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  • Georges Franju's atmospheric masterpiece is a tapestry of contradictions. Eyes Without a Face is a compelling tale of sadism that has an astute tenderness at the same time. A film that will disgust you with it's macabre imagery, yet simultaneously mesmerise you with it's beauty; a seething tale of love, fashioned by extreme guilt. Through the Gothic confines of a grandiose mansion, Franju has taken ideas from classic stories such as 'Frankenstein' and constructed a dream like surrealistic fantasy that has inspired legions of filmmakers since: from obvious inspirations like Jess Franco's The Awful Dr Orlof, all the way to the full blown Hollywood action fest, Face/Off; Eyes Without a Face stands out as one of cinema's most important, yet most overlooked films. The central story is a deliriously simple tale of vanity, guilt and redemption; yet one that is lent a great depth from it's cast of central characters. Doctor Génessier, guilt ridden over a car accident that left his beloved daughter, Christiane, with a destroyed face uses his assistant to kidnap young girls in an attempt to reconstruct her ruined features. The good doctor peels the faces from his victims and grafts them over the ruined features of his young daughter. However, the experiments are a continual failure but, motivated by a strong sense of guilt, Doctor Génessier must keep trying.

    The doctor himself is a masterpiece of horror film villainy. Unlike many mad scientists since, the doctor here is firmly placed within reality which makes his motivations easy to believe and therefore the horror all the more fascinating. He is supported by his assistant, Louise; a fellow web of intrigue. Louise isn't the normal mad doctor's assistant; she isn't deformed, or demented but rather a cunning, malevolent and cerebral predator; gathering her victims to aid the doctor's latest experiment. The real masterpiece of characterisation, however, comes from the central character; the disfigured tragedy herself, Christiane. The scenes that see her float around in her mask gown are some of the most memorable ever brought to the screen. While wearing her mask, Christiane represents both life and death. The mask itself is stagnant and lifeless, but the eyes beneath the mask are full of life's beauty, giving the young girl a surrealistic look that epitomises the film in that it's hard to place; is it beautiful, or revolting; good or evil?

    This film is a rare treat in that it's actually frightening. Eyes Without a Face taps into the viewer's fears by presenting us with a situation that is terrifying because it involves a central character living with horror. You can have all the maniacs with all the weapons you can think of; but it doesn't compare to having to go to bed every night with a face that is scarred beyond redemption. A fate worse than death, I'm sure you'll agree. This premise is given conviction through a stark and constantly foreboding atmosphere, which comes as a result of Eugen Shuftan's magnificent cinematography. The film has a crisp and clean look, which brilliantly offsets the macabre scenes that it is capturing. Thankfully, Georges Franju also seems keen to keep the focus on the surreal horror aspects of the story, which is shown by the way that he rushes through the police investigation that stems from the doctor's experiments. The film also features a striking and memorable musical score. The music sounds like it wouldn't be out of place in a carnival or circus, which fits the movie brilliantly as it covers the weird and wonderful imagery that we are treated to on screen.

    Overall, Eyes Without a Face is a magnificent expression of the horror genre. The creativity and beauty of the film are sure to delight anyone who encounters it, and this is as important and as breathtaking as anything cinema has to offer. All I can say is that the word 'masterpiece' was added to the English language with this film in mind.
  • An early French chiller that set a benchmark in horror film making, with its unflinching depiction of horrific acts of surgery. The films sole purpose is to shock you in revealing things never before seen in 1959. Unfortunately, we are now in the age of cheap teen horror flicks and action films that feel the need to throw gore in our faces at every possible moment thus diminishing the impact of this film when watching it. Especially now we're in the 21st century, many of the scenes are comparatively tame. This does not mean, however, I disliked the film. Quite the contrary. Eyes Without A Face contains some truly terrifying images that make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. The use of a woman in a white mask (a technique used so well in films such as Halloween and Friday the 13th) provides the films more memorable and spine tingling moments. It's the clever use of shade and light that make this possible as the director and cinematographer provide us with long -lasting images to chill to the bone.

    The pace of the film is also worth a mention. Franju (the director) keeps us on the edge of our seat as the rich upper class couple lead young women into their house in order to remove their face! For some the pace could prove rather too slow - as in truth it did for me once or twice. But the payoffs from the slow pace offset any problems posed by it. It actually comes as a relief from the many directors who, in this day, believe that quick cuts and loud noise provide terror. Maybe it's time they delved back into the likes of this film, Halloween and Psycho to provide them with a few inspirations. I can think of only a handful of directors that have provided me with any real fright in the past ten years - M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense and Signs), Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project) and Wes Craven (Scream) are some of the few I can mention. Other films like the truly awful Jeepers Creepers and Thirteen Ghosts, which served no real purpose what-so-ever, provided me with quick cuts and loud noises - neither of which particularly endeared me to their cause. Call me an old fuddy duddy, but it's time they made more horrors like they did in the old days - films with real suspense and images which truly frighten; films like this one.

