Tag Archives: italy

Duck, You Sucker! – Review

3 Oct

Sergio Leone had a really incredible film making career, even if he didn’t create as much as some other very fine film makers. It’s impossible to ignore how A Fistful of DollarsFor a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly made a huge impact on the aesthetics of a movie, the western genre, and pop culture as a whole. Leone’s next foray into film happened in 1968 with another classic, Once Upon a Time in the West. Finally, his last piece of work, and arguably his most ambitious, was the gangster epic Once Upon a Time in America. Aren’t these all unmistakable classics? But wait. What’s that movie hiding in between West and America? Why, it’s a pretty unknown movie that has one of the most incredible titles ever. This is, of course, his 1972 film Duck, You Sucker!. Upon its release, this movie got very little attention and bombed in the United States. It hasn’t really fared much better, and is still Leone’s most unknown film, besides maybe The Colossus at Rhodes. Does this movie deserve to be overlooked? Not at all, but it is Leone’s weakest work in the western genre.

In the midst of the Mexican Revolution, people have to do whatever they can to survive. Juan Miranda (Rod Steiger) is a bandit who, along with his family, robs from the wealthy who are making their living off the violence of the revolution. After a successful robbery of a stagecoach, Juan runs into John Mallory (James Coburn), and IRA explosives specialist exiled overseas after a heavy betrayal. Despite being at odds with one another, John is wooed by Juan’s idea to rob the Mesa Verde National Bank. The job seems to go off without a hitch, but things at the bank are not what they seem and the actions of Juan and John plunge them deeper into the world of the revolution. Now on the run from the sadistic Col. Reza (Antoine Saint-John), Juan and John are forced to join up with revolutionaries and help them fight while also reevaluating their own beliefs and moral code.

Sergio Leone is a classic example of an epic film maker. He never shied away from making a movie as grand as he possibly could. Duck, You Sucker! is no exception. This is huge movie with great set pieces and over the top action sequences that seem to span an entire country. It has the look I’ve come to expect from a Leone movie, which is surprising as to why this one gets so overlooked. There’s a really exciting scene at a bridge where the Mexican army is trying to cross, but John and Juan pick them off using machine guns and dynamite. It was explosive and exciting, and those are the reasons to watch this movie. The idea of having this story set within the Mexican Revolution is also interesting and makes for more epic scenes. Leone stated that he was not trying to offer any political statement, and I agree. It clearly is just showing the horrors of conflict and the effects it can have on the people of that country, especially in a more lower class environment. This makes for an interesting bridge between his more classic Once Upon a Time in the West and his more thoughtful effort with Once Upon a Time in America.

There is something that is severely lacking in this movie that is always ever present in Sergio Leone’s best movies. That is the dynamic between good and evil. We see an interesting arc with Juan where his character completely changes his ways, and that’s one of the better parts of Duck, You Sucker!. Unfortunately, Juan and John just aren’t the most exciting heroes, and don’t even come close to matching the Man With No Name. Col. Reza is also a sorry excuse for a villain. He’s in the movie for a matter of minutes and has no real impact until the very end. Remember the showdowns in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West? Those were outstanding climaxes that featured larger than life representations of good versus evil. Duck, You Sucker! certainly tries to keep that level of energy, but it just doesn’t quite make it. The arcs of the characters are much better than the characters themselves.

Something you can always count on with these movies however is that they are going to look superb. Duck, You Sucker! has sweeping cinematography of the landscapes that is juxtaposed with the traditional Leone close ups and zooms. Leone knew how to capitalize on the actors’ faces and expressions over dialogue, which is why some of his best scenes just feature the actors using their faces to speak. All of this works in tandem with Ennio Morricone’s always excellent score. Comparing this score to some of his others he did for Leone probably isn’t the best way to go about it, but I’m going to do it anyway. This isn’t one of his strongest and it doesn’t really stay in my head like the others. That being said, while the movies on it heightens the drama and the action considerably which is just what these musical pieces are supposed to do.

Duck, You Sucker! is far from being Sergio Leone’s best film, but it’s still a testament to his larger than life and highly artistic film making. It’s story shows an evolution from his simple drifter swoops in to save the day kind of stories and more to an internationally aware tale that showcases morality and change. The characters aren’t as exciting as I would have liked them to be, and a lot of this has to do with a lackluster villain. Still, Sergio Leone’s film making and Ennio Morricone’s music is more than enough for any fan of movies to check out this little known entry in Leone’s filmography.

