Eyes Without a Face (1960)

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 DoomedAtom 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.

THE CHRISTOPHER LEE CENTENARY CELEBRATION PRIMER: Horror Hotel (1960)

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can watch this movie this weekend at the Drive-In Super Monster-Rama! Get more info at the official Drive-In Super Monster-Rama Facebook page and get your tickets at the Riverside Drive-In’s webpage.

Better known as City of the Living Dead, this movie was the first film that John Llewellyn Moxey directed. It was also made in the UK but set in the U.S., so everyone is doing their best American accent.

Back in In 1692 in Whitewood, Massachusetts, Elizabeth Selwyn (Patricia Jessel) and Jethrow Keane (Valentine Dyall) sold their souls to the Devil for eternal life and revenge on everyone if they just sacrifice one virgin during Candlemas Eve and another during the Witches’ Sabbath. That said, Elizabeth is soon tried for being a witch and burned alive.

History professor Alan Driscoll (Christopher Lee) tells Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) that if she wants to learn about Whitewood, she should go there. She visits the town, staying at the Raven’s Inn, which is owned by Mrs. Newless and soon meets the only normal person in town — so she thinks — Patricia Russel (Betta St. John), who gives her a book on witchcraft. She learns that it’s Candlemas Eve just in time to be sacrificed on an altar.

Bill Maitland (Tom Naylor), her fiancee, brings her brother Richard (Dennis Lotis) to town, along with Patricia, who wonders where her friend has gone. You can imagine what happens next, but this is still fun.

This was written by George Baxt as a pilot for a television series that would have starred Boris Karloff. Producer Milton Subotsky rewrote it to be longer, including a romantic subplot about the boyfriend who goes looking for Nan. Produced by Vulcan Productions, it was made by Subotsky and Max Rosenberg, making this the first Amicus movie.

The big difference between City of the Living Dead and the American Horror Hotel cut? Elizabeth Selwyn, before being burned at the stake, says the following before she’s burned alive: “I have made my pact with thee O Lucifer! Hear me, hear me! I will do thy bidding for all eternity. For all eternity shall I practice the ritual of Black Mass. For all eternity shall I sacrifice unto thee. I give thee my soul, take me into thy service.” Jethro Keane adds, “O Lucifer, listen to thy servant, grant her this pact for all eternity and I with her, and if we fail thee but once, you may do with our souls what you will.” Elizabeth Selwyn: “Make this city an example of thy vengeance. Curse it, curse it for all eternity! Let me be the instrument of thy curse. Hear me O Lucifer, hear me!”

In 2011, Evil Calls: The Raven came out with a very similar plot and even lifted footage directly from this movie. But I didn’t complain when Iron Maiden’s “Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter” and King Diamond’s “Sleepless Nights” videos did. This movie played enough UHF TV that The Misfits even wrote a song about it.

KINO LORBER BLU RAY RELEASE: The Apartment (1960)

The Apartment is astounding because it makes me consider how we view actors based on where we arrive in reality. For me, Fred McMurray is the kind Steve Douglas from TV’s My Three Sons. For those born before 1960, they probably saw him on that show and wondered how the heel from Double Indemnity and The Caine Mutiny could be trusted around three growing children.

In Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, he’s Jeff Sheldrake, a man who uses everyone he meets, like lonely C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon) for his apartment and Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) for her body, uncaring when he pushes both of their to the pit of depression and even a suicide attempt by Fran.

Bud is willing to let the rest of the world see him as the villain, as every executive — Ray Walston is one of them  — uses his home to have dalliances with his secret lovers while he drinks in bars, dreaming of taking home a married woman when all he really wants is the kind of secure love that allows you to sit happily on the couch next to one another and play cards.

There’s also a genuine sadness at the heart of this movie, as Wilder and co-writer I.A.L. Diamond based the film on reality, as high-powered agent Jennings Lang was shot by producer Walter Wanger for having an affair with Wanger’s wife Joan Bennett. Lang had used a low-level employee’s apartment for the affair, just like the film. Diamond also contributed something that had happened to a friend, who returned home after breaking up with his girlfriend to discover that she had committed suicide in his bed.