    Well, that's my moan over with. I gave this film 8/10, for those that care.
  • This film is dark and somber with a spare, eerie music score that suits perfectly the macabre, surreal story. A brilliant but deranged surgeon, having caused his daughter's disfigurement in a car accident, loses touch with reality and tries to restore her beauty in a most repulsive manner. Undeterred by failure, the mad doctor continues his gruesome work, hoping to find a miracle cure that will reconstruct the girl's facial features and also relieve him of his tremendous burden of guilt. The once-lovely girl realizes that she will never enjoy a normal life or see her beloved fiancé again, and her mute telephone calls to him just to hear his voice show how empty and lonely her life has become. There are some scenes that are horribly graphic but quite well done and a few moments that are poignant and touching amid the cruelty and butchery of the movie's central theme. Each character in this grim, unhappy feature is victimized in some fashion, but in spite of its subject matter, this cult classic is lean, first-rate storytelling.
  • Georges Franju's version of a mad scientist trying to play God tells about a brilliant but controlling and obsessive doctor who is trying to restore the face of his own beloved daughter that was horribly disfigured in a car accident caused by his reckless driving. He requires tissues of recently deceased young women that look like his daughter and he is not going to wait for them to die in an accident - he creates the accidents with help of his loyal secretary/nurse/lover/former patient Louise (Alida Valli of "The Third Man") who kidnaps the unsuspecting girls and brings them to the secluded mansion in one of Paris's suburbs where Doctor Génessier is ready to perform the fascinating and horrifying surgeries.

    "Eyes without a Face" is a very impressive, classy picture that has inspired many later horror movies. The music by Maurice Jarr adds to the uneasy and creepy atmosphere - it makes you feel like on the never-stopping ominous merry-go-round and you can't get off it.
  • George Franju's "Yeux Sans Visage" is extremely slow yet absolutely riveting. The direction is masterful and Pierre Brasseur is superb as the dedicated doctor whose love for his daughter leads him to commit unspeakable crimes.

    The cold, sinister atmosphere of the film will seep into your bones and you may find it hard to look at the screen when the central skin-removal operation takes place - this is an extraordinarily grisly sequence for its time, lent all the more power by the cold, matter-of-fact direction and acting.

    In a film full of haunting images, you will find the last one unforgettable.

    Why can't modern directors make horror films as good as this? It deals with a potentially lurid, gory subject-matter with masterly subtlety and skill.
  • "Eyes Without A Face" is a groundbreaking and trendsetting artistic nightmare! The plot of this film has often been copied but never has it been done in such an eerily effective style. The sight of the masked daughter playing with the dogs evokes many emotions in the viewer. There are shots in this movie that will stay with you long after you have seen it! Heavily recommended!
  • Along with THE SHINING, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and PSYCHO, the best horror film ever made. Franju forsakes the usual signifiers of the genre - hurtling pace, quick editing, signalling music, hysterically scary scenes - in favour of a pace as funereal and petrified as its heroine's face. A soul-chilling film, seeped of all emotion, its scientific subject matter belies a timeless, complicated, non-judgemental Gothic fable about the destruction of innocence, the carelessness of masculine authority and the exploitation of women (especially in art). The many paralells with VERTIGO (the source novel was written by the same writers), the startling tree and animal imagery, the suspended dream logic and the perverse comic sense ensure this film as a classic, and makes one yearn for more Franju.
  • This is one of those oddities that makes an interest in cinema worthwhile. Like the equally atmospheric Carnival of Souls, it was made by a director whose primary activity lay in documentaries, and can very much be regarded as a 'one-off'.

    Franju's vision is at once beautiful and emetic: on the one hand, we have the stunning face of Edith Scob, the weird sight of her masked figure running into the night, the sequences which are held for longer than seems natural; on the other hand, arguably the most nauseating operation scenes committed to film (and somehow more unpleasant for being in black and white). The atmosphere is one of quiet poetry, but the juxtaposition with horror makes it unusual and effective. A connoisseur's delight. 9 out of 10. See it, if you can stomach it.
  • zolaaar8 January 2006
    At the time 'Les yeux sans visage' was released, the film was not very popular and faced common rejection by the critics. Regardless of those dis-affirmations, it raised to the position of a classic in the horror genre. Franju - one of the founders of the legendary Cinemathèque Française - succeeded in an intriguing way to make film history sensible as a source of inspiration of an entirely peculiar vision.

