Les Yeux Sans Visage or “Eyes Without a Face” is a black and white French film directed by Georges Franju. This campy horror movie was first released in Europe in 1960. Actress, Edith Scob, plays the fragile, disfigured daughter of mad-scientist, Dr. Génessier (Pierre Brasseur,) and although Scob’s performance made the film a cult classic, few in the U.S.A have even heard of her.
I believe Les Yeux Sans Visage was eventually dubbed in English, however as a purist, I enjoyed the original French language version with English subtitles. You can watch the entire movie for free online.
After wrecking his car in a terrible collision, Dr. Génessier goes on a homicidal quest to reconstruct his daughter’s face. With the aid of his secretary, Dr. Génessier kidnaps pretty young girls and surgically removes their faces for Christiane, his daughter. Christiane realizes the evil her father commits on her behalf, and she begs to die so no more innocent women will suffer. However Dr. Génessier is obsessed with grafting the perfect face and continues to kidnap and murder young girls.
The title of the movie refers to Christiane’s appearance when she is wearing her mask. Only her eyes are visible through the facial prosthesis.
The surgical scenes are gruesome. I didn’t expect to see much gore in a 1960 film, but the little there was here is effective. Dr. Génessier’s clinical ruthlessness is sharply contrasted by his daughter’s constant weeping and doe-eyed gazes. Christiane isn’t a heroine I usually route for. She’s passive and kinda useless. But boy, does she have an evil streak! She wears the dead girls’ faces without complaining much, and she only seems upset about it after necrosis has set in and her father demands her to take it off. She resents her father for repeatedly stripping her of her face. However Dr. Génessier doesn’t seem to care. Within the first 5 minutes of screen time, he is bitch-slapping his secretary for threatening to go to the police. He’s not a nice character. And yeah, in case you were wondering… the movie is kinda misogynistic.
Women are measured only by their beauty and physical attractiveness–once they lose that it’s OKAY to feel sorry for them when they turn into murderesses and psychos. Like, duh.
Dr. Génessier forbids Christiane from leaving the house or contacting her fiancé, who, due to a lie at the morgue, still believes she is dead. The heartbroken fiancé works at Dr. Génessier’s hospital. After weeks of strange disappearances, he begins to notice Dr. Génessier’s odd behavior around the attractive female patients. Defiant Christiane calls her fiancé on the phone, further antagonizing her father and her fiancé’s suspicions. The girls’ disappearances catch the police’s attention. Then a witness reports the secretary’s choker necklace and a plan is set to trap Dr. Génessier.
After a failed skin grafting experiment, Christiane realizes she is just as much a prisoner as the girls her father butchers in his laboratory. She stabs Dr. Génessier’s secretary and frees all of his victims. The movie ends with Christiane wandering in the forest as the policemen storm the house.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie. The ending was a bit…anticlimactic, but I appreciated the suspenseful approach and Scob’s eerie performance. Les Yeux Sans Visage is a pretty film that uses a lot of light and shadow. The eerie carnival music only adds to the film’s disturbing aesthetic. A must-see for fans of classic, gothic horror. 7/10