Saturday, February 16, 2013

Faceless (1987)

Faceless is a rather unscrupulous, but not entirely tasteless, splatter film from Jess Franco that is a loose addition to his long running Dr. Orloff series that began in 1962 with The Awful Dr. Orloff. It’s got a bigger budget than the usual Franco film, thanks to French producer Rene Chateau, and it shows. Being more a fan of Franco’s ‘no-budget’ erotic surrealist horror from the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, it was interesting for me to see him do the gory ‘80s thing rather adequately. The cast is also a treat for genre-fans, as it includes several fan favorites who are all great in their parts, like Helmut Berger, Brigitte Lahaie, Telly Savalas, Caroline Munro, Lina Romay, and Howard Vernon as Dr. Orloff, who, like Romay, is only here for a brief but memorable cameo.

Along with the copious gore candy, a major strength here is the addition of numerous well-acted villains. It’s like a gathering of abhorrent human monsters that are all a representation of the darker, evil side of human nature and therefore realistic, but there’s also a fantasy angle, too, with the beauty restoration operations and the youthful look of Dr. Orloff’s elderly wife (Romay) bringing Faceless into the realm of Cinema Fantastique. The surgical operations are the most gruesome element; the way the eyes still move from the still conscious, drugged victims after their faces have been surgically removed is extremely disturbing. The man in charge of the real dirty work of disposing the bodies of the captured girls, Gordon (Gérard Zalcberg), brings on the gore, too, and is also the most outwardly monstrous creation of the bunch (I can’t help wishing that he was called Morpho, to keep up with a Franco tradition for these types of characters).







An additional pleasant surprise, performance-wise, is another villainous character that comes later in the film, by referral of Dr. Orloff, Dr. Karl Heinz Moser (Anton Diffring), a refined gentleman who was also a Nazi surgeon that experimented on humans during the war, and so there’s this detestable and disturbing side to this character that works really well. Apparently, Diffring was typecast for these roles, and I can see why. Lahaie is amazingly wicked and oh so evil; that part where she closes the door and locks the detective (Chris Mitchum) into the padded room with Barbara (Munro), foiling him from saving the day, is intense. That evil gaze she gives him through the looking glass… What a witch! It makes me angry, which is only a testament to how great her performance is. Mitchum's panicky response during this part is a terrific contrast considering that he was such a cool headed character during the rest of the movie.

Franco claims that Faceless is an updated and contemporary take on Eyes Without a Face, and many consider it to be more or less a remake. It has an unpleasant and incomplete ending that Franco insisted on since he felt that happy endings were becoming outdated; though, like Munro said in an interview, due to its ambiguity, it’s possible for optimists to imagine a happier conclusion.

The production took care to utilize the movie’s main theme song, by Vincent Thoma, as often as possible. It’s a trendy, poppy sounding piece that easily could’ve been a chart topper at the time. There’s just something about city lights and ‘80s pop sensationalism that turns on the sentimentalist in me. For some reason, it makes me homesick for the ‘80s, even though; being a little kid at the time, my memory of this era is vague, like a near forgotten dream, which only makes me more misty-eyed. 

The Faceless theme song:




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7 comments:

  1. I'm not overly familiar with his work, but check out Circus Of Horrors (1960) wherein Anton Diffring is the lead baddie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfWqTtVxN40
    It's a personal fave (I'm a sucker for circus horror movies), and it's surprisingly sleazy for its day.

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    1. I’m not overly familiar with Diffring either, but he plays a cultured albeit nasty slime ball in this, and I was impressed. Thanks for the link, Brandon! That trailer was awesome. I’m going to watch Circus of Horrors sometime. Apparently COH is supposed to be Anton Diffring at his nastiest, and it looks like he plays a plastic surgeon, similar to his role in this film. It almost sounds like they might have written the script for Faceless with Diffring in mind to play the evil surgeon based on COH.

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    2. That really wouldn't surprise me at all. There do seem to be a lot of thematic similarities.

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  2. In fact,iI remember the scene of operations, the strength of a film still good.
    But i like more "Griots en la noche", I love that atmosphere!

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    1. Hey, Luigi! Ah, yes, Gritos en la noche AKA The Awful Dr. Orloff is the best. It’s the original, and I remember reading somewhere that it was the first Spanish horror movie. Howard Vernon just seemed born to play a bad guy for Jess Franco from the start.

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  3. jervaise brooke hamsterMarch 18, 2014 at 6:17 PM

    I want to bugger Brigitte Lahaie (as the bird was in 1973 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

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  4. jervaise brooke hamsterMarch 18, 2014 at 6:19 PM

    I want to bugger Caroline Munro (as the bird was in 1967 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

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