    The clinic of Dr. Génessier (P. Brasseur) is located not very far from Paris. Famous as a specialist in skin grafting, nobody foreshadows that the scientific ambition of the surgeon is incident with a horrifying secret: Since an accident has destroyed the face of Génessier's daughter, Christiane (Scob), the doctor does everything to reconstruct her beauty. With the help of his assistant Louise (Valli) he clucks young women in his remote mansion, benumbs them and makes them a victim of a macabre surgical operation. In a hidden operating room in the basement of his house, Génessier removes the facial skin and transplants it on Christiane's face. Without lasting successes.

    That Franjus film has not suffer losses from its immensely disturbing effects is because of, if nothing else, the camera work of Eugen Schüfftans. His brilliant black and white shots resurrects the bright dark of the expressionist German silent film. It imparts Villa Génessier a threatening life of it's own, transmutes it in a mazy horror house which seems like one can not escape. The shadows of the stairway handrails lay on everybody who enters the building like grids and makes him optically a prisoner of Génessier's delusion, mostly his daughter Christiane. Cut from a real life she haunts through the paternal ruins, the garbled face concealed behind a white porcelain mask, whose sad expression seems to nail the doom of the young woman.

    Christiane's mask also points out a central principle of formation of the film: It's suspense results substantially from the interaction of visible and invisible things, of showing and dissembling. Franju subtly creates a nightmarish atmosphere that evokes the horror of Génessier's actions, but never makes it explicitly in the first instance - only to show it the viewer more pitilessly: When the surgeon unprovided cuts into the juvenilely beautiful face of one of his victims. This moment of shocking intensity reminds of the razor blade cut through the woman's eye of Bunuel's surrealistic classic 'Un chien andalou' (1929). With the same zest to provoke, Franju also presents the result of an ostensibly succeeded operation: A sober sequence of photographs shows, commented by Génessier off-stage, at first Christiane's angelically delicate face, then how the transplanted skin becomes patchy a few days later, splits open and two weeks later dies off. The cruelty of those two sequences exposes Génessier as a perverted, pestilent doctor and his paternal love as brutal obsession. The attempt to give his daughter a new face means at the same time to erase her identity, to create the ideal woman.

    'Les yeux sans visage' remains in the memory of the viewer as one of the rare places on the imaginary continent, phantasmagoric and exigent with ample suspense and shocking details, a perfect alchemy of horror and allegoric poesy whereby one of the most beautiful horror films came into being.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This picture has the look and feel of an American made Forties or Fifties horror flick but it's actually a French film made in 1960 and directed by Georges Franju. I don't know what single word might best describe it, but the one that immediately comes to mind is creepy. Everything about the picture tends to horrify the viewer, established with the opening scene as we see the images of passing skeletal trees against a sky of night time darkness. We learn that a middle aged woman (Alida Valli) is on her way to dispose of a body in a nearby river, another failed experiment at the hands of a gifted surgeon named Genessier (Pierre Brasseur). From there, things take an even more frightening turn, as the story explores Genessier's obsession to restore the face of his daughter, horribly disfigured in a car crash for which he was responsible.

    The story uses some of that pseudo-scientific babble I love to come across in these types of films, that stuff about a 'heterograft', whereby radiation is a requirement to biologically modify a host body to receive a donor transplant. Because radiation is too intense in the required dosage, exsanguination is deemed the next best available strategy for the type of procedure explained by Professor Genessier to his attentive audience. Funny, but none of that was going on when the good professor got down to the real nitty gritty of his work on daughter Christiane (Edith Scob).

    You know, it's hard to describe, but there was something of an ethereal beauty in both the masked and newly engineered face of Christiane following the operation. Didn't you think for a moment that the new face of Christiane would be that of victim Edna Gruber (Juliette Mayniel)? Instead, you had this beautiful face appear, rather astonishingly to convey success for the questionable transplant operation. It's best described by the professor - "There's something angelic about you now" in a cautious appraisal of his daughter's beauty. However things take a disastrous turn as the operation proves fruitless; the girl's body rejects the new face and the mask is required once again.

    But you know what I found to be truly outrageous? What was with that police scheme to insert Paulette Merodon (Beatrice Altariba) into the professor's den of horror? There didn't seem to be any control in place to monitor the girl's movements, and she could have been another goner in the doctor's twisted scheme of things.

