I’ve been designated to review a fair amount of 1970s – 80s TV movies released recently through Warner Archive Collection, so apologies for always starting with, “…when I was a kid…” but this, for better or worse, was my period, and they do bring back the memories. So without further ado…
When I was a kid, TV movies, or MOW’s, were a mainstay of the Television programming week. Most were not very good, some were horrible, and once in a rare while, there was a diamond in the rough. There were also some that have a scene, or even a shot that sticks in your subconscious, lodged there like a corn kernel trapped between your teeth, rubbing the back of your tongue, until mercifully, something jars it loose. A dead man with pupil-less eye sockets, reaching out from the grave was one of those memories for me.
The Eyes of Charles Sand was a pretty bad MOW. Logging in at only 75 minutes, it was one of those strange “made for TV creations,” that, with commercials, ran 90 minutes (anybody remember “The ABC Movie of the Week?”), so it plays like an extended pilot, what it was intended to be.
A mod looking cat has a horrible dream of an old, dead man, reaching towards him. Charles Sand awakens at 3 AM in a sweat to a phone call from his aunt, telling him his uncle has died (the man in his dream), and he needs to come to her house immediately. When he arrives, a very melodramatic Joan Bennett (Father of the Bride, and more famously, Dark Shadows ) tells him he has now inherited “the sight” that will stay with him forever. She leads him to a book similar to Evil Dead’s Necronomicon that describes how only one heir to his uncle can have the sight at a time. Once he passes, someone else will inherit the special power.
From there, Charles Sand, our wealthy and hip dude with the flaired pants suits and helmet of hair goes about trying to refute these new powers, seeing an ancient looking zombie lady in a fur coat, and other enigmatic, repeated “snap zoomed” visions. He enlists the aid of his funky cool psychiatrist friend, Adam West, who can find no answer, but knows a doctor at the “university” who studies ESP. Even this specialist can’t help Charles, since he tests negative for extra sensory perception.
Enter a “troubled” but swingin’ chick in a fur coat asking for Charles’ help in finding the killer of her dead brother. Her wealthy sister (an amazingly over-the-top Barbara Rush) and husband explain to Charles that the troubled girl’s brother is not dead. Charles’ visions increase, as he is driven to investigate the girl’s case. He uncovers a very involved plot that may mean the sister is either “on” to something, or homicidally insane.
Either way, it’s clear Charles is now going to be responsible for people who are sensitive to his visions and seek him out for help, and we are off and running with a TV character that could’ve had a series, but never seemed to make it out of the gate.
A similar series starring Gary Collins called The Sixth Sense, had a real two season run, and “Charles Sand” was probably too similar in idea. It definitely isn’t as strong as the latter. (Interestingly, The Sixth Sense was re-edited in syndication and dropped into The Night Gallery, where you may still catch it today. It was an awkward fit, since The Sixth Sense ran an hour, and Night Gallery a half hour, so it had to be chopped down, with Rod Serlings’ intros to about 18 minutes. But I digress.)
The main problem with the story and the set-up is that Charles Sand’s visions don’t explain anything, and he stumbles blindly into situations because he doesn’t have enough information. His super powers are therefore, not very “super,” and once we get beyond his discovery of these new abilities, we fall into a very standard whodunit, without any real “other-worldly” suspense or horror to follow.
Actor Peter Haskell, who had been in almost every television show made before and after “Charles Sand,” and is probably best known today as the Toy Company CEO from the Child’s Play horror films, does the standard job of accepting drinks wherever he visits, and pouring himself quite a few as well.
The soundtrack sounds familiar to Henry Mancini’s Wait Until Dark, which is exactly why Mancini ended up suing and winning. Those warped piano chords and unnerving violins became a mainstay of the 70s, so they fit right in here.
If you’re a fan of these no budget, cheesy made for TV creakers, there’s an abundance of them waiting to be rediscovered, so in that vein, WAC is doing God’s work, and we should applaud them for going where no fan has gone…recently.
As for me, the opening scene of the dead man with white eye balls haunted me for decades, so I owe a debt of gratitude to WAC for solving the mystery of the “what film was this scene in” question that’s been bugging me for over 30 years. Now, with that corn kernel dislodged, I can go back to my life, and never have to worry about Charles Sand’s “eyes” again.
The Eyes of Charles Sand is available as a manufacture on demand DVD (MOD) through Warner Archive