Eyes Without a Face (1960) dir. Georges Franju

Eyes Without a FaceGeorges Franju's 1960 horror film Eyes Without a Face reportedly shocked audiences when it was first released. Some people walked out because of its grotesque portrayal of skin grafting, while others allegedly fainted. I say allegedly, because everything in the film seems nice and PG (maybe PG-13 if the studio was trying to avoid the 'family friendly' label) by modern standards - or by the standards of France's own Grand Guignol, for that matter.

The plot is of pretty standard Alfred Hitchcock Presents quality. The 'shocking' twist doesn't pack much of a punch, since the title and the movie poster tell you pretty much exactly what happened to the young woman in the film.

eyes_without_a_face_franju_dogsTwo things embed the film into my memory. One is the pervasive sense of creepiness that Franju seeps throughout every scene of the film. He seems to have shot it after studying parts of James Whale's Frankenstein. Not the large, operatic shots of the laboratory and the lightning that we remember. Franju takes the tense, slow shots. He trucks the camera across the frame, making us feel both claustrophobic and watched.

The other is Maurice Jarre's score. This was the second film he scored, and was only two years away from his soaring tracks for Lawrence of Arabia. You can hear some of his themes in the YouTube trailer below. It evokes a deadly circus - a house of mirrors to fit the film's theme.