    Well I don't know if modern day viewers of a young age would be affected by the story as much as I was. I think the real terror for them would be watching Christiane use that ancient contraption known as a dial telephone. And then, as if to totally confuse the present day techie, boyfriend Jacques has to answer the phone without benefit of caller ID. Oh, the horror!

    Well in any event, I thought this film was a genuine creepfest, heartily recommended to genre fans, particularly as I mentioned earlier, to fans of classic horror films of the Forties and Fifties where the mad scientist reigns. In iconic fashion, the evil doctor gets his in the end here, as we learn the answer to that age old question - who let the dogs out?
  • Moody terror movie about a mad doctor who removes the faces of gorgeous girls and attempts to graft them onto the ruined head of his disfiguring daughter . It deals with a prestigious but crazed surgeon/scientist named Dr. Génessier (Pierre Brasseur), feeling guilty over his intimate daughter's (Edith Scob) facial disfigurement is helped by his assistant Louise (Alida Valli) to kidnap beautiful young women , one of them is Edna (Juliette Mayniel). His beloved daughter is called Christiane (Edith Scob), whose head has been entirely spoiled in a car accident and whose face is so horrible that she wears a mask . All the experiments fail, but he attempts , without success , to transfer their faces and the victims die, but Génessier keeps trying again , but his guinea pig turns out to be his own daughter . Meanwhile , some Police Inspectors (Rignault and Claude Brasseur) are investigating the grisly killings .

    Austerily marvelous terror film that contains thrills , chills and haunting poetic fantasy . In this wonderful as well as terrible flick , George Franju established his uniquely poetic and visually striking style . This splendid picture is generally characterized by unforgettable images that owed a great deal to early cinema in general and German Expressionism in particular and results to be a symbolic attack on the ethics of science . Although the film passed European censors upon its original release in 1960, the disturbing facial surgery scene still caused controversy . It was reported that several audience members fainted during the surgery scene . Originally released in the US in an edited version titled "The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus" , an odd title considering there's no one named Dr. Faustus in the film . Director John Carpenter once suggested that selecting the mask that Michael Myers wore in Halloween (1978) was influenced by Edith Scob's mask in this film and equally in recent movie (2011) by Pedro Almodovar titled "The Skin I Live In" . Good acting by Pierre Brasseur as a brilliant but demented researcher/scientific/surgeon haunted by past tragedy who abducts girls removing their faces and tries to graft them onto the head on his beloved daughter . Evocative and imaginative cinematography by Eugen Shuftan . Enjoyable musical score by Maurice Jarre , composing in his usual and agreeable style .

    This classic terror motion picture , a classic in some circles , was stunningly directed by Georges Franju who never considered the film to be a horror story, but instead felt it was tale of "anguish" . Initial releases of the film were met with negative reactions from film critics , while the general critical reaction had been poor , however ,today is considered to be a masterpiece . One French critic stated the film was "in a minor genre and quite unworthy of Franju's abilities . Franju responded by saying that the film was his attempt to get the minor genre to be taken seriously. Rating : Better than average , well worth watching .

    George Franju was a magnificent filmmaker but one of the underrated directors of French cinema , being his feature debut was "Head Against the Wall"(1959) . His reputation was strengthened with the Eyes without of face (1960); Judex (1963), a tribute to French film serial pioneer Louis Feuillade in 1963; and the Jean Cocteau adaptation Thomas l'imposteur (1965), though in the last 15 years of his life he was sadly neglected.
  • Still powerful after all this time. I remember, when first seeing this in the early sixties, being outraged that I was asked to pay to see what I compared to watching people have their teeth pulled. Not having seen it since till now I have always remembered that scene, but also the poignant lead in the lifelike mask that floated about the palatial dwelling like some surreal being and always that dreadful sound of the caged dogs barking. Much emphasis on the sounds of things being dragged, scraped and dropped - steel and stone and a dark menacing outside from whence young girls are brought in the name of science and in particular a new face for the masked one. Extremely strong central scene and always the threat of more. The police and routine hospital scenes give brief respite but for most of this masterpiece one is held in awe and horror right to the stunning finale.
  • I don't know why this is true, but they do. We owe the birth of the horror film genre in the U.S. to great silent films from Europe such as "The Golem", "Nosferatu", and "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari". American horror has long since lost its luster, usually preferring to center on the totally illogical wanderings of the lone maniac as he hacks teenage girls to pieces. American films show the worst possible outcome as being loss of life or money. European horror knows that isolation and hopelessness can be very horrific for the person suffering it, and the good ones yield a well-told tale with lots of atmosphere. This is one of those films.

