Film (1960; vt Eyes without a Face; vt The Horror Chamber of Dr Faustus). Champs-Elysées/Lux. Directed by Georges Franju. Written by Jean Redon, Franju, Claude Sautet, Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, from Les yeux sans visage (1959) by Redon. Starring Pierre Brasseur, Juliette Mayniel, Edith Scot, Alida Valli. 95 minutes, cut to 88 minutes, further cut to 84 minutes. Black and white.
Released in the USA with cuts as The Horror Chamber of Dr Faustus, and condemned in the UK as outrageous and disgusting, this is, though the inspiration for many a subsequent exploitation movie, actually an austere and poetic work in the surrealist tradition, even in its use of stereotyped plot devices from pulp Horror fiction. The sf element is advanced plastic surgery (see Medicine). A surgeon, Doctor Génessier (Brasseur), burdened with guilt over his daughter Christiane's (Scob) facial disfigurement in a car accident for which he was responsible, gradually becomes a Mad Scientist, experimenting on dogs in an attempt to create heterografts to reconfigure Christiane's skinless face. After this effort fails, he has his assistant Louise (Valli) kidnap young women whose faces he grafts onto his daughter's, in failed attempts to make her whole again. The last of these victims is Edna Gruber (Mayniel), who after her grotesque disfigurement jumps to her death. Christine wears her face, but the grafted tissues are rejected, and her new face begins to rot. She goes mad and releases her father's experimental dogs, who chew his face off; she has also released his caged doves, and as she drifts away into the woods, one of them is sitting in her hand. Scob's wistful, masked performance is extraordinary, as is Maurice Jarre's gravely classical film score. [PN/JC]
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