October 23, 2007

Frankensteinian : Eyes Without a Face

Admittedly, this face transplant horror film is only tenuously Frankensteinian, but bear with me…

This week, two of my favorite bloggers, Tim Lucas and Arbogast, honored actress Edith Scob on the occasion of her 70th birthday. Scob is the ethereal, faceless girl who drifts through Les yeux sans visage (Eyes Without a Face) like a lonesome ghost, gazing out from behind her perfect porcelain mask with sad, unforgettable eyes.

Director George Franju’s celebrated 1949 slaughterhouse documentary, Blood of the Beasts, heralded the clinical horrors of Eyes Without a Face. Known in the US as The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus, the film was magnificently photographed by legendary cinematographer and inventor Eugen Schufftan.

Edith Scob’s fantasy film credentials include appearances in Judex (1963), Gaston Leroux’ La poupée sanglante (1976), Vidocq (2000) and Le pacte des loups (Brotherhood of the Wolf, 2002). I previously mentioned Scob here in my discussion of Jean-Claude Carrière’s Frankenstein novels, referring to her appearance in 2003 at the Pompidou Center in Paris where she read excerpts from French horror pulps.

In addition to his short but touching tribute to Scob, whom he calls “Our Lady of the Fantastique”, Tim Lucas posted a comment to Arbogast’s tribute. Here’s a quote by Lucas that needs to be shared:

“I feel she gives the genre's greatest female performance… steeped in body language and pathos and wonderment as anything Karloff did in FRANKENSTEIN. She is one of the genre's iconic figures.”

Beautifully said. Perhaps the Frankenstein connection is not so superficial after all.


Will Errickson said...

While Les yeux sans visage may have only a tangential relationship to the Frankenstein story, anything to get more people to see this dreamy, evocative, haunting film is appreciated. I had to spend $40 on a bootleg VHS of this a few years ago, totally worth it, but then (of course) it came out as a Criterion DVD. Ah well. Good write-up.

Pierre Fournier said...

Thanks, Will. I was lucky growing up in Montreal, the film played on TV when I was a kid. I remember cringing during that face transplant scene.

It's a fabulous film.