    This film probably has similarities to Frankenstein, but it is far from a take-off on that film. A megalomaniac doctor has had a car accident in which his only child - a young woman - has been horribly facially disfigured. She literally has no face. Feeling responsible for her fate, the doctor seeks a cure which involves transplanting the facial skin of another young woman to the face of his daughter. In the meantime, he is experimenting on a large kennel of dogs that he keeps. He mentions that anything seems to be possible with the dogs, yet he keeps failing to repair his daughter's face. It is interesting that the doctor seems disturbed more by his failure than by his daughter continually having her hopes raised then dashed, not to mention the fact that she knows the human cost in his unsuccessful operations. It is especially poignant to see the disfigured woman wandering about the large castle that is her home, only her eyes visible behind the mask that she has been given to wear, looking at her portrait prior to the accident, and calling her fiancé, who has presumed she is dead, just to hear his voice.

    This film never really found a following because it was originally released as an art house film, but the art house crowd found the surgery scenes hard to take. Thus it was rereleased as a horror film, but the film does not have much of what is traditionally thought of as horror scenes, thus it failed in that niche too. At any rate, I highly recommend this one.
  • The absolute best opinion that I can offer (in regards to this 1960, low-budget, mad scientist picture from France) is to say that Eyes Without A Face was "OK".

    Directed by French film-maker, Georges Franju, unfortunately, this occasionally laughable horror story (with its out-of-whack musical score) was just a bit too dry, slow-paced and, yes, tame to deliver a substantial enough wallop to truly satisfy the tastes of today's fans of the fantastic.

    Mind you, Eyes Without A Face (I think that's a great title for a horror story, don't you?) certainly did contain some genuinely creepy moments, especially when Christiane was on camera, wearing her expressionless mask, while aimlessly wandering around the big, old house.

    And when Dr. Genessier (with razor-sharp scalpel in hand) proceeded to surgically cut off a young woman's face, well, that was quite enough to get yours truly here feeling somewhat queasy.

    Anyways - I'm not at all disappointed that I watched this moldie-oldie. It was at least worth one viewing.

    Needless to say, Eyes Without A Face has been credited as being a fairly influential film when it comes to so many other horror movies that have subsequently followed it.
  • Les yeux sans visage (AKA: Eyes Without a Face) is directed by Georges Franju and collectively written by Franju, Jean Redon, Pierre Boileau, Thomas Narcejac and Claude Sautet. It stars Pierre Brasseur, Edith Scob, Alida Valli, Juliette Mayniel and Francois Guerin. Music is by Maurice Jarre and cinematography by Eugen Schufftan.

    Dr. Genessier (Brasseur) is wrought with guilt over the car accident he caused that saw his beloved daughter Christiane (Scob) suffer horrendous facial injuries. He has a notion to perform xenograft surgeries on female victims and transplant the face onto that of Christiane…

    It sounds like a classic mad scientist movie, the sort where Peter Lorre stalks around the place with a devilish grin on his face, only the French version! Eyes Without a Face isn't that sort of horror film, haunting? Yes, but there is no killing for joy or sadism here, it's done for love, to assuage guilt whilst advancing science. Oh it's still madness, but there's a real sadness to Dr. Genessier's actions, touchingly so, and with Franju a master of hauntingly lyrical splendour, it's a film as beautiful as it is troubling.

    Christiane is a living doll, a slow moving angel forced to wear a porcelain mask to hide her badly burned face. As she glides around the Gothic halls of the Genessier house – and the lower tier corridors of the hospital that's annexed to the house - Franju never wastes a chance to poeticise a scene, using slow and long takes in silence that imbue the story with a sense of the foreboding. Even when there is dialogue, it's always in hushed tones unless it involves the police, who are naturally suspicious of the good doctor Genessier.

    A number of evocative scenes are truly arresting, gorgeous in construction and meaning, none more so than the very final scene that closes the pic down. But the most talked about scene is the one of horror, the surgery procedure that we actually see, a magnificent breath holding sequence, gruesome but once again, done in the name of love! The tragedy of which is palpable. From the opening of the film as Louise (Dr. Genessier's assistant played by Valli) drags a dead body to a lake, to a moving sequence as Christiane visits the caged dogs that serve as guinea pigs for her father's experiments, the blend of horror with fairytale like sadness is beautifully rendered.

