Eyes Without a Face
Les yeux sans visage
1960, 90 min., B&W, Blu-ray projection source
At his secluded chateau in the French countryside, a brilliant, obsessive doctor (Pierre Brasseur) attempts a radical plastic surgery to restore the beauty of his daughter’s disfigured countenance — at a horrifying price. “Eyes Without a Face,” directed by the supremely talented Georges Franju, is rare in horror cinema for its odd mixture of the ghastly and the lyrical, and it has been a major influence on the genre in the decades since its release. There are images here — of terror, of gore, of inexplicable beauty —that once seen are never forgotten.
Declaring “Eyes Without a Face” as “still among the most disturbing horror films ever made,” critic David Edelstein writes: “The storyline is your standard obsessed-mad-doctor saga, one step above a Poverty Row Bela Lugosi feature. But it's Lugosi by way of Cocteau and Ionesco. It's the mixture of the clinical and the poetic that gets, er, under your skin.” Michael Wilmington in the Chicago Tribune asserts that the film “is one horror classic that hasn't lost its power to shock or hypnotize audiences over the years. ‘Eyes’ can still seduce you with beauty and stun you with terror. It's not a matter of gore or frenzied pacing. Franju's adaptation of the Jean Redon novel is classically paced and shot, filled with what Pauline Kael called images of ‘exquisite dread.’ ‘Eyes Without a Face’ is a perfect example of how cinematic poetry can transform a seemingly disreputable movie genre. The horror and the poetry intensify each other, just as the chateau's chic is set off ironically by the howling dogs, the cuts of the scalpel, the sense of death in the shadows.”