Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
March 03
Eyes Without a Face March 3, 1960
Eyes Without a Face released

When Georges Franju’s artful horror film Les Yeux san visage (Eyes Without a Face) opened in France, it prompted a storm of confusion, admiration and disdain that followed it to every country where it was shown. The film, adapted from a novel by Jean Redon, deals with a mad doctor who kills young women in order to graft their skin onto his own daughter’s face, which was horribly disfigured in a car accident. To some degree, the idea of grafting serves as a proper metaphor for the disparate elements brought together to make this film. The film’s producer, Jules Borkon, hoped to graft the new success of British and American horror to a French milieu, and chose Georges Franju to direct, even though Franju had made his name creating expressionist documentaries––like his 1949 Le Sang des Bêtes about Parisian slaughterhouses––and previously had only made one dramatic film. And where horror masters like Roger Corman or William Castle were proudly churning out exploitation, Franju approached his subject with artistic precision, hiring cinematographer Eugen Schüfftan and composer Maurice Jarre to give his movie a lyrical dream-like effect. The final film ended up being something so original that few knew how to read it. Audiences walked out during the bloody scenes. Historian Raymond Durgnat recounts how French critics “disagreed as to whether it was actually too horrible to bear, or whether it incompetently failed to horrify, or whether it incompetently failed in every respect except horrifying.” In America, it was renamed The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus and played on a double bill with the Japanese monster flick The Manster. But over the years, critical attention has changed drastically, so that when the film was re-released in the US in 2003, the Village Voice’s J. Hoberman stood with the majority when he called the film “a masterpiece of poetic horror and tactful, tactile brutality.”


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A Black Day for the Blacklisted

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