Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Man with Icy Eyes (1971)

Although commonly referred to as a giallo, Alberto De Martino’s The Man with Icy Eyes would have to be a rather atypical example of the genre, if not an ostensible one. It is set and filmed in a southwestern desert city called Albuquerque, NM (where I’m from, but we’ll get to that later). It doesn’t follow the violent murder mystery plot set forth by Mario Bava and popularized by Dario Argento, nor does it have any of the attractive gothic horror crossovers with ultramodern psychedelic fashions or drug-induced delirium. If anything, the film is more of a rustic detective story with a smattering of the crime thriller and a climax not entirely unlike that of Lucio Fulci’s One On Top of the Other (1969). Given the film’s mystery element, tense soundtrack, and early ‘70s era, and considering the presence of key players like Antonio Sabato (Seven Blood Stained Orchids 1972) and Barbara Bouchet (Don’t Torture a Duckling 1972), I can still dig the giallo tag. It also flirts with the supernatural, just a little, and there’s a colorful nude photography scene with Bouchet to give the film a minimally erotic edge.



De Martino really seemed to savor the chance to film the movie’s lead Eddie Mills (Sabato) riding around town on his motorcycle, an image that figures prominently in the earlier half of the film, which feels a little like an embodiment of the traditional western hero in modern times, with a bike in place of a horse and a cool brown leather jacket replacing the duster coat. He’s a journalist for the Albuquerque Sentinel and also a lone Italian looking to ‘make a name for himself’ in an American town by covering the recent murder of a politician.

A suspicious man, Valdez (Giovanni Petrucci), who was picked up by the police while fleeing the scene of the murder was identified by a stripper, Anne Saxe (Bouchet), as the killer who also had a mysterious accomplice, described as the titular character, a man with eyes like two pieces of ice. Based on Anne’s testimony, Valdez is sentenced to death. The murder story makes headlines, but new leads in the case cause Eddie to suspect that Anne’s testimony was false, and an innocent man may be headed for the gas chamber. The possibility of a false headline weighs on Eddie’s conscience as a journalist, so he takes it upon himself, with the invaluable help of his editor, John Hammond (Victor Buono from the original Batman series and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962), to get to the bottom of things. Not only that, an occultist astrologer predicts that Eddie will die before midnight. With the execution of Valdez set for midnight as well, the clock is ticking.



This movie gets a lot of flak for its pacing problems and for being too talky, making it less of the exciting thriller it’s supposed to be. It’s perhaps better to think of it more as a somewhat restrained detective story that doesn’t necessarily pride itself on delivering the most riveting conclusion.

Indeed, the clock is counting down in the third act, with a falsely convicted man’s life at stake, but time seems to be moving slower than natural in the film’s world. While under immense pressure, an hour can just fly by, but the final hour before midnight (when a lot is happening and the pressure is up) moves at an unnaturally convenient speed for everything to fall in place in just the nick of time - providence when you need it the most. However, I kind of like this. Whether or not it was a flaw, I think it is suspenseful, in a way, to constantly feel like you’re at the edge of a fatal deadline for an elongated period.



The plot might seem a little bit stuffed and convoluted, especially when watching the film for the first time, but I liked the way things turned out in the end; although, if you shave off the last three minutes, the movie would have a gloomy wrap-up (could that have been what they were originally going for?). None of the mystery clues and twists ever seemed all that shocking, but they’re still decent enough and do not end up being bad or too confusing. If you allow yourself to get absorbed in the movie, without distractions, kind of like a book, The Man with Icy Eyes does end up being enjoyable.



Sabato may not be the most charismatic lead here, but there’s still something cool about him, in look and in attitude. He and Buono’s character, who’s also cool and stylish in his own way, made an 'alright' team despite their quibbling in the newspaper office.

There are a couple of well-placed street fights that might seem a little routine, with Eddie and John somehow being great fighters, able to fight off groups of thugs that arrive on the scene to turn up the excitement for a short time before being somewhat easily fought off, like the putty patrol from Power Rangers or the foot soldiers from TMNT.

I liked Bouchet’s role as a stripper who’ll do anything for money. It could be said that she was a little underused, but what we do get of her scandalous character is still memorable if rather minimal.

Some of the more tense and exciting moments are aided by certain cuts in the film’s cool soundtrack by Peppino De Luca, which also features a couple exquisite female vocal layers with the legendary voice of Edda Dell’Orso.



