Eyes Without A Face (1960)

MAY 28, 2009


Sometimes I like a movie but don’t really have much to say about it. Such is the case with Eyes Without A Face (French: Les Yeux Sans Visage), a solid little movie in the vein of The Ape, albeit much classier since its French. But luckily, in this case, the film’s trivia from Wikipedia and IMDb gave me enough to make up the traditional 5 or 6 paragrapher that HMAD readers expect (and sometimes demand).

For example, despite my near encyclopedic knowledge of Halloween, I never knew that Carpenter cited this film as one of the inspirations for Michael’s pale mask. In this movie, our heroine has lost her face due to a car accident (that or she’s addicted to the knife), so while her mad scientist father makes her a new one using the faces of unwilling donors, she wears this creepy white mask to cover her Uncle Frank-ness. It’s so creepy, you almost wish that she was the villain, as she would be one of the most memorable movie killers ever.

Another thing I learned was that the film was paired with The Manster and curiously retitled The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus, a character that does not appear in the film (with that in mind, perhaps Eyes/Faustus should have been paired with the Doctor X less Revenge of Doctor X, which is strangely similar to Manster to boot). As a viewer of more than a couple of puzzling double features at the New Bev (Bachelor’s Party with Pieces?), I can sympathize with a crowd who went to see The Manster and then had to sit through a weird French movie afterwards. What a tonal mindfuck.

This part I just want to re-quote. Apparently, when the film showed at a film festival in Edinburgh, seven people fainted. When he heard about it, director Georges Franju said “Now I know why Scotsmen wear skirts.” OH, SNAP!

One thing I noticed on my own (and verified with the wiki page) is that the film obviously had an influence on John Woo. Any facial transplant scenario will obviously bring Face/Off to mind, but there is also a clumsy metaphor involving white doves! Sadly, the similarities end there; this film has not a single shootout, nor does anyone have cool sunglasses.

Not all of my thoughts on the film are based on a webpage I could have read without even watching the film, however. I did take notes. One is “music”. This refers to Maurice Jarre’s score, which sounds like circus music. I know Jarre is a legendary composer, and the score by itself is fine, but it doesn’t really fit the mood of the film. I hear circus music, and I expect clowns and maybe a ring of fire. Not a bunch of French folks yapping.

I also wrote down “subs”, because I liked how intelligent the subtitle guy thought we were. Unlike most movies, simple common words like "Hello", "Yes", etc are not subtitled, because we all know what they are in French ("Bonjour", "Oui"). Not constantly having distracting text on the screen allows you to enjoy the actual, unblemished image more often, so this was much appreciated.

Another thing I dug about the movie was how it sort of pulled a Psycho on us. After more or less figuring out what the doctor is up to, we meet a new girl whose face he and his faithful assistant plan to take. So you probably think that the movie will be about this girl finding out the truth and then escaping, but nope, she’s a goner. As the movie plays, you realize that it’s ultimately about the doctor and his daughter, not their victims.

Apparently, the film was also edited during its initial release, and only appeared uncut a few years ago. The “Janus” logo at the top of the film would have me believe that the DVD is from Criterion, so if that’s the case I recommend you rent it at once! I would say “buy”, but since Criterion overcharges for their DVDs, this wouldn’t be a sound investment as you’re not likely to watch it more than once. Save that money for Criterion’s Armageddon DVD.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


  1. I didn't love this movie, but I'm always appreciative of these "horror-art" films, since they help give the genre credibility to some of the more snobby critics, and since it shows that the genre isn't as low-grade as people claim - after all, there are plenty of crappy dramas yet no one criticizes the genre as a whole for it!

    Anyway, I was a little jarred by the score at first, but I think it works for the film in a sort of Third Man kind of way. The film definitely is more of an art-house film than a real horror film, and by the end of it I couldn't imagine any other score taking its place.

    By the way, another upside to buying the Criterion DVD is that it also features Franju's short documentary Blood of the Beasts, which was pretty controversial at the time. I haven't seen it yet, but I'm sure it'll interest any beef enthusiasts.

  2. I really enjoyed this movie. The face removal scene is pretty awesome. And I love Franju's comment about the Scotsmen. Amazing.

    I'm also in the same boat with the Halloween trivia. I've seen/heard just about everything, but I didn't know about that one, so thanks!

  3. I don't see how this classic French film is even remotely like James Franco's "The Ape."

  4. It's a good movie, but the true legacy is the awesome Billy Idol song. (Which has a zombie motif in the video)

  5. jinx and i watched this last night and i really loved it. i thought it was amazing, especially for the time; i'm surprised you didn't draw any parallels to Repo! besides your reference, as the face transplanting and mask remind me of Pavi, and even the tunnels the doctor has are similar to Nathan's house.


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