Starring: Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Edith Scob
Director: Georges Franju
This film really blew me out of the water! Made in 1960, the same year as Hitchcock’s Psycho, it’s a black and white French horror film about a scientist who has pioneered organ and skin transplants, and is attempting to give his daughter back the face that he cost her in an automobile accident. But in order to give her a new face, he needs to find women whose faces he can use…
Why Is It A Must See Film: I never thought that an old horror film could make me hide behind a pillow, but this one did! A film about women being kidnapped and having their faces cut off is kind of horrific, but this film has some really realistic scenes! What’s also wonderful about it is that there’s no one protagonist, but you gain real insight into each person who becomes involved with the case. From the secretary who scopes out victims to the sound of her own discordant theme tunes, to the scarred and angelic masked girl, who is the eyes of the title, to the victims and the investigating officers. It’s an incredibly intense film. And none is more intense than the mad scientist who conducts transplant experiments on dogs and people in the spooky basement laboratory of his huge house.
The film is quite graphic in it’s horror and death scenes, and it really builds tension. But what surprised me is how Edith Scob managed to act and convey so much behind a mask as the daughter without a face. Her costume design is amazing, she appears floating around in garments that look like costumes for a doll, her white mask glows as light hits it, and she is somehow child like and beautiful as well as scarred, broken and slightly terrifying, though often pictured being kind to animals. She’s a bit of an unknown quantity, a prisoner of her cruel and determined father, and though she agrees to her fathers plans, you’re never really sure if she truly grasps what she’s agreeing to, or whether he’s using her.
It leaves you shocked and asking questions, but it’s a masterful piece of film making.
See It If: it should please any horror fan, but I think as a film it’s a real stand out, and I urge to to check it out for yourself.