Eyes Without a Face combines b-movie subject matter with poetic art house cinema to very effective results.
Directed by Georges Franju in 1959 the film is about a mad doctor (Pierre Brasseur) who is determined to find a face that he can graft on to his daughter Christiane's face which has been destroyed in an accident. In order for his experiments to work the doctor needs the faces of a young woman who are of the same build as his daughter. In order to attain these faces he sends out a former patient of his (Alida Valli) to lure women to their country mansion. Then the women are put under and surgery is done to remove their face.
It's a particularly gruesome subject matter but it is handled in a rather graceful way. The film became a cult hit back in 1959 and of note has one scene that was considered too shocking by audiences back then but by today's standards - while still unpleasant - is almost tame. What is effective is the film's eerie tone and chilly fog laden setting and the rigid phlegmatic characters. Due to the visual atmosphere the film would have worked beautifully as a silent film.
At the heart of the film is the nature of identity. And the way that a young woman can only attain that through the death and destruction of others. Yet in the process her innocence and pain is challenged with each subsequent failed attempt by the doctor to make the flesh masks work.Eyes Without a Face is the only film Georges Franju is know for in the US - although he had an impressive track record and was an influence on the French New Wave directors. It's easy to see his influence because it doesn't hone to a genre as much as it cross pollinates genres to create an ultimately unique cinema that is tied to both self conscious movie reality and realism.
Shot in black and white with a relatively modest budget, good performances and a steady suspense Eyes Without a Face is French horror film that by todays' standards is less scary than eerie. It's also got a neatly poetic ending that today would be an invitation to a sequel.
Audio is French monaural and sounds good. The film is heavy on background noises such as dogs barking and wind blowing. Dialogue is dubbed but sounds fine