    Tech credits are very high. Schufftan's photography is graceful and sombre, whilst Jarre's musical score, particularly the macabre carnival tune he uses, is coming straight from the aural chambers of the surreal. Brasseur is terrific as Genessier, again playing a doctor (he was wonderful the year before in Head Against the Wall), Genessier is a tortured soul with ice cold blood running through his veins, and Brasseur nails it. The French Laird Creager? Yes. That's a justifiable compliment. In truth all performances are high in quality, with props to Scob who has to wear the immobile mask and act just with her sad puppy dog eyes.

    As the doves fly, this is what it sounds like when dogs – and a porcelain angel – cry. Indeed. 9/10
  • jotix1005 November 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    Watching Georges Franju excellent horror film of 1960 one can only realize what Dr. Genessier was going back then, would have been possible with the advance of science. "Les yeux sans visage", his ground breaking horror film, proves to be one of the most satisfying pictures of this genre. Mr. Franju was an unusual talent whose main interest was not to shock, but entertain and tell a different story. He achieved what he set out to do in this classic that doesn't seem to age thanks to the great transfer the people at Criterion DVD did with the original material.

    Right at the start we watch Louise, Dr. Genessier's assistant, drag a body late at night and dumps it in the river. The discovery of the body, brings the doctor to identify it as that of his own daughter, a young woman that was disfigured in a car accident. After the burial, we are taken to the doctor's mansion in a secluded area where we meet Christiana, the real daughter, who is afraid to show her face. With the help of a mask that Louise urges to wear, she appears to be a lifeless doll floating around the house.

    Louise, who acts as the procurer for her boss, follows an attractive young student, who she happens to hear needs a place where to stay. Louise befriends her and lures her back to the house where the macabre experiment will be performed on her by Dr. Genessier. Her face is going to be transplanted in Christiana's face. The operation, which at first is considered a success backfires on the doctor as he watches in horror how his daughter rejects the transplant.

    We also get to see how Dr. Genessier is experiment with the dogs he keeps hidden in another part of the house. Dr. Genessier is doing evil things to the animals. Christiana understands she will never have a life again and decides to deal with her father and Louise in the only way she knows how.

    Georges Franju directed with sure hand. He doesn't go for the cheap theatrics that other men in his position would have fallen for. Instead, his narrative is linear with scenes in which one watches the horrors this doctor, who loves his daughter dearly, will go into any extremes in order to make her recover the beauty she lost in the car accident. Maurice Jarre's musical score enhances the action.

    Pierre Brasseur underplays the evil doctor to surprisingly good results. The same can be said of the Louise of Alida Valli, who is never in anyone's face as she plays the link between the victims and her boss. Edith Scob is seen as the fragile Christiana. Francois Guerin and Juliette Maynill have key supporting roles.

    As a final note, Jean Redon, the author of the novel in which the film is based, was a man of vision. Writing more than forty years before the first actual, and legal, face transplant that was done in France in 2004, he pointed to the possibility of a total face replacement, something that was only fiction when he wrote his book. Imagine his reaction upon learning the recent medical achievement if he were still alive.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A classic of French cinema, Georges Franju's "Eyes Without a Face" was based on a novel by Jean Redon. Dreamy and at times terrifying, the film stars Pierre Brassuer as Genessier, an arrogant plastic surgeon. When his daughter's face is destroyed during a car accident, Genessier resolves to repair the damage.

    For most of its running time, Genessier's daughter, Christiane (Edith Scob), wears a face mask. This mask hides her disfigurement, but also provides glimpses of her sad, soulful eyes. Driven by guilt – Genessier is responsible for his daughter's accident – Genessier thus attempts to restore his daughter's face. He has no luck. Christiane's face seems to reject each skin graft.

    This is where the film becomes increasingly demented: Genessier has begun murdering women in order to use their bodies to repair his child. Part serial killer, part Doctor Frankenstein, and part vampire (he drains blood from organs), Genessier thus spends most of Franju's film ferrying corpses back and forth, a futile loop which speaks to the dead-endedness of his own life. Even more macabre is the collection of dogs which Genessier keeps nearby, animals upon which he also conducts experiments. These dogs will later devour Genessiers, exacting revenge on behalf of the doctor's numerous victims.

    Also caught in a grim death-loop is Louise, Genessier's assistant. She owes Genessier her life, and so slavishly serves him. The film is renowned for a long, queasy sequence in which Genessier and Louise surgically remove a woman's face. Horrific sequences like this clash oddly with the jaunty carnival music (by Maurice Jarre) which runs throughout the film. This music, though, points to the film's thin vein of satire; all Franju's characters believe in a farcical form of love, everyone trapped in perverted adoration, Louise dementedly attached to Genessier, Genessier to his daughter, and vice versa.