I actually didn’t know it going in, but when I first watched The Man with Icy Eyes, it was a pleasant surprise when I noticed, right away, that it was shot in Albuquerque, NM. I’ll admit that this was an enhancing factor, as it personally appealed to me to see the city I grew up in circa 1971 (twelve years before I was born) and as the setting for a giallo with Barbara Bouchet, no less.


I dig the way Eddie Mills' outfit blends in with the desert setting


OK, so it excited me a little more than it should, but you got to admit that it is a rather unusual location for this kind of genre (I can’t help wondering what made these Italian filmmakers decide to shoot a film in Albuquerque all of a sudden). By seeing a style of film that’s near and dear to me in a location that’s just as near and dear to me, it almost became like a personalized experience. Since I am familiar with a lot of the locations in the film, I couldn’t resist doing a ‘then and now’ comparison sort of thing.

I actually didn’t recognize any interiors just the outdoor, mostly street side, locations. However, instead of just merely using Google Street View, I decided to visit these locations personally and try and capture present day counterpart images of different screen shots from the movie, all the while remembering that over forty years ago, in a very different era, Alberto De Martino and his cast and crew were once standing in the exact same locations creating this little southwestern giallo that would become a diverting time capsule to someone like me. It’s also my neck of the woods, so I figured, “why not?”


Top (then): A scene from the film with a view of Historic Route 66 facing west at the Central and Broadway intersection at the eastern tail end of downtown Albuquerque that is very recognizable
Bottom (now): That large building seen in the movie directly to the left of the intersection is no longer there (it looks to be a parking lot now). Visually not much else seems to have changed between now and then except for the new stoplight and the J-style light poles and of course the untimely construction barricades. The railroad bridge seen further back down the street in both shots is for the rail runner train to Santa Fe.


Top (then): Antonio Sabato parks a motorcycle across the street from the First Baptist Church at the corner of Broadway and Central, with Barbara Bouchet riding in back
Bottom (now): Well, the pole is obviously different now, and I’m glad there was a car parked nearly in the exact same spot as the older car in the movie (a modern counterpart). The services of this church have since moved to a different location on the west side of the city; it has been empty for a long time now, but the University of New Mexico purchased the building this year with plans of making it an innovation site dedicated to hosting new companies and ideas for downtown.


Top (then): A small backstreet leading from Old Town to Rio Grande Boulevard included as part of the intro credits montage of Sabato riding around town on his motorcycle
Bottom (now): When I saw this alleyway in the film, all I could think of was Walgreens. Well, after searching around Old Town a little to find it, I see why, as the side of a Walgreens can be viewed when looking down the street. Not surprising, being that it’s Old Town, everything looks practically unchanged; even the parked black car on the left in both images looks similar; and I think I took the picture at the same time of day the scene from the film was shot, because the tip of the pointed shadow, spreading from the left, is touching the gutter in almost the exact same spot, in both images.


Top (then): Sabato consults with a paranoid correspondent, over spirits, in rustic Old Town, regarding the assassination of a senator
Bottom (now): It’s not perfect, but I tried to get the exact same angle with the stop sign and everything else (I realize now that the movie camera was situated a little further back and to the right). Unfortunately, in the present day shot, the tree overgrowth is blocking the view of the two towers from the San Felipe de Neri Parish Catholic Church, which serve as a remarkable backdrop to this particular shot in the movie.


Top (then): Sabato looks on as his paranoid correspondent flees the scene at the sight of three approaching thugs right before a street fight scene stirs things up - the La Placita Dining Rooms restaurant sign can be seen above Sabato’s shoulder.
Bottom (now): The La Placita Dining Rooms restaurant is still in operation today and is supposedly haunted.


Top (then): Sabato successfully parries a knife lunge from his attacker
Bottom (now): What can I say about this shot other than that the white bench is still there? I once sat in that bench and read three chapters of Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio. It’s also interesting to note the time lapse involving the sidewalk tree, which appears to be in its infancy in the film.


Top (then): The movie theater exterior seen in the background is used more than once in the film and plays a role in solving the story’s mystery. Looking closely at the marquee, a double bill of Elvis Presley films can be discerned: Elvis: That’s The Way It Is (1970) and Speedway (1968). This one was a bit of a challenge. Just by looking at it in the movie, I couldn’t quite pin down the location of this theater. At first, I thought it was the Lobo Theater, which ceased its movie showing operations in 2001, but when I visited the site of the Lobo Theater, it just didn’t match. Through a bit of Internet searching, I found out that the theater used in the film was actually known as the State Theater at the time, now long closed. The gray-green (xanadu) colored building to the left with the interesting arch way wall panels really fascinates me; it’s not a typical example of the more recent architecture but rather one of the 19th century style buildings from downtown that still stand today.
Bottom (now): I was surprised to find out that today the ground level of the former State Theater is now the New York Pizza Dept., a restaurant I’m actually familiar with. As can be seen in the present day image, though no longer having that peculiar xanadu color, that interesting old building with the arch ways is still there, and it consists of a Chicago Dog restaurant and a company called PRISM Technologies. The upper stories of both the adjoined buildings are mostly offices. 


