Directed and written by Georges Franju, Eyes Without a Face had such an ignoble introduction to U.S. audiences, playing as a second feature with The Manster when in truth this movie is anything but the kind of junky b-movie that audience had to believe that it was. After all, it was released as The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus and that title, while great, doesn’t speak to the art inside this film.
This is the story of Doctor Génessier (Pierre Brasseur) who becomes obsessed with fixing the face of his daughter Christiane (Édith Scob) which has been destroyed in a car crash that was his fault. Sitting in a strange lab surrounded by huge dogs and captured doves, he lures women to their doom, taking their faces and grafting it to Christiane’s but the surgeries never work; her face always falls apart and she must return to wearing the all-white mask that conceals her decimated visage. At one point, she says, “My face frightens me. My mask frightens me even more.” Is it any wonder that John Carpenter has stated the influence that it had on his most famous film?
Obviously, Eyes without a Face became the kind of movie that Jess Franco loved so much that he remade it several times, starting with Gritos en la noche and building through his series of Orloff movies, perhaps best realized in his film Faceless. Other films that have been inspired by this include the Michael Pataki-directed Mansion of the Doomed, Atom Age Vampire and Corruption.
I’m so pleased that this movie is now recognized as the classic that it is. When it came out, it was universally reviled by critics. Their error is now writ large for all to see.