    "Eyes Without a Face" was shot by cinematographer Eugen Schufftan, who did memorable work with Fritz Lang ("Metropolis"), Robert Rossen ("The Hustler") and Max Ophuls. In "Face", Schufftan paints a world of icy whites and deep blacks. Together with Franju, he captures numerous powerful images, most notably the sight of young Christine, ghostly and porcelain-faced, floating through a mansion in how flowing robes.

    8/10 – Worth two viewings.
  • When people talk about lovers of foreign films being pseuds, I can't help wondering if Eyes Without a Face is exactly the kind of movie they mean. It's exactly the kind of film that if it were made in English - say with Vincent Price in the lead and Terence Fisher directing - that many of its supporters wouldn't hesitate to dismiss as pap, yet because its set in a foreign country and filmed in a foreign language is suddenly elevated to the status of cult classic when really its just a tatty piece of grand guignol that plays like what they used to call a 'quota quickie' in the UK.

    The French setting is about all the novelty this film has going for it. It's our old friend the mad scientist (ok, mad plastic surgeon) killing various bit part actresses so he can get the bits of them he wants - their faces - to rebuild his daughter's disfigured face. No pace, no thrills, not much striking imagery until a couple of shots at the end, just competent but uninspired film-making. Its watchable but nothing special in any way, although the daughter's mask is strangely expressive. Did they use More than one for different moods? Strange to see early credits for Maurice Jarre and Claude Sautet here, but not worth it for their admirers.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Here I go. I am about to write one of those reviews that gets me endless "Not Helpful" votes because I am about to dare to trash a film that so many hold in such high regard. If there was a "Film Snob Scale" I think I would be about a 7. In my imaginary scale, a 10 is the total snob. This is the guy who talks to you about Jodorowsky and Malick and would never deign to watch something common. A 1 on this scale likes the Adam Sandler movies on Netflix. Why am I making up imaginary scales and rambling on in this review? It's to give you some sense of where I am coming from here. I am not one with common tastes. I enjoy film. I enjoy movies that make me think. With all of that said, I think only the 10s on my snob scale will truly like this film. I think it benefits from "foreign film disease" (yes, I'm making stuff up again). This is a syndrome where a movie that would be considered "good" in English is escalated to the status of greatness because it is in a foreign language. This idea that somehow foreign film makers, and especially French film makers, inherently make better films.

    To begin with, the plot of this movie has existed since the dawn of the Poverty Row b-horror film. Whether the villain is interested in obtaining "parts" for his own self, his lover, his family member or anyone else, horror history is littered with the discarded body parts of some mad scientists plan to make someone whole again. So, in the void of anything creative in the plot, one has to ask if the plot we are given is done with anything the audience hasn't seen before. Has the director given us something new and profound. My answer to that is resoundingly "no".

    The majority of this movie is so understated as to border on boring. Critics and film snobs alike will want to regale you with diatribes about how this director was seeking a new kind of horror, an intellectual horror, blah blah blah. There is no emotion on anyone's face (except the victims and half the time they can't be bothered). Nothing really happens ever in this movie. Half the run time is slow, lingering shots of some characters' face, endlessly hanging there as if this creates tension or atmosphere. There is nothing to entertain, at all. That is the crux of my problem with the film. I am all for art. I want creativity. I want thought. BUT I WANT ENTERTAINMENT. I have to end the movie thinking "yeah, that was good". If it is good and it, also, gives me something artistic, that's what creates a great movie. If it ends and I have to go looking for things to praise like cinematography, camera angles, or directive style. If I need to have completed a four year degree in film studies from UCLA to "appreciate" the movie, then it's not a good movie. It fails at its' primary purpose, which is to entertain.

    In the end this is all sound and fury signifying nothing. It's a film snob's dream and a movie that the average joe will fall asleep on within 30 minutes. Unless you would consider yourself a "10" on the film snob scale, skip it.
  • Creeping, poetic French horror that wears classical inspirations on its sleeve while trying to nudge the genre along in bleak new directions. It's a mixed bag, really. The superficial elements - framing, effects, visual themes - are top notch, real cutting edge stuff for the period. The sympathetic lead, a young woman whose face was ravaged by a violent car accident, wears a fragile, unsettling China doll mask to conceal her disfigurements. It's an especially powerful effect when combined with the rich black-and-white film stock, which makes it difficult to determine where the mask ends and her flesh begins. Late in the picture, as the girl's mad surgeon of a father graphically peels the skin away from an unwilling donor to "fix" his daughter's wounds, it's tough not to flinch. The scene, and the concept, is that convincing, that unnerving. The plot suffers from a serious lack of depth, however, retreading the same territory several times before making any progress, and the film plods along for too long as a result. A terribly loud, mismatched score further sours matters, flooding the room with brow-furrowing carnival music at regular intervals. It's a curious relic, one which clearly influenced a whole new generation of filmmakers in the years after its release, but probably works better as an exercise of original theories than a complete picture.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is one of the movies Natalie saw for extra credit in her "Sight, Sound, and Motion" course. I managed to see it via streaming video from Netflix.

