Thursday, October 01, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 1: Eyes Without a Face


Let's kickoff this countdown with something classy. I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting from Eyes Without a Face (aka Les Yeux sans visage in France). It's a movie I have definitely read about in critical works. And images from it, once you see them, are hard to forget, particularly, the sight of that porcelain white mask that looks both too real and not real enough.

As a result, I had basic notions of what the plot covers; the American title, The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus, also clues one in that a mad doctor probably plays a part. But what I was surprised to find was how much it has in common with the much sleazier and sillier American film The Brain that Wouldn't Die.

The curious thing is both movies were filmed in 1959, so I'm not sure any accusations of plagiarism can be wielded against either production. That said, the similarities really are rather striking! (Spoilers ahead for those who haven't seen either!)

  • Both center on women who have been maimed in car accidents, and the doctors in their lives who are determined to return them to their former beauty. (In Eyes, it's the woman's father; in Brain it's her fiance.)
  • To reach these ends, young women are stalked for their bodies (in The Brain) or their faces (Eyes) as unwilling donors.
  • The maimed and trapped women are really none too happy about being the subject of the mad doctors and their plans, though the doctors refuse to see that.
  • Said doctors both have experiments they keep behind locked doors (a literal monster in Brain, and dogs used as lab animals in Eyes) that, thanks to the maimed woman, end up being the death of both doctors when they are set free.
  • And the doctors also both have lab assistants who suffer from their own respective afflictions.

That both films are in black and white, with soundtracks that sometimes belie the grimness of what's happening on screen is also worth noting, (in both cases, it's when women are being stalked).

All that said, Eyes Without a Face is of course the better movie, with some really beautiful cinematography, and moments of horror that even now are pretty shocking. But if you want to go from the sublime (Eyes) to the ridiculous (Brain) in a single evening, I highly recommend making it a double bill!

Eyes Without a Face is currently streaming on the Criterion Channel, and The Brain That Wouldn't Die is available via multiple services.

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