Eyes Without a Face (Criterion Edition) nice little thriller
Posted by Play.com Reviewer, 15/03/2008 19:05:57
I've seen this black & white film, directed by Georges Franju, described as "the best horror film ever". Whilst I wouldn't go anywhere near that far, it's a pretty good film for it's time (1959 - 1962 was the US/GB release). It's not a horror though; more a thriller. What people regard as the horror aspect is the good Doctor trying to transplant a facial skin from a murdered girl to replace his daughter's which he's destroyed in a car crash by maniac driving.
Apparently the scriptwriters for this film wrote the novel on which Hitchcock's "Vertigo" film was based. We have actors and actresses that us English have never heard of. Edith Scob (Doctor's daughter), Alida Valli (Doctor's assistant), Juliette Meyniel (an innocent victim) and Paulette Meredon (a shoplifter roped into helping the bumbling French police).
There are a few continuity problems in the film. You'll find some details on the IMDb web-site, to which I've recently added a major blunder. The Doctor's car is a beautiful Citroen DS but two are used, presumably for shooting in different locations. Though they both have the same registration number, one car has fog-lights on the bonnet whilst the other doesn't. Perhaps the former is the "deluxe" DS21 whereas the latter is the "basic" DS19. I don't really know as I'm not that well-up on French cars, apart from the Talbot Tagora SX (an updated Peugeot 604) laid up in my garage, the Peugeot 605 I used to have and the Peugeot 607 which is my current car. Anyway I digress.
There are also picture quality problems, obviously relating to its original shooting. I've never seen a b&w film from this era with such poorly judged outdoor exposures. Virtually every outdoor sequence is totally over-exposed, bar the close-up object being filmed e.g. a person or a car. Everything in the background e.g. buildings, sky etc is totally washed-out, spoiling the film's appearance. This amateurish cinematography could of course be easily corrected (or the effect greatly reduced) in this age of digital technology during transfer to the digital medium. Unfortunately this has not been done. Shame on you Criterion. Perhaps the forthcoming GB release will do something, though I seriously doubt it.
Furthermore, though I usually prefer to watch films in their native tongue, subtitled rather than dubbed, I would question Criterion's decision to omit the English dubbing apparently used for the 1962 GB/US release. Even though this was an edited version, it surely would have been of little bother these days to insert a few minutes of extra dubbing. If that were impossible it would be preferable to retain the original with apologies for the gaps. Similar work has been done with stills inserted where restored bits of films now only exist as audio, the video cuts having been long lost.
For the two stated reasons, I'm sorry to say this is one of the poorest Criterion releases I've seen.
Finally, here's a serious warning for you. If you are the least bit squeamish or don't like to see animals suffer, then avoid the extra "Blood of the Beasts". It's a Franju documentary pre-dating the film by several years (1949) in which he filmed (edited down to 20 minutes) exactly what happened in a Paris slaughterhouse, including the draining of sheep and cows blood, horse killing and calf decapitation. This is more horrific than anything in the actual film. Don't be eating a piece of blue fillet steak as you watch this like I was. Perhaps the statement that several Scotsmen fainted at the showing of "Eyes" at the contemporary Edinburgh film festival was incorrect and they were shown "Beasts" by mistake. "No animals were hurt during the making of this film"? Don't you believe it!
Note: This Review was made by Play.com customer: OldEnglandsEyes69 on Rakuten’s Play.com on the date shown.