Final Grade: B+

The Italian Job (1969 & 2003)

4 Aug

There are movies that really succeed at capturing a certain time period and a very specific attitude, and one of the finest examples of this may be the 1969 British crime classic, The Italian Job. It’s cool, funny, and captures the time and place very well while also succeeding as a really entertaining caper flick. After getting a pretty good game for the Playstation 1, the movie got revisited once again in 2003 with a remake by F. Gary Gray. It’s makes me happy to say that both films work very well together and a lot of fun can be had with the original and also the remake.

Of course, we’re going to start with the 1969 classic.

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After being released from a stretch in prison, Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) has a chance to turn his life around and fit in with normal society, but he’s just too good at what he does. With a plan already started by his recently deceased mentor and friend Roger (Rossano Brazzi), Croker starts getting a crew together to go to Turin, Italy to steal $4 million and escape to Geneva. None of this would be possible without a lot of funding, so Croker goes to Mr. Bridger (Noël Coward), who runs his criminal empire from prison, to finance it. With the money and the crew ready, the team heads to Turin to finish the job, but the mafia is on to them and will stop at nothing to keep the $4 million in Italy.

Since the time of its release, The Italian Job has grown into an iconic film filled with imagery that is immediately recognizable. Even before I saw this movie, I’d see a Mini Cooper drive down the street and my mind would go straight to The Italian Job. Maybe I just think about movies too much. Anyway, there’s plenty of great reasons why this film has achieved this status. One of the biggest reasons is the famous chase scene involving the three Mini Coopers making their escape out of Turin. This scene is reason enough to watch this movie, and it ranks as one of the greatest car chases ever filmed. It’s a blast to watch and it’s probably the best example of precision stunt driving in a movie. It almost seems like a scene that’s existed since movies first began, but it had it’s beginnings here in an action movie that never knew the legacy it would create.

While the action sequences are excellent, The Italian Job is also well known for its characters, writing, and soundtrack. The characters are a lot of fun, and Michael Caine and Noël Coward play the two leads with glee. Caine is perfect as the criminal everyone has to love. He’s cool, stylish, and has a temper that is good for a laugh. Some of the funniest scenes in the movie actually are played by Coward, whose Mr. Bridger practically runs the prison that he’s held in. The soundtrack by Quincy Jones is very cool and extremely catchy. I challenge anyone to listen to the theme song and have it not get stuck in your head.

To put it simply, the original version of The Italian Job is a super cool movie and has some of the most iconic and memorable scenes in film history. I honestly don’t think anyone working on this movie knew the legacy this movie would have, but it’s one of those movies that has to be seen to understand why it deserves such a status as a classic.

Let’s move on to 2003 to look at the remake. Normally, I’m not too thrilled about remakes, but the cast and F. Gary Gray in the director’s chair is enough to make someone interested.

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Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) is the head of a gang of very talented thieves (Jason Statham, Mos Def, and Seth Green) who along with Charlie’s mentor, John Bridger (Donal Sutherland) and their inside man Steve (Edward Norton) pull off a major heist involving $34 million of gold and escaping Venice. The job goes off without a hitch, but the gang is quickly double crossed by Steve who steals all the gold and leaves the gang for dead in the Alps. What Steve doesn’t know is that the gang got out of the mountains alive and want their gold back. Charlie enlists the help of Bridger’s daughter, Stella (Charlize Theron), a safe cracker working on the other side of the law, to help them with their heist. This time, it isn’t about the money, it’s about payback.

This movie has a lot going for it and it’s honestly a pretty good movie. F. Gary Gray is a director that really has an idea of what he wants and handles action and suspense very well, which is necessary for a movie like this. In fact, there are elements of this movie that are handled better than in the original. The main improvement is the gang that Charlie’s the head of. In the original, we never really get a chance to know anyone that’s part of the heist other than Michael Caine’s character. In the remake, they’re all established as close friends, have distinct personalities, and all have something important to do during the heists. The actors have great chemistry and there is plenty of room for comedy and drama throughout the movie.

The action scenes are really cool and pay good homage to the original film. Believe it or not, the scene with the Mini Coopers is a little underwhelming compared to the first movie, but there are plenty of other scenes to make up for it. One cool scene happens in the beginning as Statham and Green are making a quick escape through Venetian canals on a speed boat. Any scene with Edward Norton is also very memorable. His villainous character just oozes with smug confidence that just makes you wanna slap that grin off his face.

