EYES WITHOUT A FACE REOPEN
Fango?s Tom Weaver reports on the latest vintage chiller returning to screens:
Run all the movies in the ?Mad Surgeon Kidnaps Female Victims to Restore His Wife?s/Daughter?s Life/Looks? subgenre and one moment stands out as the supreme shocker: The sequence in EYES WITHOUT A FACE (LES YEUX SANS VISAGE, 1959) in which the obsessed Dr. Genessier (Pierre Brasseur) works his sinister surgical skill on an operating-table beauty. After the procedure of outlining the face and eyes with scalpel slits is shown in detail bordering on how-to, and the viewer thinks the worst is over, Brasseur then carefully lifts her bloodsoaked face off as if he were removing a mask. Part of the reason the scene is such a knockout is that much of the rest of director Georges Franju?s film plays like a poetic fantasy?hauntingly lit in black and white, elegantly creepy and additionally enhanced by one of famed composer Maurice (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA) Jarre?s best scores.
Theatrically rereleasing this macabre masterpiece (also known as THE HORROR CHAMBER OF DR. FAUSTUS) was the brainstorm of award-winning Manhattan-based distributor Bruce Goldstein, whose Rialto Pictures has made a distinguished name for itself in recent years with restorations and reissues of classics like Carol Reed?s THE THIRD MAN, Fellini?s NIGHTS OF CABIRIA, some superb French films noir and other cinematic gems. ?But now I wanted to do something different,? Goldstein says of his decision to bring back EYES, which debuts on Halloween. ?We?ve licensed the film from the producers, went back to the negative and made beautiful new prints. We?re marketing it as an stylish, sophisticated horror film?which it is.?
Rialto?s new prints also feature newly translated subtitles, although there?s much less talk than eerie mood in this second feature film by former documentarian Franju (1912-87), co-founder of the fabled Cin?th?e Fran?se. Rounding out the starring cast are Alida (SUSPIRIA) Valli as Brasseur?s accomplice in surgical crime and the ethereal Edith Scob, hiding her ?open wound? of a face behind a plastic mask with living eyes as Brasseur?s disfigured daughter. The screenplay was written by the authors of Clouzot?s DIABOLIQUE and Hitchcock?s VERTIGO, and the pearly cinematography is by Eugen Sch?, creator of the special FX for Fritz Lang?s METROPOLIS and an Oscar-winner for THE HUSTLER with Paul Newman.
Critics who at the time had begun looking at Franju as a Serious Artist excoriated him in their reviews of EYES (one called the film an ?exercise in nausea?), but it quickly garnered a rep (alongside PSYCHO and PEEPING TOM) as one of the great ahead-of-its-time horror flicks of that era. Franju called it ?an anguish film. It?s a quieter mood than horror?more internal, more penetrating.? Goldstein recalls, ?When I first saw it, it was the creepiest movie I had ever seen. It upset me. I hope it still has that effect on audiences.?
EYES opens on October 31 in three markets: Chicago (The Music Box) and Los Angeles (The Nuart) in one-week runs and New York (The Film Forum) in a special two-week engagement. Later in the year it will play at Atlanta?s Midtown Art (November 28-December 4), Minneapolis? Lagoon Theater and San Diego?s Ken Theater (December 19-25) and Denver?s Starz Film Center (December 26-January 4). Click here for more information.
Courtesy of Fangoria