Just as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho paved the way for the “slasher” subgenre of horror, George Franju’s Eyes Without a Face (1960) can fairly be lauded as a seminal example for the makers of the Saw films, or Eli “Hostel” Roth, for that matter. The French cult classic’s centerpiece sequence—a music-less, patient cutting off of a girl’s face by a mad doctor and his nurse—is vicious and ghastly on its own GP, but when you consider that the film was made nearly 50 years ago, it’s downright astonishing. Must’ve send France’s curious moviegoers sprinting to the nearest toilet to hurl, or to the ticket vendor to furiously demand refunds. An undeniably powerful scene, that has to be a Master’s lesson for any aspiring horror filmmaker.
As a whole, Eyes Without a Face is a terrific film, shot in a poetic breeze, using quietly paralyzing imagery to transmit its eerie juice. The story concerns a plastic surgeon who’s obsessed with rectifying the massively charred face of his once-lovely daughter after he caused a car accident that nearly killed her. With the help of his loyal nurse, the doc kidnaps several girls and attempts to cut off their faces and put the removed skin onto his seed’s, with constantly poor results. Franju, the film’s director, never lets the gonzo plot fly the movie off its hinges, though. There’s no gratuitous slaughter, only a solid backbone of melancholic disturbia.
Unfortunately for this post’s sake, the aforementioned “prolonged facial transplant” scene isn’t available on Youtube, or anywhere else online. However, I’ve tracked down two other stunning moments from Eyes Without a Face, so I’m turning this into a two-for-one Scenes of Mine entry. ‘Cause I’m generous like that. Be warned, though—-one of the scenes is the film’s conclusion, which is about as spoiler-heavy as you can get, but features a brilliant juxtaposition of a payback screaming for a “Who Let the Dogs Out?” underscore and an Edgar Allen Poe-like exodus guided by doves. The other, our first time seeing the daughter’s post-accident face; shot in a hazy state, it’s one effective reveal. [both Scenes of Mine after the jump]