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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

'The Eyes of Charles Sand:' The Boy With Something Extra

Eyes of Charles Sand
Warner Archive's recent DVD release of the1972 TV-movie (and attempted pilot) "The Eyes of Charles Sand" is the second subject in Unreal TV's 2013 series of Halloween-themed reviews. This thriller about an aspiring master of the universe rapidly obtaining the ability to see dead people and have psychic visions has a wonderful "Movie of the Week" vibe that provides quasi-psychic visions of spending Friday nights watching movies like this on ginormous 25-inch console color televisions.

"Sands" is also very reminiscent of the feature film "Let's Scare Jessica to Death" from the same era that Archive released (and that Unreal TV reviewed) several weeks ago.

"Sands" quickly gets down to business by depicting our titular hero, played by veteran character actor Peter Haskell, developing and discovering his new-found "gift" from his uncle immediately on said uncle's death. Just as Peter Parker's uncle advises him that great responsibility accompanies great power, the guidebook that Sands' uncle leaves him counsels that acquiring "the sight" is both a blessing and a curse.

Joan Bennett of the original "Dark Shadows" series provides a spot-on performance as Sands' strong-willed Aunt Alexandria. Alexandria's role is to instruct and guide Sands regarding his new-found abilities.

"Batman's" Adam West rounds out this team of crime-fighters as Sands' bff and psychiatrist Dr. Paul Scott. Having one of Scott's first lines include referring to Sands as a "boy wonder" regarding a recent business merger that Sands handled is one of the best moments of "Sands."

A ghostly apparition that appears to Sands during the graveside portion of his uncle's funeral initiates his first adventure; this one relates to a woman named Emily Parkhurst, played by Sharon Farrell, being convinced that her brother has been killed despite the assurances of her sister that said sibling is alive and well in London.

Barbara Rush of the "Peyton Place" television series and scads of bit parts plays this potentially reverse gaslighter who is trying to convince Emily that nothing is wrong.

Guided by his visions and slips by the malfeasor or malfeasors of the film, Sands uncovers the related truths about the absent brother and Emily's sanity. The stereotypical penultimate scene that places our hero in great peril has great moments but also an outcome that becomes very predictable on first seeing a device that is central to the resolution.

The highlights of "Sands" are that it is well-staged and offers an interesting premise with great potential for a weekly series with a little tweaking. Further, Bennett's grande dame and West's best chum personas are great.

The largest problem is that the director does not get a great performance from Haskell, who has the right age and look for a wealthy 30-something man who has fallen down the rabbit hole. Haskell's performance is flat, and he does not even evoke appropriate anxiety in tense moments. Haskell's other roles strongly indicate that he is capable of delivering a stronger performance. Recasting, rather than dumping, would have been a great option.

Also, the story drags a few times and would have benefited either from being cut down to an hour or by cutting out the origin story and inserting the characters and plot into one of the numerous existing detective shows on the air in 1972 and then filling in the gaps in the pilot episode of "Sands" as a spinoff.

The solution to the mystery of whether "Sands" is worth adding to your DVD library is that it is a personal choice. It is also a safe bet that not loving it after taking a chance on it will not cause serious buyer's remorse. Further, it is a great example of the rarities that Archives makes available.

As described above, "Sands" has many good points and some flaws. Fans of occult drama and or wonderfully cheesy made-for-TV Friday night movies should like this one; it is a tough call regarding everyone else but is worth spending roughly $15 to check out.

Anyone with any questions or thoughts regarding "Sands" must contact me via email because my own psychic abilities are limited. You are also welcome to find me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.