How far will a brilliant surgeon go to give his daughter a normal life? When doctor Génessier reports his daughter missing as a runaway, she is soon found dead by the police. At least this is what the good doctor wants everyone to believe. You quickly find out that Christiane Génessier is alive but not well. She has been hidden away from the world as of recently because of her face, which was horribly disfigured from an automobile accident. She is now unrecognizable from the wounds she has sustained and is forced to stay inside the large home where she and her father live. With her father studying experimental surgeries, how far will he go to give the face his daughter longs for?
When I first watched this french horror movie, I was surprised with how graphic a few of the scenes were for it’s time. Granted it’s very tame if you compare it to films we have today but this was a time were graphic violence and gore would never make it past some form of editing, especially for it to be shown in theaters. Things like this never really happened back then. This is why I think this film adaptation of the novel by Jean Redon is so bold.
When Eyes Without A Face (Les Yeux Sans Visage) released in 1960 in France, some were shocked by the gruesome images it showcased and when the film finally made it to the US in ’62, several of the scenes were edited for US audiences. One scene in particular where you see a woman’s face being surgically removed. The original scene is actually nicely put to gather. While it’s very simple, it’s one of the best gore effects I have seen in an older film. Other scenes that were edited were parts with doctor Génessier, in an attempt to make him seem more like a monster than a compassionate loving father and doctor.
Eyes Without A Face is not your typical horror movie and almost borderlines on suspense and mystery. It has a very somber tone at times and what contributes to that feel are the darkly lit scenes that have a quietness to them. It makes for a perfect mood considering the main character, Christiane Génessier, is a very lonely girl and wishes for things to be normal again and to be able to go outside freely. While the film is beautiful and has an interesting story to follow that’s shrouded in mystery, It’s almost a little too short, which leaves little room for certain characters to be fleshed out and for the story to be extended.
I would have liked to of seen a glimpse into Christine’s life before everything was changed and to see her character more developed. This is the same problem I had with her fathers assistant, Louise, who also seems to be just as mysterious. There are a few other characters as well who could of used a little more explanation and development as to the relationships of these three characters we have been introduced too. Since I have never had a chance to read the novel this film is based off of, I can’t exactly compare the two, but from what I have seen of the film adaptation, It’s a nice little gem that’s worth trying out. That is if you don’t mind the subtitles.
US Release Date: October 24, 1962
Rating: UR (Unrated)
Running time: 88 min
Director: Georges Franju
Writers: Pierre Boileau, Thomas Narcejac, Jean Redon, Claude Sautet
Stars: Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Edith Scob