Throwback Thursday: “Eyeball” (1975)

 

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Excerpt of poster art for Eyeball. Image source: dagored-records.com

Red ponchos. Red lights in the Haunted House ride. Red curtains. Red bathrobes. Red blankets. Red pants. Red chairs. Red hair. Red lamps. Red suspenders. Red towels. Red-framed hotel art. Red blazers. Red carpets. Red high heels. Red sunglasses. Red hats. Red vests. Red hospital corridors. Red tablecloths.

So. Much. Red.

More red than Mario Bava ever thought to cram into any of his red-obsessive gialli.

The use of red is far more pronounced than in Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso (and that even has the Italian word for “red” in the title!).

Man, there’s a lot of red in Eyeball.

Even in the faded print of the bootleg DVD I watched, the red was impossible to miss (and I’m sure I still missed some).

Maybe somewhere there’s an interview with co-writer and director Umberto Lenzi that points out every instance of red – literal or implied – in Eyeball. It’s not a stretch to imagine him patting himself on the back for his own genius in incorporating so much red into a single film. (I’ve seen many interviews with the guy, and humble is one thing he ain’t.)

Why is there so much red in Eyeball? Well, because it’s about a stabby killer. And the red raincoat was pretty eerie in Don’t Look Now, right?

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The killer strikes in Eyeball. Image source: monsters4ever.com

Like most Italian genre directors in the ’70s, Lenzi rode the profitable giallo trend until it was pounded into the ground. While his films have a lesser following than those of Bava, Argento, and Lucio Fulci, he was no less prolific (see also: Spasmo and Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, which predate Eyeball). His films contained no less absurdity of character, motive, and plotting than the aforementioned auteurs, but his execution was always more ridiculous.

Eyeball centers around a tour group in Barcelona who, one by one, fall victim to a deranged killer in a (red) raincoat, who goes about stabbing out the left eyes of his or her victims. To what end? Don’t worry, the silly climactic explanation doesn’t disappoint.

In the meantime, American Mark (Torso‘s John Richardson) appears out of nowhere to see his secretary-slash-girlfriend, Paulette (Martine Brochard). Mark’s marriage to the disturbed Alma (Marta May) is winding down, and he’s moving on. Or is he? The rash of murders recalls a grisly incident in Burlington, Vermont (which the film is constantly mentioning) that causes Mark to believe that Alma may be the killer.

Worry not: the usual rash of leading incidents and red-herring interrogations occur, with the Inspector Tudela (Andres Mejuto) always seemingly close by. The cops provide the standard function of bantering about evidence (or bitching about the lack thereof), riding the witnesses, suspecting the wrong people, and ultimately being there at just the right time before the killer takes his or her final stab. A discussion about the condition of one character’s shoes (muddy or not?) is executed so seriously – and at such length – that it’s hard not to laugh.

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Silence is golden in Eyeball. Image source: youtube.com

While the violence lacks the more proficient staging of his peers, Lenzi nonetheless manages to create a modicum of tension and suspense. Some of the stalking scenes are effective, including a moment where one of the tourists, changing into her negligee in the bathroom, doesn’t see the killer appear in the doorway behind her. With a decent-sized tour group, Lenzi is given many opportunities to execute his brand of seedy violence.

And what about those tourists? This is the type of film where the overstuffed supporting cast is defined by one or two simple traits (the shrew; the lecher; the model; the hot lesbian couple; the jailbait daughters & granddaughters; the priest) – enough to arouse suspicion of their character at one point or another – and their names aren’t even mentioned until they become suspects or are killed. This sense of priority (or lack thereof) is indicative of most gialli – more characters equal more potential murderers, and ever more ways to keep the viewer guessing. (Though the fact that only a handful are allowed inner lives does whittle down the candidates.)

Eyeball is not a great film, but it contains enough style and silly plot developments to hold a horror fan’s attention. I started watching around midnight, and it held my attention until the end. Take that for what it’s worth.

Jonny Numb’s IMDb Rating: 5 out of 10

(Eyeball is currently unavailable on Blu-ray or DVD in the U.S. The full movie can be found on YouTube.)