Cult Movies

Cult Movie Essentials: Night of the Eagle (1962)

Night of the Eagle is a 1962 British horror film directed by Sidney Hayers. The script by Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson and George Baxt was based upon the 1943 Fritz Leiber novel Conjure Wife. The film was retitled Burn, Witch, Burn! for the US .

The film opens with us meeting Norman Taylor played by Peter Wyngarde (Department S, Jason King) is a psychology professor lecturing about belief systems and superstition. He discovers that his wife, Tansy (Janet Blair), is practising witchcraft. She insists that her charms have been responsible for his rapid advancement in his academic career and for his general well-being. A firm rationalist, Norman is angered by her acceptance of superstition. He forces her to burn all of her magical paraphernalia.

Almost immediately, things start to go wrong: a female student (Judith Stott) accuses Norman of rape, her boyfriend (Bill Mitchell) threatens him with violence, and someone tries to break into the Taylor’s home during a thunder storm. Tansy, willing to sacrifice her life for her husband’s safety, almost drowns herself and is only saved at the last minute by Norman giving in to the practices he despises.

Later, Tansy attacks him with a knife while in a trance, but Norman disarms her and locks her in her room. Her limping walk during the attack gives Norman a clue to the person responsible for his ill luck: university secretary Flora Carr (Margaret Johnston), the wife of Lindsay whose career had stalled in favour of Norman’s. Flora uses witchcraft to set fire to the Taylor home with Tansy trapped inside.

Using a form of auditory hypnosis over a loud speaker system, Flora convinces Norman that a giant stone eagle from atop the university chapel has come to life to attack him. Lindsay arrives at the office and turns off the loud speaker, and the illusory eagle vanishes. Tansy escapes her burning home and rejoins her no longer sceptical husband. On their way out of the campus, Lindsay sees the chapel’s heavy doors are ajar (left thus by Norman in his “escape” from the eagle), and insists upon securing them despite Flora’s protests. As she waits for him, the eagle statue falls from the roof and kills her.

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