Back to McMurray. After this was released, women yelled at him in the street, complaining that he had made a filthy movie. One even hit him with her purse. I guess that was the Twitter of 1960.

This may be the best awarded movie we’ve talked about on this site, as it won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction and Best Film Editing at the 1960 Oscars. Jack Lemmon may not have won Best Actor, but when Kevin Spacey won that award in 1999 for American Beauty, he dedicated his Oscar to him, as Sam Mendes had the cast watch this movie for inspiration.

Since then, The Apartment has been remade as a musical (Promises, Promises, which played in 1972 and was revived in 2010) and as two Bollywood movies, Raaste Kaa Patthar and Life in a… Metro.

The amazing thing is that 62 years after this movie was made, it reduced me to tears. It pulled me in and made me care about every single character, even the villain, and the closing scene — and that last line! — absolutely devastated me.

You can get The Apartment from Kino Lorber either on blu ray or 4K UHD. You’ll also get two different audio commentary tracks, one by Joseph McBride, author of Billy Wilder: Dancing on the Edge and the other by film historian Bruce Block. There’s also a documentary about the making of the film and another about the art of Jack Lemmon, plus a trailer.

Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1960s Collection: Who Was That Lady? (1960)

Ann Wilson (Janet Leigh) has caught her chemistry professor husband David Wilson (Tony Curtis) kissing one of his transfer students. He thinks it was innocent, she wants a divorce. So instead of working through their issues, David gets his friend Michael Haney (Dean Martin) to come up with a story to get out of it. And that story? David is a secret agent.

Ann falls for it and this enables Michael to get what he’s always wanted, which is his wingman back, so he makes a date with the Coogle sisters (Barbara Nichols and Joi Lansing, both rivals of Marilyn Monroe).

As for Ann, she can’t stop bragging about her husband being a secret agent, which means that the real FBI, CIA and even KGB all get involved. There’s a great cameo by Jack Benney, as Michael is a TV writer, and Cicely Tyson shows up in a very early role. And beyond Larry Storch being in this, so is Emil Sitka.

Director George Sidney is probably best known for Pal JoeyShow Boat and Bye, Bye Birdie. He lends a great touch to this film, which is really worth seeing for its three leads. Martin seems to be having a great time in every scene he’s in.

There’s some irony in that when True Lies, a movie with a similar concept, was made years later, the wife was played by Jamie Lee Curtis, the daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.

Mill Creek’s new Through the Decades: 1960s Collection has twelve movies: How to Ruin a Marriage and Save Your Life, The Notorious Landlady, Under the Yum Yum Tree, The Chase, Good Neighbor Sam, Baby the Rain Must Fall, Mickey One, Lilith, Genghis Khan, Luv, Who Was That Lady? and Hook, Line and Sinker. You can get it from Deep Discount.

Blood and Roses (1960)

Carmilla has been made so many times — VampyrDracula’s Daughter, Crypt of the VampireThe Vampire Lovers, The Blood Spattered Bride — but the Roger Vadim-directed movie moves the setting to Italy in the 20th century.

Carmilla (Annette Stroyberg, Vadim’s wife at the time) is torn apart by the engagement of her friend Georgia (Elsa Martinelli, The Tenth Victim) to her cousin Leopoldo (Mel Ferrer, Nightmare CityThe Visitor, both versions of Eaten Alive (with and without the exclamation mark), The Antichrist and dude, Mel Ferrer has been in so many movies I love, even The Norseman) and she has no idea who she loves more. Yet she’s also found a dress that belonged to a vampiric forebearer and gone into her grave and nothing good is going to come of that.

And yes, Leopoldo is Count Karnstein, which would make him from the same family as the vampire in Twins of Evil and the rest of Hammer’s Karnstein Trilogy (we already mentioned the other two films, the third is Lust for a Vampire). The role was originally intended for Christopher Lee, which makes sense.

This is the artier side of vampire films when so much of this week has been wallowing in the mire and muck. See, sometimes we can be classy when we share a lesbian vampire movie.

