband of the Year awards.

Norman burns the spiders last. And once he does, the phone rings and a woman’s voices comes through the other line. She speaks to him suggestively, but he hangs up on the unknown woman.

The next day, bad things begin to happen to Norman. He’s nearly hit by a bus, then later one of his students accuses him of rape (but later redacts her accusation).  When he gets home from his long-ass day, he sees that he has received a tape from one of his lectures. He begins to play it, but Tansy notices something is not right and turns it off.

That night, Tansy decides to kill herself in exchange for her husband’s safety (as she had seen a mother do that for her daughter in Jamaica). She leaves the house to go to the family’s cabin. Norman realises she’s gone in the morning and goes after her. He is eventually able to find her before she drowns herself in the sea.

But when he takes her home, she’s still in a strange trance. She attacks him with a knife, so he locks her in her room.

Norman eventually realises that something isn’t right and heads to the school where he discovers that it’s the school secretary, Flora, who is targeting him. Her motive is to simply get rid of the man in line for her husband’s promotion. She sets up a tarot card tower and sets it on fire, setting Norman’s actual house (with Tansy in her room) on fire.

She starts playing the tape again, which begins to cast its spell on Norman. He imagines one of the great stone eagles in the school grounds is attacking him. While he runs away, the tape is eventually turned off and the spell broken.

Norman eventually goes back to his burning home and finds Tansy safe, having escaped. Flora, meanwhile, gets crushed by a falling stone eagle.

Night of the Eagle had the makings of something great. I loved Tansy, and was really rooting for her. It was a shame she became absolutely useless in the third act of the film.

Ultimately, through a 2018 lens, this story is more frustrating than anything. Tansy finds her own powers and has to hide them from her husband. He’s the fool but still ultimately saves himself. For me, it felt like a waste of a plot line. If you give a woman magic, let her use it! I mean, heaven forbid a woman be able to be smarter (or even as intelligent as) than her husband.

It was both boring and frustrating watching a movie about two women who had the ability to do FUCKING MAGIC and only used it to get their idiotic, useless husbands a promotion.

Some films are good enough that their era ideals can be forgiven. This is not one of them.

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