Eyes Without a Face

Le Director: Georges Franju (1960)
Le Starring: Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli
Le Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

Eyes Without a Face is a French bit that, were it remade now, would be full-on torture porn, directed by a music video idiot and star Elisha Cuthbert. Here, a mad scientist type tries to ease his conscience and repair his daughter's mashed up face via transplant from one of his kidnap victims. Yes it's subtitled, and it's black and white. But shut up heathen, it's really quite good. And it proves that French horror existed and was good before the likes of Switchblade Romance. It makes a nice change reviewing a classic. After Vampires Suck, I needed something to restore my faith in humanity.

As touched upon in the paragraph above, the plot rather disappointingly doesn't have any eyeballs-on-stalks running around comitting murders. Instead the title refers to the daughter of demented surgeon Doc Gennesier (Brasseur) and her disfigured face. Assisted by a creepy henchwoman, the not-so-good doctor kidnaps nice young women (don't ask me, the IMDB considers it pertinent that his victims are 'nice') and cuts their faces off. Come to think of it, this movie is a lot like Face/Off, only without the John Woo gunfights and Nic Cage. While we're at it:

Exercise Your Eyes at Vision Express

Predictable joke

Despite not having itself any modern CGI tricks or Tom Savini gore effects, the scenes of gruesomeness are every bit as disturbing as anything you'd find in a modern horror film. It has an excellently jaunty soundtrack slightly reminiscent of The Third Man, of all things, which really contasts against the atrocities onscreen and creates a wonderfully haunting atmosphere. This use of music, shadows and the characterisation of the Doc's disfigured daughter really give the thing an unnerving feel that no amount of gore or jump scenes could ever hope to muster. I suppose it helps that non-consentual surgery is a fucking terrifying concept, however you film it. And the surgery scenes here are done in a workmanlike, inglorious manner - more akin to an episode of Holby City or a documentary than a Saw or Hostel. When one considers that the scenes of surgical gore were revolutionary at the time, it'd seem we have a classic on our hands here. And one that, like George Romero's Night Of The Living Dead, has aged well like a fine wine or top notch whiskey.

So whether your eyeballs have a face or not, you should totally have them fixed on this movie.


  1. Good call. I saw this film as part of my doctoral exam preparation, and was really taken aback by the level of style and (dare I say the cliche) how ahead of its time it seemed to be. And boy is it creepy - that mask of hers. Yikes...

  2. This was one of those films I tried to see in vain for years, until the advent of the internets made it possible to grab a bootleg VHS of it. Wonderful, worth the wait, even if it did finally come out on Criterion DVD not too long after! I *believe* this film and Diabolique made a large impression on Hithcock and were an impetus for him to make his own black-and-white horror film just a year or so later...

  3. oh, never heard of it. Definitely have to check this one out

  4. Awesome review! Love this film, haven't seen it for years. Has made me want to check it out again.

  5. Criterion has it out on DVD- so amazing- someone did an updated take on it: http://studios.amazon.com/scripts/411