Monday, December 9, 2013


Eyeball (1975) aka The Secret Killer, aka Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro
Dir. Umberto Lenzi
Written by Umberto Lenzi, Felix Tussel
Starring Martine Brochard, John Richardson, Ines Pellegrini

I felt like the look on the lady's face here justifies a closer look at the poster.

Somebody on a tour group in Spain is bumping off his or her fellow passengers by gouging out one of their eyes. The eyeball is removed, this is the manner of death. The movie’s name is EYEBALL. I guess that makes sense. If google translate is correct, the Italian title is RED CATS IN A MAZE OF GLASS, which is a little harder to explain, given the notable absence of cats, mazes, glass, etc. Another thing that’s hard to explain? That the tour group keeps going, touring new places and getting involved in various tedious subplots despite the fact that they are being murdered one by one and the killer is someone in the group (but who could it be?!). That’s the kind of enjoyably daffy thinking which makes giallos so endearing.

This particular giallo is an enjoyable but not especially memorable one, amiably convoluted and ridiculous but a bit light on clever gimmicks or notable setpieces. Even the eyeball gouging thing doesn’t really get as much mileage as you expect. It’s mostly a travelogue whodunnit with an occasional eyeball-stabbing or lesbian sex scene, heavy on dull dialogue scenes and not imaginatively sleazy enough to stand out from the giallo pack. But it has its moments. There’s a nice kill scene in a carnival house of horror, just like the end of CHILD’S PLAY 3 but cheaper and crappier. There’s a couple bloody eyeball-related fatalities, and one person who gets eaten alive by pigs. Plus a killer with a red raincoat, just like DON’T LOOK NOW which completely coincidentally came out only two years earlier, that’s a nice touch. I appreciate this kind of thing.

These things are just too damn slippery.

Mostly, though, this one is pretty plotty and perhaps overly confident that you’ll care enough about who the real killer is to follow a million minor red herring subplots about every annoying character before they’re killed off. Was it the irritating old coot? The creepy priest? The annoying daughter? The abrasive but frequently naked lesbian? The other abrasive but frequently naked lesbian*? The obvious person that all evidence points to? Who can say? But also, who really cares? This sort of whodunnit premise loses a lot of its appeal when you don’t really give a shit about any of them but the movie keeps insisting that everyone needs a bunch of grating dialogue scenes, 99% of which end up being completely extraneous misdirection. The person who ends up being the killer does a good job, and the twist is appreciably outrageous, but we’re not engaged enough in the story for the twist itself to be reward enough.

This isn’t a bad giallo, but it’s not one that’s likely to be anyone’s favorite, either. Lenzi is capable of things both a lot crazier and a lot more stylish, and both could have helped this effort to distinguish itself a little more. Giallos are so patently absurd already that your best bet is to avoid anything remotely resembling character development and just go all out to try and entertain. This one is only sporadically interested in shocking and titillating you, and, predictably, everything else doesn’t hold up too well. Still, no harm in trying. I hear Lenzi’s SEVEN BLOODSTAINED ORCHIDS is much better. I’ll keep a...heh… eye out for it.

*To the movie's credit, the lesbians are annoyed and/or murdered, but otherwise the movie treats them with at least as much dignity as any of the other annoying assholes in the cast. For 1975, that’s pretty progressive, even if it's just an excuse for a bunch of leering nude scenes with no men to keep awkwardly clothed.


  • SEQUEL: No
  • REMAKE: No
  • SPAGHETTI NOCTURNE: Yessir, although set in Spain for some reason. Maybe they're trying to address all those Spanish horror films set in Portugal or France or something during the Franco era?
  • BOOBIES: Yes, quite a few.
  • DECAPITATIONS OR DE-LIMBING: Eyeball removal, that counts.
  • SLASHERS: Yeah, good classic example of a giallo slasher.
  • CURSES: No
  • OBSCURITY LEVEL: Pretty high, out of print now and not even really a cult favorite
  • ALEX MADE IT THROUGH AWAKE: "Did you watch that giallo with me about the killer who gouges out eyeballs?" "No, I don't think I watched that."

Believe it or not, there are a number of female characters who talk about various thing not male-related, including shoes.

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