While the 2003 version of The Italian Job is a really well made and fun movie, I still prefer the fast paced wackiness of the original. Still, this is a remake that works very well for many different reasons. The most important thing is that while it honors the legacy of the original, it stands alone as its own movie.

So there you have it. The legacy of The Italian Job is definitely a strong one, and only a movie that good could create something like it. Any fan of the action/crime genre should definitely give both of these movies a look. They’re really cool and a whole lot of fun.

Don’t Look Now – Review

5 Apr

The late 1960s and the 1970s were a really important time for the horror genre. It was a time when new and exciting things were being introduced to this type of film making that really breathed new life into a genre of movies that didn’t yet reach its full potential. Auteur film makers were dabbling with new ways to make movies, and one of the most important experiments for horror was Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 film Don’t Look Now. Based off of a story written by Daphne du Maurier, whose stories were used by Hitchcock for Rebecca and The BirdsDon’t Look Now was almost destined to succeed before it was even made, and after its completion it has become a cinematic landmark.

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After their daughter (Sharon Williams) drowns in a pond behind their house, Laura (Julie Christie) and John (Donald Sutherland) Baxter take a trip to Venice where John has been hired to help restore a church. While there, Laura meets two sisters, Heather (Hilary Mason) and Wendy (Clelia Matania). Heather is blind but claims to have psychic abilities and tells Julie that she sees their daughter with them in Venice, and that she has a message of warning for John. John refuses to believe a word that anyone says about their daughter, firmly believing her to be dead and gone. As time goes on in Venice, the couple begin experiencing more strange and often dangerous supernatural events, while the city is also stricken by a mysterious and elusive serial killer that can strike anywhere and at anytime.

Don’t Look Now is a subtle trip down the cinematic rabbit hole that you may not even realize you’re going down. That’s probably the most brilliant aspect of this movie. While it’s on, I felt like I was watching a very straightforward psychological thriller, and in that sense, I felt a little disappointed as I was watching it. I wanted to see something that was really going to blow my mind as much as everyone says it would. It wasn’t until the movie was over that I realized that I wasn’t paying nearly enough attention as I thought I was. There are so many clues hidden in plain sight as to what is really going on, and if you aren’t a super perceptive viewer, they may go right over your head. After thinking about the movie and doing some research on it, the way Roeg made this film is truly remarkable and it demands a second viewing to really appreciate how he blends time, genres, and hides clues for you to find.

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What also makes Don’t Look Now a successful horror movie is the creeping feelings that lurk behind every dark corner and worried glance. There’s so much paranoia and grief that is caked on the entire narrative, and that combination makes for a very suspenseful ride. Don’t Look Now is comparable to Rosemary’s Baby, in that there are many times where you and the characters really have no idea what’s actually going on. Sometimes you may not even realize this confusion, but trust me, you will be confused at certain points. This a sign of a great horror movie. If you watch it and feel your hairs standing on end, find yourself breathing just a little faster, or thinking a little harder, you know you’re watching something worth while. This sort of true suspense is what’s lacking in the “spooky ghost” movies that have flooded the market as of late.

Having the story take place in Venice is also a fantastic idea. This isn’t the same Venice that you see in movies like The Tourist. No way. Far from it. This is the back streets of Venice in the winter, when things are gray, murky, and dead. The water also seems to be posing some sort of ominous threat or holding some unknown secret. Meanwhile, it’s easy to get lost in the labyrinthine alley ways that sometimes lead to nowhere. Venice transcends just being a location, and becomes something of a side character with its own living and breathing personality.

Don’t Look Now has firmly made a name for itself as one of the greatest horror movies ever made, but it would be unfair to just call this a horror movie. It’s a thriller, a mystery, and a family drama all rolled into one. This blending of time and genre set this movie above many, but the attention to detail and suspense is what truly make this film great. You may not realize how intricate it is upon your first viewing of it, but after thinking about it and watching it again, you’ll be completely entranced by its mystery.

Zombie – Review

6 Aug

Italian horror offers some of the most popular and beloved films of the genre. With names like Dario Argento, Mario Bava, and Lucio Fulci, there’s plenty of content to choose from, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that whatever movie you find will be violent and equally gory. But, hey, that’s what people come to expect in horror movies, right? For this review, we’re going to be looking at arguably the most famous film by the Maestro of Gore, himself, Lucio Fulci. Zombie may just be an unofficial  sequel to George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and an attempt to cash in on the zombie craze, but this film actually stands alone as one of the greatest zombie films ever to be made.