ARROW BLU RAY RELEASE: Mill of the Stone Women (1960)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally featured this movie on September 15, 2021, but now that Arrow has released an astounding blu ray of this movie, it’s time that we go back and add some content so that this disk gets the recognition that it demands.

Director Giorgio Ferroni’s career ended when he went deaf in 1972. Before that, he worked in many of the genres of the Italian exploitation film world, from peplum like Hercules vs. Moloch to westerns like Fort Yuma Gold and Eurospy like Secret Agent Super Dragon. His last major directing efforts would be The Night of the Devils, which is an adaption of Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy’s The Family of the Vourdalak (which also inspired Viy and Black Sabbath) and a 1975 comedy Who Breaks…Pays.

The first Italian film shot in color, this movie takes us to an island in Holland that houses a sculpture of several women created by art professor and sculptor Professor Gregorious Wahl. Hans van Arnhim has traveled here to learn what the statues mean, but he’s also found love in the form of Wahl’s sickly daughter Elfie.

Now go with me on the plot. It turns out that the sculptor has hired a doctor to keep his daughter alive. Together, they run a secret lab where Elfie receives blood transfusions from kidnapped female victims who posthumously become part of the stone art of the professor. So — House of WaxEyes Without a FaceMill of the Stone Women.

Still, 60’s Eurohorror is, as they say, where it’s at. There’s so much to love in this movie and I love the doomed heroine and the just as damned hero who cannot help but to remain in love with her. This also has the interesting formula of gothic horror + science fiction + the magic of Technicolor.

The Arrow limited edition release of this movie is exactly the type of blu ray package that you expect from this powerhouse company. On its two disks, it includes more special features than you’d think can fit as well as limited edition packaging witha reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais; an illustrated collectors book with writing by Roberto Curti, an in-depth comparison of the different versions by Brad Stevens and a selection of contemporary reviews; a fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais and six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproduction artcards

Beyond the new 2K restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films, there are four different versions of the film: the original 96-minute Italian and English export versions, the 90-minute French version and the 95-minute US version. Plus, the Tim Lucas commentary — the author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark — is great. I learned so much information just in the first five minutes.

You also get features and interviews with the actors, the UK Drops of Blood title, the German title, U.S. and German trailers and a visual essay by Kat Ellinger.

Obviously, this release is a must-buy. You can get it from MVD and Diabolik DVD.

SLASHER MONTH: Peeping Tom (1960)

Michael Powell made The Red Shoes, which is about dedication to ballet, and also made this, which is one of the first movies to have a slasher POV shot and it nearly ruined his career and I can appreciate that duality.

Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) is never seen without his camera, which allows him to capture life, but is really an instrument of death, recording the last minutes of the lives of several ladies of the evening. It doesn’t seem that Mark gets any delight out of these kills, only watching them, planning them, covering up his involvement and doing it again. He’s spent most of his life being a constantly recorded live test subject for his recently deceased father, teaching dear old dad the psychological impact of fear on the nervous system.

When he meets Helen, who is writing a children’s book about a magic camera, he spies on her from afar but she rewards his shyness and oddities with kindness. It’s an alien tongue to Mark, who is used to dealing with women who exchange cash for intimacy and are repaid with death.

Predating Psycho by two months, slasher films find some of their start here. Yet this film goes beyond the codified must-haves of the form to present a killer that we start to empathize with, as strange as that sounds. Mark has never had a chance, never had anyone who cared about him more than as a test subject. He was even recorded as he struggled at his mother’s death bed.

When released in puritanical Britain, this movie was savaged and Powell’s career never recovered. There’s a theory that this reaction is why Hitchcock never screened Psycho for critics and wet directly to the common people with it. He was worried that a film with similar beats would be seen in the same light. It would be years until the film was praised as much as it deserved.

Scorcese went so far to recommend this movie that he claimed that a filmmaker could study only Fellini’s and this and learn all there was to know about filmmaking; they “…say everything that can be said about film-making, about the process of dealing with film, the objectivity and subjectivity of it and the confusion between the two. captures the glamour and enjoyment of film-making, while Peeping Tom shows the aggression of it, how the camera violates. From studying them you can discover everything about people who make films, or at least people who express themselves through films.”

