Eyes Without a Face (1960)
This review contains SPOILERS!
"Eyes Without a Face" is one of France's most beloved horror movies, to the cinephile at least. There seems to be no more famous image than Juliette Mayniel sitting up in bed and screaming at the sight of an intruder. It can be seen influencing everything from "Repulsion" to "Silences of the Lambs" and most certainly "Seconds". Its eerie, not quite scary but intriguing way of filming makes it one of the most original of the genre, if not the most whole.
The movie begins essentially on the premise of plastic surgery . Docteur Génessier (Pierre Brasseur) has developed a way to use organs from one human and put them onto another without the second person's system rejecting it as an antibody. They accomplish this by submitting the organ in question to a large amount of X-ray radiation and thus, destroying the antibodies.
So this could be medically amazing right? Right, but Génessier is not going to use the technology for the good of mankind, instead harboring it for himself so as to fix a conundrum.
His daughter, Christiane (Edith Scob) got into a horrific car accident that left her, as the title explains, with eyes but no face. From an aesthetic and social position, this is unacceptable for Génessier who demands nothing but perfection for his daughter.
Enlisting the help of a former patient, Louise (Alida Valli), Génessier starts to prey on young girls around Christiane's age to steal their flesh from them. The opening scene has Louise dumping a faceless body down by the river and retreating in her car with mysterious and sinister look upon her face as she does so.
The music is not that frightening which is one of the staples of the horror genre. In this way it reminds me of "The Third Man" because it has a fairly happy sounding soundtrack that would be replaced by shrieking strings some decades later.
When you stop and notice all the things that go on in horror soundtracks it's interesting to note (hah!) the different approaches. From "The Exorcist" to "Carrie" and back. "Eyes Without a Face" for the most part, has no music whatsoever, usually just the catchy tune emerges when Louise starts tightening in on a prey.
There is nothing spectacular here with social commentary. Women are still the victims, men are the perpetrators, and the innocence of the most vulnerable must be preserved, otherwise there would be no point in her being saved at the end.
Georges Franju makes sure that we notice a painting of Christiane that will later be mirrored in a nice, but completely unnecessary moment when the big-hearted decides she will free the slaves and thus bring an end to the tyrannical rule of her father.
It's all very melodramatic and rarely boring; but hardly chilling in today's more gore obsessed scene. I will say this, what they do show in terms of blood and guts is quite surprising. I can definitely see how this might have turned stomachs when it was released.
Posted by Micah Jones