FREAKSHOW Eyes Without A Face
Join us every Monday as we look at a cult movie. Our film of this week this time is probably the finest face transplant horror ever made by a Belgian
Director: Georges Franju
Cast: Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Edith Scob
Available on region one and region two DVD
Watch the trailer here
You’ll always find the most fascinating work at the extremes, never in the middle of the road, which is why Hollywood blockbusters so often disappoint and why Les Yeux Sans Visage (to give it its original title) is such a masterpiece.
A synopsis reduces it to something luridly morbid. Pierre Brasseur plays a plastic surgeon whose daughter’s face has been horribly disfigured in a car crash. Consumed with guilty, he sends out an acolyte (the magnificently sinister Alida Valli, who went on to appear in Dario Argento’s Suspiria) to befriend a young woman, then, cutting off her face, transplants it onto his daughter. When it doesn’t take, he has to try again. And again. And again…
Belgian-born director Georges Franju summed up his philosophy as follows: “I like films that make me dream, but I don’t like having dreams imposed upon me.” Wedding lyrical beauty to a gruesome scenario, this film, his finest work, bridges the chasm between arthouse poetry and exploitation voyeurism. At times, its unflinching gaze is positively pornographic. When the first victim has her face removed, you keep expecting the director to cut away… instead, the mad professor keeps cutting away, until he lifts off the flesh in one piece. Yet the expressionistic photography is often breathtakingly beautiful, particularly when the daughter is on screen: gliding about in a white mask that surreally echoes her now-ravaged features, like the ghost of a porcelain doll, to a carnivalesque score that sounds like a psychotic clown’s music box.
They don’t make films like aka Eyes Without a Face anymore. But then, they never used to back in 1960. Like Michael Powell’s equally Sadeian Peeping Tom, it’s a film that arrived before its time. Now that time has come, we can appreciate its grotesque elegance as a work of genius.
Ian Berriman, reviews editor of SFX and cult movie nut, has watched Rat Pfink A Boo Boo four or five times, but never seen On The Waterfront. The nutter.
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