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When Dr. Bowles (Ugo Bologna) goes missing and his boat carrying a rather large zombie shows up in New York Harbor, his daughter Anne (Tisa Farrow) is brought in for questioning. While investigating the boat herself, she meets Peter West (Ian McCulloch), a journalist with the same questions she has. Their inquiries lead them to the Virgin Islands, where they hope the find the mysterious island of Matool. Along the way, they enlist the help of Brian Hull (Al Cliver) and his wife Susan Barrett (Auretta Gay), a seafaring couple who are more than willing to give them a ride on their boat. When the group gets to Matool, they find the island ravaged by zombies, whose numbers are increasing more and more each day. Their only chance for survival may lie with Dr. Menard (Richard Johnson), a scientist working to solve the mystery of these zombies who was also a close friend to Anne’s father.

First, I’d like to give you a little history on this movie since it’s a bit out of the ordinary. It all starts in 1978 when George Romero released Dawn of the Dead, which was the sequel to his 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead. Internationally, this film was known as Zombi. Now, in order to cash in on the massive success Romero’s film, the Italians decided to make an unofficial sequel, this being Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2, now known as Zombie in the United States. This film has absolutely no connection to any of Romero’s movies, other than the fact that there are lots of zombies in it. Strangely enough, from this film, even more sequels were released. That gets a bit too confusing so I’m just going to stick with Fulci’s cult classic.

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Now let’s look at the movie itself. This is without a doubt one of the greatest zombie movies ever made. In a time when zombies have become a subject of parody, even within its own genre, it’s so satisfying to see a movie that takes its subject matter seriously. Let’s just say that when this movie was first released, it was banned in the UK for being too obscene, and as a fun gimmick, the theaters handed out barf bags. Sure, the whole barf bag thing is all in good fun, but that’s not to say that there aren’t some really sick scenes in this movie. Some are so gross that they have become iconic. The most famous scene has to do with someone slowly getting their eye pierced by a sharp piece of wood. This isn’t done offscreen either. Oh no. We see it in all its gory detail. Think Un Chien Andalou, but with zombies.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Zombie is more than just a festival of gore. In fact, it’s still a pretty cool movie in its own right. Think of it as if The Serpent and the Rainbow and Cannibal Holocaust had a baby. There’s a lot of cool voodoo type stuff going on and the gore just kind of adds to how cool everything else is. The pacing moves very slowly, especially the scene with the boat pulling into the harbor. It adds a great sense of suspense and dread that overtakes the entire movie. To top it all off, that late 70s Italian synth soundtrack just makes the movie all the better. It definitely feels like a movie from the 1970s, but it feels like a great one.

No matter how you look at it, Lucio Fulci’s Zombie is a classic of the horror genre. It’s fill of suspense, gore, violence, and fantastic makeup and effects. Zombie movies have become something of a cliche recently, and that’s a shame because they used to reign as some of the greatest horror stories in film. This film may not be for the squeamish of feint of heart, nor is it a movie for people who treasure their eyeballs, but it is an important part of film history as one of the landmarks of horror, and also as a film that has earned its title of a cult classic.

Deep Red – Review

22 Aug

Oh boy, here we go again. This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last, time I’ve talked about that crazy weird Italian horror film maker Dario Argento. This time, we’re going back to the time before Suspiria, which I never even thought existed. Alright, that’s not true, but it was strange seeing what came before that one since I consider Suspiria to be the go to film for Argento. Two years before Suspiria there was a movie that many say is Argento’s best film, Deep Red. While there are a lot of great things in Deep Red that foreshadowed what excellent things this director was capable of, I felt that this movie lost its focus way to often to be really taken seriously.

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During a performance, psychic Helga Ullman (Macha Meril) begins sensing very violent thoughts being sent to her by someone in the audience. Later on that night, she is brutally murdered with the only witness being jazz pianist Marcus Daly (David Hemmings). Soon, Daly makes himself part of the investigation along with the persistent journalist Gianna (Daria Nicolodi), but it aways seems like whenever the two find a clue or a lead, someone involved ends up dead in the most discomforting of ways. As the bodies begins to pile and resources being to run out, Marcus and Gianna begin to seriously wonder how the murderer seems to always be one step ahead of them, and also how long they will stay alive in order to uncover the twisted mystery of the murderer’s past.