Top (then): The sign for the Zia Motor Lodge is briefly showcased in the film before a pivotal scene that takes place at this cottage lodging.
Bottom (now): The ZML was built in 1938 and was torn down in 2005. Its historic sign still stands today (2015) amongst an empty lot on 4611 Central Ave.


Above (then): The two images above are of a high and a low shot of the rental room building where Eddie visits Barbara Bouchet's character on several occasions.  


Above (now): So I've added this filming location roughly a year and four months after I first posted this review/article. I had been wondering in the back of my mind about the building all this time but couldn't figure out what or where it was, until now. During a recent rewatch, I paused it and studied the building and then googled several hotel high rises in Albuquerque but didn't see anything that matched. I was looking out into the city the next morning and spotted a tall lone building in an area of town I was unfamiliar with that I thought could possibly be the building from the movie. I virtually traveled there via Google maps, and what do you know, it was the building. It's the Park Plaza Condominiums. I was making the mistake of looking for a hotel. The building was built in 1965 and, according to Wikipedia, is the tallest residential building in New Mexico. I traveled out there on my lunch break to mimic the two shots from the movie. There are taller trees now, so I had to move back a little. I also felt real shady for some reason. Note that the building is gated off now.         

Above (then): The parapsychologist that menaced Eddie about his horoscope and his doomed future stayed at this Hilton Hotel featured in the film.


Above (now): I gave up on this one a long time ago since I looked at all of the Hilton buildings in Albuquerque and neither one matched. On the same lunch break that I took the pictures of the condominiums where Barbara Bouchet's character stayed, I decided to stop for lunch at the New York Pizza Department, since it used to be the State Theater, which you know was featured in the film. I parked across the street, and, by chance, I spotted the hotel in the film not too far away. I felt like Marcus Daly from Deep Red when he finally found the "House of the Screaming Child". Oddly, the exterior stairs have migrated to the right.


So the reason I couldn't find the Hilton Hotel is that it is no longer a Hilton Hotel but has since changed to the Hotel Andaluz in 1984.


I walked up to the front door and found this historical plaque from when the hotel was first built in 1939. 

© At the Mansion of Madness 
     

8 comments:

  1. Oh this is awesome! It's been so long since I've seen The Man with Icy Eyes but I remember enjoying it despite not being a masterpiece. What led to watch this film was in fact the excellent soundtrack. The music and posters give off a bit of a pop art feel which I kind of wish they incorporated into the film in some way.

    It's weird, I had no idea Giovanni Petrucci was the titular man with icy eyes. So unrecognizable without his facial hair from Tragic Ceremony and Il gatto di Brooklyn! Antonio Sabato definitely lent a coolness to the role. I also find it kind of amusing that his son is a popular actor whom I vaguely remember from The Big Hit. As for Barbara Bouchet, I thought she was adequately utilized in the film (though nothing beats her intro!), especially during the climactic finale (I really liked that realization of her coat colour). The astrology element also added to the excitement of the finale as well.

    Really love your photos, I think you captured the compositions very well. Interesting to see how some places are virtually unchanged (that bench!) while others have been fairly refurbished. While Icy Eyes may not be the most memorable thriller, it's still an enjoyable obscurity for Bouchet fans and Albuquerqueans. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, the soundtrack is marvelous, and that pop art feel you mention doesn’t quite match the southwestern culture from the film’s locations, yet that’s part of what I dig about having the vintage Eurocult flavor mixed in. It’s kind of like a melding of my fantasies with my reality. It’s a strange flavor, indeed, and it would have been cool to have some more pop art visuals, but unless it was studio developed, like the soundtrack, I don’t think the filmmakers would find it easily amongst this particular locale.

      I remember now that we had talked about Giovanni Petrucci in this film and Tragic in Ceremony, as well as his being falsely credited in Sex of the Witch, I believe. For some reason I forgot who he was and couldn’t figure out who played Valdez. Thanks for that, by the way; I’ve added his name to the review.

      Today it would seem that Antonio Sabato Jr. is more popular than his father; even the current Google profile incorrectly uses the son’s picture for Antonio Sabato Sr. I’m actually not all that familiar with Jr. Sabato, though.

