The Private Eyes (1980 film)

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The Private Eyes
DVD cover
Directed byLang Elliott
Produced byWanda Dell
Lang Elliott
Written byTim Conway
John Myhers
StarringTim Conway
Don Knotts
Trisha Noble
Bernard Fox
Grace Zabriskie
Irwin Keyes
Suzy Mandel
Music byPeter Matz
CinematographyJacques Haitkin
Edited byPatrick M. Crawford
Fabien D. Tordjmann
The Private Eyes Partners Limited
Distributed byNew World Pictures
Release date
  • April 17, 1980 (1980-04-17)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2.3 million[1]
Box office$18,014,000 (US)

The Private Eyes is a 1980 American comedy mystery film starring Tim Conway and Don Knotts. The pair play bumbling American detectives who work for Scotland Yard, They had to leave the US because of Dr. Tart's inventions. Obvious parodies of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. It was filmed at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.

It was directed by Lang Elliott and marks the final pairing of Conway and Knotts (not counting their cameos as two California Highway Patrol officers in the 1984 film Cannonball Run II).


The film opens early in the twentieth century, at an English country mansion with the apparent murder of Lord and Lady Morley in their car by a figure in a black cape. Inspector Winship (Knotts) and Dr. Tart (Conway), two American detectives transferred over to Scotland Yard, then travel to the Morley mansion, brandishing a letter from the late Lord Morley asking him to investigate his own murder. They encounter the attractive heiress - the Morley's adopted daughter Phyllis Morley (Trisha Noble) - and are introduced to the manor's questionable staff. As the two investigate the murder, each of the staff, which includes a samurai, a hunchback, a busty maid, a gypsy, and an insane butler to mention a few, are seemingly killed. However, each of their bodies disappear before the detectives can show them to the heiress. Their attempts to update Scotland Yard via homing pigeon are continuously thwarted, typically by the death of the pigeon. After discovering the manor's numerous hidden passages, the detectives wind up in a "torture chamber" (whose purpose is not explained) and Winship is caught in a deadly trap. While Tart clumsily searches for a way to help, the caped figure ("The Shadow") leaps out to rescue Winship from the trap.

A boa constrictor then frightens them into a trash compactor, where they survive being compressed into a bale of garbage. Once out of the garbage, they find the heiress taking the Morley money and preparing to leave the mansion. She then confesses to having killed the Morleys for their money as she has a gambling habit. Planning to kill the detectives and escape the mansion, she falls backward into a flower bed while retreating, where she is grabbed by the shadowy figure, who has been hiding in the dirt. The shadow scares her to the point that she faints, at which time the shadow takes off his cape, revealing himself to be Lord Morley. Morley had escaped the car crash and gathered the staff in order to gain their help in a plan to force the heiress into confessing to the murder of his wife and attempt on his own life. Lord Morley remained "dead" (in hiding) as part of the plan, writing the letter to Scotland Yard in order to request Winship and Tart as investigators, presumably because of their incompetence, noted early on in the film. As Morley continues his tale, the members of the staff arrive, having faked their own deaths as part of the plan. The heiress is then arrested and the private eyes are thanked with a gift of a very rare sarcophagus, which is placed in their car.

As Winship and Tart enter their car and start driving, they get into an argument over the existence of creatures known as "wookalars," said to be manlike creatures with superhuman strength and a pig-like face. The film ends with the private eyes' car careening down the road as they scream in terror, due to the sudden appearance of a wookalar from their newly acquired sarcophagus.


The two comedic actors Conway and Knotts achieved success onscreen when they were paired in several family-friendly feature films for Disney: The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975), Gus (1976), and The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979).[2] Tim Conway and John Myhers wrote a screenplay which became The Prize Fighter[2] and after its success at the box office (and in rentals), Conway and Myhers wrote another Knotts and Conway team-up, The Private Eyes.

Main cast[edit]


The Private Eyes earned $12 million in rentals during its initial release, and became the most popular film made at New World Pictures under Roger Corman.[1][3]


  1. ^ a b Koetting, Christopher T. (2009), Mind Warp!: The Fantastic True Story of Roger Corman's New World Pictures, Hemlock Books, pp. 172, 188–190
  2. ^ a b Tillisch, Rob (29 June 2005). "The Prize Fighter (1979)". Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  3. ^ The Private Eyes (1980) Trivia at the Internet Movie Database

External links[edit]