Depending on which version you see, you may have different takes on the movie. I saw the completely uncut version which runs a little over two hours. For some people who know me through this blog or in real life, you know that I’m a real stickler for run times. If a movie is too short or too long, the entire experience may be ruined. In this case, the movie was far too long. There are other versions that exist that run an hour and a half or an hour and forty minutes, which is a much more acceptable run time for a movie such as Deep Red. The extra twenty minutes to a half hour that were added in for the uncut version is just a bunch of bantering between Marcus and Gianna, which is really boring considering Gianna is pretty much a useless character to begin with.

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That is really the main problem that I have with this movie. Those added scenes that make the “complete” movie completely veer from what makes Deep Red fun and exciting. But that’s not the only thing that rubbed me the wrong way. At first, I thought whoever was responsible for the sound design should be executed, because it is absolutely horrendous. The cast would all of a sudden start speaking Italian and then back to English, which is weird enough, but the Italian voices didn’t match the English voices at all. It’s laughable! Turns out, the movie was originally shot in Italian with English voices dubbed over, but some of the English was lost which meant that the Italian actors spoke with their real voices in some scenes, and someone else’s voice altogether when they were speaking English. Talk about distracting.

But, let’s be real. This movie isn’t all bad. In fact, there were some scenes that literally almost made me jump up and down out of sheer excitement. These served as a reminder as to why horror buffs love Dario Argento in the first place. First of all, the death scenes in this movie are so strange that you can’t help but chuckle at the morbid silliness. Sure, they’re kind of gross at times, but there’s plenty of that trademark bright red Argento blood to fill the screen. There are also other frightening scenes that are wonderfully unique, including a hidden skeleton behind a wall and clever usage of children’s music. Also, the soundtrack by Goblin, who would also do the soundtrack to Suspiria, really drives the action onscreen.

All in all, Deep Red is a disappointing film for me. There are some really excellent scenes of horror, but above all else, this movie is a mystery film. I’d be totally fine with that if the focus was kept on the mystery and not the useless banter between the main protagonist and another character that serves next to no purpose. It’s really a shame since there are sections of this movie that are sincerely creepy, while there are more scenes that are really boring. I’d be curious to watch another version that’s shorter to see if I enjoy it more. Still, Deep Red is reserved to horror buffs only.

 

8 1/2 – Review

25 May

Throughout my time at film school, there were certain movies that throughout the years and in pretty much every class were taught as canon. These were the movies that are the basis of what it means to study and appreciate film wether you liked the movie or not. One of those movies that was talked about to death was Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2. Now, even though I heard a lot about his movie in school, I never had to actually watch it while I was there. That’s really no excuse for it taking me this long to see it, but better late than never. I went in trying to tell myself how it goes with these movies that are praised in school, and was expecting either something really great or a movie that disappointed me and made me question what people see in it.

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Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) is an Italian film director who is going through the worst case of “director’s block” that he has ever experienced. Unfortunately for him, and everyone else involved in the movie, they have passed the point of no return with obnoxious sets already built for the movie and actors already hired for certain parts. The screenplay is written and the producer is anxious, but that just isn’t enough to motivate Anselmi to do anything with this movie. Instead, he begins to hide within his own thoughts and memories from when he was a kid to things that he wishes would happen to change the out come of the movie. Finally, his biggest distractions come from the women that fight and argue over him including his “loving” wife Luisa (Anouk Aimée) and his mistress Carla (Sandra Milo).

The story to 8 1/2 may be a little hard to follow for some, as it sort of was for me, because day dreams and flashback get mixed together so much that we aren’t really sure what’s real or not at some points. That’s the best part about this movie, in my opinion. We, like Guido, are feeling very disconnected from reality and losing ourselves in his many different mental barriers that he puts up to defend himself from the people around him. This makes for a very strange and often complicated movie, but now here comes the kicker that may make people get all in a fuss. 8 1/2 is a great movie, and I recognize that completely, but I feel no desire to ever watch it again.

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In my defense, as I was watching the movie, I knew what I was watching was and is objectively remarkable. Anyone who watches this movie and isn’t impressed by everything that happens from the dreamlike atmosphere to the often witty dialogue has something wrong with them. The mood of this movie definitely feels like a director’s nightmare with him being surrounded by all of these people that he knows he can’t deal with but will inevitably have to. Right from the start, everything felt odd, and Fellini keeps that feeling throughout the movie. All of the actors, especially Mastroianni, are really great and really funny. They deliver their lines quickly and effectively. The real wonder is how the film is shot. Fellini takes full advantage of the black and white to create scenes that may be as bright as day but also be surrounded in darkness.The main reason anyone should see 8 1/2 is simply how beautiful the movie looks.