      I like the way everything unfolded including the way Eddie and John realized that white coats and Bouchet’s black wig under the theater light turns violet and red, respectively, confirming the old man’s story from earlier in the film, unlikely but clever.

      Taking the photos at the movie locations was a lot of fun and I’m glad you liked them. That was probably one of the more gratifying blogging endeavors outside of the more formal review parts of the writing. Thanks for introducing me to The Man with Icy Eyes a couple years ago. It really is quite special to me.

      Delete
  2. What a great job nailing down those locations and angles! I've been chewing on doing something similar for a movie called The Redeemer: Son Of Satan! (1978) that was shot in my hometown of Staunton, VA. It's also sometimes known as Class Reunion Massacre.

    Similar to your situation, The Redeemer isn't really a stellar movie, but it is - as far as I know, at least - the only horror movie to ever be filmed there. Oddly, Staunton has hosted other more mainstream movies over the years, too: Hearts In Atlantis, Evan Almighty, and Gods And Generals to name just a few.

    The bulk of The Redeemer was shot at The Staunton Military Academy, which still stands and is now part of Mary Baldwin College. The Redeemer himself initially rises from the water in a local quarry, the exact location of which I understand is now somewhat difficult to get to legally. Best of all, though, is a scene shot at Wright's Dairy Rite, a fifties style drive-in restaurant that still stands and was already anachronistic when the movie was shot.

    The only semi-decent release of The Redeemer available now is a DVD release from Code Red which is still available, and I know I should get a copy before it's OOP like most other Code Red releases. I only recently paid entirely too much for an OOP copy of Rituals (1977) from Code Red, so I ought to have learned my lesson. The Redeemer, though not spectacular, is another movie I'll end up wanting to kick my ass for not purchasing when it was still available and reasonably priced.

    I'm glad to see you added "Thoughtful Commendations"!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! There were a few more locations I could’ve included, such as the Zia Motor Lodge sign (the hotel is gone but the sign is still there), the Hilton Hotel, and the old, closed-down Pop ‘N’ Taco building. I might still add them in later if the urge hits me. I haven’t seen The Redeemer: Son of Satan!, but I see it’s on YouTube, and I think I’ll be checking it out real soon.

      There were and still are a lot of films (independent and big budget) shot in Albuquerque, such as No Country for Old Men, not to mention Breaking Bad, which has become a big tourist attraction in itself.

      What excited me about The Man with Icy Eyes is that it seemed like such a personalized experience. Being over forty years old and a part of the Italian giallo genre and set in Albuquerque is such a rare novelty for me as well as for the genre itself.

      I hope you are able to get around to visiting the locations to The Redeemer; it is a fun and gratifying experience. Those time lapses are just so interesting.

      Delete
  3. I love the comparison shots! Do you know what was where Walgreens is now? One of the best things about Man With Icy Eyes is the location photography. I really enjoy these low budget Italian thrillers from the 70s. The cast in this one is great, and so is the soundtrack. I have only seen the TV print(from Something Weird Video), so Bouchet's nude scenes aren't there, but I imagine that's about the only thing that's cut. A friend has a Greek VHS that has a different cut of the theme over the credits. The credits are also quite a bit longer than the TV version which is the only version most of us saw, since MWIE was sold directly to TV in the USA. I plan on watching the uncut version soon. Great post about a rare film! Kudos!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! The experience was really nostalgic for me. This film really does make good use of the Albuquerque location, and I can't help thinking that others who grew up here would really enjoy the experience. That building you mention did look a little bit different back then, but I can't quite read the sign on the side of the building to tell, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was a Walgreens even back then. I agree about the cast and soundtrack. The music is sweet, and it is definitely a product of the 1970s era, and juxtaposing it with a 1970s Albuquerque is so surreal to me. The version I watched was 91 minutes long, in Italian with English subs, and there is only one nude scene with Bouchet towards the beginning that is pretty brief.

      Thank you for your comment! I'm glad you liked it. I'm thinking about sharing the location screen grabs to a FB group that exists for the sole purpose of reminiscing about the old days in Albuquerque.

      Delete
  4. This is a great blog, mate. I'll be watching this tonight, since I've enjoyed every film you've reviewed.

    Particular thanks for Mariano Baino's Dark Waters - a film I'd never have come across if it weren't for this site, good man

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for checking out my site and reading my posts! I appreciate it. I Hope you enjoy The Man with Icy Eyes. I'm happy my writing turned you on to Dark Waters. That along with Cemetery Man are probably some of the best Italian horror of the '90s.

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...