The two movies in our Double Feature tonight have almost identical plots: a woman is disfigured and in order to be restored to her former beauty, she will need the face of a victim. It's a disturbing concept, but it's been repeated a surprising number of times - most notably in Eyes Without a Face (1960).
Tonight's double bill: The Blood Rose (1970) and Faceless (1987). Enjoy.
The Blood Rose (1970) AKA "La rose écorchée"
I think it's easy to infer from this screen capture that we're in for a strange ride with this French horror flick from 1970. The French had a thing for the "Eyes Without a Face" trope; it's an interesting storyline - especially in the hands of a talented director like Claude Mulot.
As you might expect, there's plenty of of stunning Euro babes, Gothic settings, and surrealist weirdness to be had. It makes for an interesting watch, to say the least. Let's have a look...
The lead character Frédéric (Phillipe Lemaire) meets the gorgeous Anne (Anne Duperey) while picking out costumes for a party (pictured at the top).
Frédéric is both French and an artist - so, naturally, his passions are set aflame. He decides to paint Anne (shades of Titanic) and skip the costume party altogether.
They fall madly in love, and Anne wants to live in Frédéric's creepy castle forever. There's just one problem..... make that two problems....
...Igor and Olaf. Frédéric's parents took in these two mute dwarves when he was a child. After his parents died, he let them stay. Anne is frightened, but I suppose it's something you can get past when you're in love.... right?
The next day, the doctor informs Frédéric that his lovely Anne will never walk again and will be permanently disfigured. Bummer.
Cut to a scene where a mysterious botanist, Professeur Römer (the always creepy Howard Vernon), has a plant he's giving to Frédéric for some unknown reason. This plant has thorns which spell instant death. No touchy, Igor!!
It's been over a year since the wedding, and Frédéric is still moping around, becoming more and more isolated and unstable. This is going to end badly - I can feel it.
This is Anne's nurse, Agnès (Michèle Perello), as seen from Anne's perspective. If I had one complaint it's that too many scenes are shot with this lens. I know it's an effective method to show Anne's deformed perspective, but it gets tiresome to look at. The cinematography is so brilliant, I found myself frustrated at not being able to take it in because of this confounded lens. Plus, Anne's Darth Vader breathing gets annoying as well.
Anne has turned into a crippled monster, and is downright shitty toward Agnès. Frédéric consoles her as any French artist would, with the language of love.
Of course, Anne watches the whole thing from a keyhole. (Note: We never see Anne in her crippled state. We only catch glimpses of her in her wheelchair. It's an effective trick.)
The jealous Anne lures Agnès into pricking herself on the deadly plant. An already morbidly depressed Frédéric finds her body, and has Igor and Olaf bury her in the yard. (I'm glad to see Igor and Olaf earning their keep.)
Remember Professeur Römer - the creepy botanist? It seems the botanist does more than attend Frédéric's arboretum; Frédéric discovers that he used to be a renowned surgeon that had to go underground due to his unorthodox practices in facial reconstruction.
An unorthodox facial reconstruction expert already on the payroll? How unbelievably fortunate! Frédéric just happens to have a wife with a disfigured face. What are the odds?
The professeur says there is a solution to his wife's effed up face - and it's a doozy.
"There's one possibility, but science isn't ready for it.... if we had a complete face of living tissue... it would kill the donor."
Professeur Römer claims his first victim, but it's all for naught. When Igor and Olaf fetch her from her imprisonment, she resists and they accidentally kill her and damage her face.
Igor and Olaf are sort of the Cory and Trevor (Trailer Park Boys) of The Blood Rose.
Anne has a nightmare, equal parts horror and erotic, of nurse Agnès risen from the grave. As it happens, Agnès' sister, Barbara (Olivia Robin), has sent a letter asking for the whereabouts of her missing sibling.
Getting only a fishy reply from her sister, Barbara comes to the chateau under false pretences to iinvestigate. That night, she wanders around the premises wearing a nightgown, carrying a candelabra - perhaps the most prolific image of the Gothic genre.
She stumbles upon Anne, and we finally get to see her hideous face. Barbs is captured and put in a cell - she'll be a perfect face donor.
The Climax (Spoilers All)
The plan is ruined when Professeur Römer comes under heat from the police. He hangs himself, which causes Anne to freak out... which causes Igor and Olaf to freak out as well, and randomly kill her.
Frédéric engages in the silliest battle ever against the dwarves, and is dealt a mortal blow by Olaf. Barbara, escaped from her confines, kills the dwarf then gets the f--k out of Dodge.
The final scene features a sad Igor cradling the dead Olaf and Frédéric painting a picture of Barbara (?)
As you can see, it's got it's problems, but as far as Gothic Euro horror goes, it's a gem. Although, I'd recommend you follow it up with a football game or Cannonball Run to shake away all the dreary surrealism so that you can, once again, function within society.
Why watch Faceless? When I saw that this movie starred Telly Savalas and was directed by Euro-sleaze director Jesus Franco, I didn't even hesitate to press 'play'. Unfortunately, I probably should have quickly pressed 'eject', because this movie just made me sad.
First reason for sadness: Telly obviously needed some quick rent money. Telly was badass-in-charge during the seventies - it was sad to see him old and in a movie where his talents are clearly wasted.
|Brigitte Lahaie brings home a face donor.|
Second reason for sadness: Jesus Franco spent the better part of a decade making some of the sleaziest movies to come out of Europe; now it's 1987 and this movie has basically zero nudity. Francophiles may want to read that sentence again - zero nudity. The ladies are easy on the eyes to be sure, but Franco's trademark sleaziness is on hiatus. Take note note of Brigitte Lahaie above, who doesn't shed a stitch.... and this is a women who shed more than her share of stitches back in the day!
Third reason for sadness: Caroline Munro - Hammer babe, and one of the hottest women of the 70s - totally wasted. There's precious few scenes with her in them: she's captured and there's a couple brief scenes of her being mistreated (as above). Almost no dialog, and no opportunity to sell the sizzle. What a waste.
Two other actors whose talents are wasted in this film: Helmut Berger and Stéphane Audran. But on to the Fourth reason for sadness...
The soundtrack. It's like an unholy hybrid of of Wham! and Blancmange. Jesus Franco was a jazz musician - he should have known better.
Of all the Eyes Without a Face imitators, I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is the worst. Gilligan does not recommend. I know it's tempting to want to watch a Jesus Franco movie starring Kojak; but heed my advice - don't do it!