Saturday, October 20, 2012

Movie Review: Eyes Without a Face

No Billy Idol here. Eyes Without a Face is a 1960's black n' white French horror film, about a surgeon father who will do anything to restore his daughter's face.

Now I really enjoyed this film, then again, I have a fondness for black n' white horror films, ever since seeing Vincent Price's House on Haunted Hill. There's something about the stark contrast of light and shadow that gives the film a creepy atmosphere.

The story grips you from the start, opening with some bizarre carnival music, a woman constantly looking over her shoulder as she drives, a slumped figure in the back seat. The woman dumps the body into a riverbank, which is later found by the police.

We meet Doctor GĂ©nessier, who claims that the body found is his daughter. Then goes home to greet his disfigured daughter in hiding, Christiane. 

Christiane, the tragic figure in all this is forced, not only to pretend she's dead, but to hide her face behind a blank mask. Yet we can see her  struggle with her isolation and her father's actions of kidnapping young women and stealing their faces. She, like the dogs her father keeps, are prisoners.

There's a bit of a Phantom of the Opera vibe, and I might be reading into this or maybe was intended, but the mask she wears certainly reminded my of the Phantom's mask, also both of them had disfigured faces. And Christiane sounds awfully close to Christine--the opera singer whom the Phantom was infatuated with. Music also played a large role from Christiane's sad longing, to the carnival music whenever the doctor's assistant is up to no good.

It's one of the few horror films which actually has some depth, instead of mindlessly running from a monster, characters make choices which have huge consequences. The father trying, but failing to successfully transplant a face; the assistant who is emotionally distraught, but continues out loyalty for the doctor has helped her before.

The ending is quite poetic, if not horrific. Christiane freeing herself (as well as the dogs) of her father's influences. While the dogs tear her father a part, Christiane disappears into the woods, a white dove in her hand.

The only drawback is that the police in the movie were complete idiots. They didn't do much of anything and didn't even come close to catching Doctor GĂ©nessier. But seeing as the story was mainly about Christiane, it's not such a major flaw.

Although this isn't a gory film--we don't even get a good look at Christiane's horrible face!--there is one squeamish part when doctor is removing a face, and maybe it's me, but there's something icky about seeing rivulets of blood as the scalpel digs into the skin.

Posted the trailer below. The wording is hard to read, but trust me, the film doesn't have the same issue.

If you can find this film, definitely check it out as a Halloween treat.

You know what else is a treat? Free stuff! Over at Milo's blog, he's giving away fun reads for the spooky season. So check it out! They're great stories, so you won't be disappointed.


  1. Nothin' like the good ol' B&W. I hate colorized movies; it's sacrilegious.

    1. Haha. I think what I hate more is the poor acting. Not that every B&W had great acting, but it was certainly better--or maybe better script writing--than what we have today.

    2. There was no gore or sex so the producers had to resort to old-fashioned techniques: a good script and good acting. : ) A colorized version would spoil the ambiance of the contrasting light and shadow, taking the film from creepy to cheesy.

  2. Have you seen the original "Carnival of Souls"--the one starring Candace Hilligoss (not the later Wes Craven abortion.) Black & white, cheesy low (as in oh-so-low) budget effects, great ride. It actually makes sense, unlike many horror flicks. And even made it into the Criterion Collection! The actting, for the most part, ain't bad. Folks were simpler then...


    1. I think I've heard of that movie, but it was in color, so must be the abortion one, haha.

      I'm always up for good B&W films, or anything with Vincent Price in it. Couple months back I watched "The Haunted Palace," which is actually a Lovecraft story, but they credited it to Poe. Odd. Good story and use of camera angles.