By Andy Klein
12:41 PM PDT, October 11, 2013
Georges Franju's 1960 feature debut, “Eyes Without a Face” is either a horror film disguised as an art film or vice versa. It was originally shown in the U.S. in a dubbed version called “The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus.”
Edith Scob plays a beautiful young woman whose face is totally destroyed in a car accident. Since her father (Pierre Brasseur) — guilt-ridden over his responsibility for the accident — is coincidentally a plastic surgeon, he devotes himself to restoring her by kidnapping young women, cutting off their faces, and trying, over and over, to graft them onto his daughter.
If the plot sounds familiar, it may be because Pedro Almodovar's “The Skin I Live In” (2011) had nearly the same story, modernized and pumped full of sexual themes that are far more plain than the trace of incestuous desire that Franju suggests.
As usual with Criterion's black-and-white Blu-ray editions, the transfer is excellent. The extras may not be plentiful, but they're all interesting. We get both the French and the dubbed English versions of Franju's 1949 documentary short, “Blood of the Beasts,” which intercuts scenic shots of Paris with nauseating footage from within slaughterhouses hidden among the romantic exteriors. There are short excerpts of Franju interviews from 1964, 1968 and 1982, as well as a recently shot eight-minute interview with the still incredibly lovely Edith Scob. We also get excerpts from a 1985 documentary about writing team Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, who, in addition to working on the film's screenplay, wrote the novels that became “Diabolique” and “Vertigo.”
"Eyes Without a Face" Criterion, Blu-ray, $39.95
--ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on "FilmWeek" on KPCC-FM (89.3).