The Pale Blue Eye brings murder, mystery and mayhem during the early 19th century to West Point, New York, where Detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) investigates a murder at the famous United States Military Academy. After concluding the cause of death is clearly not suicide, Landor enlists the assistance of fellow cadet, who happens to be a young Edgar Allen Poe (Harry Melling).
The Pale Blue Eye is based on a 2003 novel by Louis Bayard, who is known for bringing historical figures into his fictional tales. He is known for novels such as The Black Tower, Jackie & Me, and Roosevelt’s Beast. Writer and director Scott Cooper brought Bayard’s story to life in film, which is now out on Netflix.
As the thriller unfolds, more cadets are discovered with organs missing from their bodies. The mystery includes several twists and the setting of the movie plays a pivotal role, so the director needed to find the perfect location to bring the nation’s oldest military academy, and its surrounding community, to life. Since West Point is home to more than 4,500 cadets and has changed significantly since the early 1800s, they needed to find alternate locations. The movie was filmed in Western Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, an area they could find that could resemble West Point in the 1800s. Since the Ligonier Township Village of Laughlintown has a historic appeal, a majority of the movie was filmed in the area.
Of course, you can’t have a movie set at a historic college without actually showing something that resembles what it could have looked like during that timeframe. To help emulate the look and feel of the old university, they used Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. With just a few modifications – such as wagons and cannons added – the film’s version of the USMC was created.
West Point Barracks
Hartwood Acres Park is a historic estate that was originally designed for an equestrian family. It is home to the Hartwood Acres Stables, which served as the cadet barracks of West Point throughout the movie.
West Point Morgue
Old Economy Village in Abridge, Pennsylvania, was home to the West Point Morgue throughout the filming of murder mystery. Old Economy Village is a museum that shares how early settlers lived, which helped give the film its unique historic look.
The Marquis Estate
Hartwood Acres Park also served as the Marquis Estate. The 16th century style Tudor mansion called the Hartford Estate Mansion was designed by Alfred Hopkins for John and Mary Flinn Lawrence and includes 31 rooms that gave the film crew plenty of space to film.
In the 1960s, the Ligonier Valley Historical Society restored the former stagecoach hostelry Compass Inn and opened it up to the public as a museum. Since the building was originally built in 1799, the look of the building was the perfect location to bring Benny’s Haven to life in the film.
Jean Pepe’s home
A West Point professor and occult expert named Jean Pepe’s (Robert Duvall) home is the setting for several scenes. The scenes were filmed at Penguin Court, 1,100-acres of land that gained its name because it used to be home to penguins that would roam the land. The land is now part of the Brandywine Conservancy.
The Hanging Tree
Filmed on the shores of Lake Arthur just between Barber Point Beach and Lakeview Beach in Moraine State Park, this location serves as not only a stand-in for the actual Hudson River that borders West Point but also as a stark and brightly lit contrast to the movie’s many other gloomily lit scenes. A stark contrast that ironically highlights the site’s purpose in the film.
Perhaps foreshadowing Poe’s later career as America’s first major horror writer, he takes a stroll through a cemetery with Lucy Boynton’s Lea Marquis. The location used for Pale Blue Eye, Allegheny Cemetery is a located bit further down the East coast in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood. Several other scenes for the film, including the funeral of Cadet Leroy Fry were shot there.
The Ice House
The ice house, where Bale’s Constable Landor discovers the macabre signs of occult rituals is the actual historic McConnells Mill located in McConnells Mill State Park. The site becomes the focus of several characters as the movie progresses and the film’s title card was shot along the banks of Slippery Rock Creek which flows through the park.