JULY 15, 2011
A 70s Italian horror movie starring Klaus Kinski should have been far more insane than Evil Face (aka The Hand That Feeds The Dead), but once I realized that they were going for something a little more gothic and thus subtle, I was on board, with some reservations. Still though; if you want some trademarked Kinski craziness, this isn’t the place to look. Hell, at one point he gets angry and despite being in a room filled with candles and vases and such, all he does is knock over some books. And that’s as animated as he gets!
But it’s still a decent thriller, with some light Giallo elements and a bit of a tragic center – Kinski’s wife was disfigured in an accident (which claimed her scientist father) and he seeks to make her “whole” again, and this being an Italian horror movie that means capturing random women and stealing their skin to graft onto his wife. However he wants one that will match her original face, and while I am unclear why he (well, his henchman) keeps killing women that look nothing like her, this allows for a decent body count, not to mention some pretty great (for the period) makeup effects, courtesy of Carlo Rambaldi.
And that’s good, because a lot (hovering in “too much” territory) of the movie is just folks wandering around the castle or Kinski talking about the deceased scientist or whatever. He’s actually not in the movie that much (noticeably so in the lab sequences – was it a different actor in these scenes or what? They never show his face), and the rest of the cast isn’t particularly memorable, though I did like his sleazy henchman. Perhaps writer/director Sergio Garrone realized this, because as with yesterday’s movie, there’s a lesbian scene that comes out of nowhere, except this one borders on softcore and comes closer to the end than the beginning (there’s also a rape, though largely off-screen). I would have preferred Kinski actually doing something crazy or at least yelling at someone, but alas.
However, I liked the switcheroo that occurs late in the film. Kinski may be misguided, but at his core he’s actually trying to do something sort of noble, and we get the impression he would share the secrets of his skin grafting work to the medical community (also, I think he only kills hookers, so there’s something). And since it’s Kinski, you keep expecting him to go into full evil mode in the third act, but if anything he becomes even more sympathetic here, as his wife attempts to kill him after he performs the face transplant. Unfortunately the movie just gets kind of confusing from this point forward; as I mentioned they never really show Kinski in the lab set for some reason, so the climax almost seems sort of supernaturally based as his character is presumably the one setting all the fires that trap the woman and eventually burn her to death, but the fires seem to be starting on their own. Weird.
There are also a lot of weird edits in the film. Music will often just cut out when they switch to a different scene, and there are numerous cutaways to things (such as the father’s in-house tomb) that seem to come out of nowhere and disoriented me more than anything else. Given that the film was provided with an ugly VHS transfer, I would assume it was just some lame re-edited cut from a US distributor, but the movie apparently never got that far – it’s never been dubbed and I can’t find any information about it being theatrically released (even in drive-ins) back in the mid 70s. Nope, this is the fullest version known to man (well, man with internet connection), so I guess it just wasn’t the most gracefully edited film.
Following suit is Mya’s transfer. Again, it seems to be taken from a VHS tape, and while I liked that it was letterboxed, it was non-anamorphic. But worse, the subtitles dipped into the black letterboxing area, so I wasn’t able to zoom in like I usually do for non-anamorphic discs. So I had to watch the whole thing windowboxed (#firstworldproblems), all to be able to read the subtitles that were frequently misspelled (“weaks” instead of “weeks”, for one example) and often just plain bad, with odd grammar and other assorted issues that made a few lines sound like gibberish (though the basic meaning was usually clear). I should note that I’m writing this review after seeing “tomorrow’s” movie Phase 7, which also had poor subtitling, so it's bugging me more than usual. I know dubs tend to LOOK bad, but they’re often done with more care, and I am increasingly of the opinion that they are a better option than subtitles nowadays, because it’s clear that the majority of subtitling work is done by people who don’t really give a shit (or do not actually speak English).
So, I dunno. Not particularly great, but watchable. It’s probably not worth seeking out (is Mya even in business anymore? Their fan page hasn’t been updated in months), but would probably be one of the better films on one of those 50 movie budget packs, which is probably where it will end up someday.
What say you?