    This is a French movie, set in Paris and the surrounding neighborhoods. As the film opens we see a woman driving a car at night, occasionally looking into her rearview mirror, at a person apparently asleep in the back seat, in overcoat and hat. But as she gets to a location near a canal, we see that it is a body, that of a lady, and she dumps it into the water. It looks like that is not the first time she carried this out.

    It turns out she works for a brilliant doctor, often referred to a "professor", who lectures on his research in human transplants. As he says, the difficulty is rejection of foreign tissue.

    It also turns out that the professor's daughter was badly injured in a car accident, while the doctor was driving. This resulted in most of her face being lost, but with eyes remaining, thus the title of the movie.

    As we know, every doctor takes an oath to heal people, to "never do harm." But this doctor is so distraught with what he views as his role in his daughter's injury, he goes to extraordinary measures to restore his daughter's face. And his nurse is a willing accomplice, because he had earlier restored her face too.

    This is a very well made film.

    SPOILERS: Young blonde ladies are targeted, and the nurse in one manner or another ends up offering them a ride somewhere, but they end up in the doctor's hidden clinic, where he sedates them, removes their face for transplanting to his daughter, then kills them. But in the end, when one more victim is staged, the daughter finally gets enough of the sham, in the process releasing all the dogs that the doctor had practiced on, and they end up attacking and killing the doctor.
  • A surgeon becomes a killer of women for the sake of his disfigured daughter. There are many haunting scenes in this French thriller, a justifiably famous surgery sequence, and a curiously detached mood that many American thrillers have attempted to duplicate and failed. The pacing is deliberately slow, the plot absorbing and intense though not frightening. As for the ending, it is quite artful and beautiful, a masterful touch, but it isn't there to bring the plot together in a logical sense. This is because the film exists on its own plane, with an otherworldly feel of cool indifference and detachment. It is neither a masterpiece nor a failed art-thriller, yet it does have flashes of interest and a classy production design. **1/2 from ****
  • kenjha7 August 2011
    In search of a suitable replacement face for his disfigured daughter, a mad doctor murders young women. The plot is ridiculous and the execution is rather dull. This low grade thriller would be regarded as a total turkey if it were made in America, but because it's French and it's old, it is regarded as some sort of classic. The pacing is extremely lethargic, with much screen time devoted to people walking from one place to another or driving from here to there. Given the time of the film's release, the scene depicting the surgical removal of a victim's face is surprisingly graphic and disgusting. The ending is quite predictable.
  • begob6 September 2014
    Warning: Spoilers
    Well it's dated, for sure, but the thing that bugged me was the score. It's by Maurice Jarre, quite rhythmic and avant-garde. But who cut it with the images? From the first scene I found it irritating, relentless and inappropriate. Later there's a long, slow scene when the doctor enters the garage and pursues one of his victims upstairs, and the music just keeps banging on and on, when all I really wanted was a few cuts between hunter and prey and some minimal sound effects, maybe even some silence. And what was with the continuous barking of the dogs? Were they trying to unsettle the audience? Just irritating.

    I enjoyed the simple story, but I don't understand this film's reputation. It has original touches but it's not a patch on, say, Carnival of Souls from around the same time. There's no reflection on beauty and the nature of masks. In the end they don't even resolve the involvement of the junior doctor and the detectives.

    I was watching a poor quality, dubbed version, so maybe I missed the point.
  • Obviously, based on user comments here, people LOVE this movie, and there is indeed much to admire. It's got haunting, beautiful visuals and a creepy fun house score by the terrific Maurice Jarre. It flirts with themes such as father/daughter guilt and doctor/God complex, but I guess ultimately my problem with the movie is that it only flirts with these themes; it doesn't fully flesh them out. The film has become eerily prescient in today's social climate in which everyone is in search of physical perfection--and will do nearly anything to obtain it--but it doesn't really explore this idea and come up with any conclusions about it. The whole film seems like set up for a finale intended to shock with its starkness and brutality, but it comes off instead as merely heavy handed. Not a bad movie by any means, just not a great one either.

    Grade: B-
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