But, and this is a big but, my main motivation for watching movies is to have fun. When a movie mixes beauty and fun, it’s the perfect combination. For me, I didn’t have enough fun watching 8 1/2 to really want to watch it again, especially with a run time that goes for almost two and a half hours. There were scenes, as beautiful as they were, that went on for far too long and even when they didn’t I just found myself losing interest in the story. It just kind of wanders from scene to scene, which is more than likely how Fellini intended it to be, but that doesn’t always do it for me. I like films that have more motivation to their scene structure and this movie doesn’t really have that. I know that it isn’t supposed to due to its content, but I still can’t forget about that and say that I was completely entertained for the entirety of the movie.

The best way to put this is that I would definitely watch scenes from this again, but I don’t feel like I’d put 8 1/2 on myself for its entirety. This is a really amazing movie when you think about it, and that’s why I wasn’t disappointed by it or questioned its status as a classic that is praised by critics and audiences for over 50 years. I understand why it is and I agree, but other than my appreciating it I didn’t really have fun with it, and that’s important to me. I’m not saying that anyone who hasn’t seen this shouldn’t watch it because they definitely should due to its relevance and its beauty.

Eyes Without a Face – Review

5 Dec

When a movie from as early as 1960 has the ability to give me the willies, I will hold it in the highest regard. A fine example of this would be Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face. Franju never actually considered this a horror movie, but described it solely as a “tale of anguish.” While I definitely agree with that, one simply can’t ignore the horror aspects that are present all throughout the film, from the gothic settings and architecture to the mad scientist archetype. While Eye Without a Face is unsettling and, at times, gruesome, it still maintains a poetic flow which can only be seen to fully be understood.

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From an outsider’s perspective, Dr. Génnesier (Pierre Brasseur) appears to be a respectable surgeon who serves the community well. If you take a closer look, however, you will notice that he isn’t such an average doctor. Génnesier is actually on a very personal mission of redemption, and by his side is his assistant, Louise (Alida Valli), who goes into the city and lures women of a very specific age group and appearance back to Génnesier’s mansion. The whole reason behind these string of kidnappings is that the mad surgeon is trying to graft another woman’s face to that of his daughter’s, Christiane (Edith Scob), who lost her face in an accident cause by her father. As Génnesier keeps attempting and failing at these grafts, suspicion begins to arise in the town and his best kept secret may be brought to light.

If I were given the task to describe Eyes Without a Face using only one word, I’d call it “mystifying.” The way people move from scene to scene along with the continuity of the mise en scène can easily put a trance on the viewer. It’s tranquil in the most gothic sense of the word, with dark roads lined with naked, twisted trees and the beautiful mansion is just as easily destroyed with unapologetic scenes of gut wrenching imagery. Without giving too much of the plot away, there is a scene where the audience gets to be present when Génnesier is performing one of his surgeries, and we see the scalpel going under the skin and other icky things in full graphic detail. Definitely made me cringe.

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I will admit that the first time I watched this movie, I wasn’t too impressed. I recognized that it was beautiful, but I was really expecting a straight forward horror movie and was disappointed when that wasn’t what I got. I wasn’t the first either. When this movie was first released in the U.S. in 1962, it was titled The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus and was paired with a Japanese schlock horror film, The Manster. Could you imagine going into that double feature expecting goofy, mindless trash and getting this? Upon this second full viewing, I have really come to appreciate and enjoy how phenomenal this movie is.

The graphic scares of this movie are actually very sparse. The real horror comes from the entire eerie atmosphere. First of all, the white human-ish mask that Christiane has to wear over her disfigured face is straight up creepy. I always found things that are almost human, but not quite can  be more unsettling than the most out there movie monster in the history books. While the gross scenes involving disfigurement and surgery are memorable, I’m surprised that Christiane’s mask and entire outfit isn’t more iconic. While Pierre Brasseur gives an excellent performance as the doctor, I feel like Edith Scob’s ghostly movements and acting with her eyes when behind the mask are just haunting.

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If you’re in the mood for mindless horror that only can supply you with jump scares and gore, than Eyes Without a Face is the antithesis of what you are after. There is enough gore for it to be impressive for the time, and it really was a ballsy movie, but that’s not what makes the movie great. The beautiful gothic atmosphere, constant feeling of dread, and performances is what really makes Eyes Without a Face a classic that, despite being restored and released on the Criterion Collection, isn’t as well recognized and known as it really should be.