You can watch this on Tubi.

Midnight Lace (1960)

HOLLYWOOD GIALLO (+ ITS OTHERS), the awesome IMDB list by Schwenkstar, described this nascent giallo as “Stalker disguises his voice in a creepy manner to hide his identity, a multitude of red herrings keep you guessing, and a shock reveal.”

What it did not tell me was that Midnight Lace starts Doris Day — of all people — as American heiress Kit Preston, a young girl who is one day threatened by an unseen voice inside the fog that threatens to kill her, keeps gaslighting her and makes her think that she’s going insane.

Day vowed to never make another thriller after this movie, as she said it so emotionally drained her. She stayed true to her word. Perhaps the reason why she was so mentally destroyed by this picture was that in order to be properly inspired to be afraid, she called upon a memory of her first husband dragging her out of bed and throwing her into a wall.

Midnight Lace is pretty much like a cover version of a Hitchcock thriller. Beyond having so many of his stars — Day was in The Man Who Knew Too Much, John Williams was a cop in Dial M for Murder* and To Catch a Thief, as well as John Gavin being in Psycho, this feels like, well, Dial M as a telephone is how the killer goes after our heroine who has a husband named Tony.

That said, the ending, which finds Day trying to escape through the scaffolding of her house after the reveal of who the villain really is — well, that’s the whole reason to watch this.

*Anthony Dawson and Herbert Marshall were also Dial M and this movie.

Mill of the Stone Women (1960)

Director Giorgio Ferroni’s career ended when he went deaf in 1972. Before that, he worked in many of the genres of the Italian exploitation film world, from peplum like Hercules vs. Moloch to westerns like Fort Yuma Gold and Eurospy like Secret Agent Super Dragon. His last major directing efforts would be The Night of the Devils, which is an adaption of Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy’s The Family of the Vourdalak (which also inspired Viy and Black Sabbath) and a 1975 comedy Who Breaks…Pays.

The first Italian film shot in color, this movie takes us to an island in Holland that houses a sculpture of several women created by art professor and sculptor Professor Gregorious Wahl. Hans van Arnhim has traveled here to learn what the statues mean, but he’s also found love in the form of Wahl’s sickly daughter Elfie.

Now go with me on the plot. It turns out that the sculptor has hired a doctor to keep his daughter alive. Together, they run a secret lab where Elfie receives blood-transfusions from kidnapped female victims who posthumously become part of the stone art of the professor. So — House of WaxEyes Without a FaceMill of the Stone Women.

Still, 60’s Eurohorror is, as they say, where it’s at. There’s so much to love in this movie and I love the doomed heroine and the just as damned hero who cannot help but to remain in love with her. This also has the interesting formula of gothic horror + science fiction + the magic of Technicolor.

The Leech Woman (1960)

A few years before Mondo Cane would popularize the use of tribal footage, The Leech Woman takes scenes of African wildlife and tribal dances from the 1954 adventure movie Tanganyika to spice up its tale of a middle aged woman becoming young again by, well, becoming a leech woman.

It starts off promising — a mysterious old woman named Malla (Estelle Hemsley, who was an early African-American star) claims to have been brought to America as a slave nearly 140 years ago and wants to be beauitiful and young for one more night, but only in her home country of Africa. To pay for the trip, she promises to teach endocrinologist Dr. Paul Talbot the secret of how she has stayed alive for so many years.

Dr. Paul is the kind of jerk given to saying things like “Old women give me the creeps.” Too bad that he’s married to a woman ten years older than him. But after a trip to Africa, in which he witnesses a ritual in which a man is killed and his pineal gland secretions harvested and mixed with orchid pollen.

His wife turns the tables and kills off Dr. Paul, using his glands to become young again — yet gets older every time it wears off — murdering people under the secret identity of her niece Terry Hart. She falls for a lawyer and tries to use the glands of his girlfriend, but it doesn’t work, so she does what we all would: throws herself to a window, leaving behind a husk.

Director Edward Dein also made Curse of the Undead. This movie was made so that Universal-International would have a movie to play with Hammer’s Brides of Blood. That movie is magic. This perhaps not so much.