Archive for georges franju

Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1960

Posted in horror, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by goregirl

IMDB listed 139 titles for 1960, but once I dug into the list I discovered only 61 were actually full-length feature films. As is my modus operandi when doing these features, I do not include shorts, documentaries, made for TV movies or TV series. IMDB lists every individual episode of the television shows which accounted for a goodly number of the 139 titles. There were several episodes of the excellent Twilight Zone series along with two shows I had never heard of Thriller and The Unforeseen. I saw 47 of the 61 films from 1960. Ranking these was practically impossible. For starters my entire top five are films I ranked 5/5. How do you rank films you rated identically? Numbers 6 and 7 were films I rated 4.5/5 so they were easy enough to place. The bigger problem came when trying to decide which 3 films would round out the list when I had 8 films I ranked 4/5! What a colossal headache! The films I left off are all well worth a viewing; The Brides of Dracula, Circus of Horrors, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll and The Secret of the Telgian.

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#10 THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS

Directed By: John Gilling

The Flesh and the Fiends is the story of infamous corpse peddlers William Burke and William Hare and their business transactions with Professor Dr. Robert Knox. The lead performances are absolutely top notch; Peter Cushing as Dr. Knox, Donald Pleasence as Hare and George Rose as Burke are perfectly cast. Some of the supporting character subplots felt redundant but it’s a small complaint in an otherwise outstanding film. The Flesh and the Fiends beautifully captures the dark shadows of 19th Century Edinburgh. It’s a fantastic looking film with an excellent grim and eerie vibe. The deaths are not graphic but they are cold-hearted, well-executed and effectively chilling. I foolishly assumed being a 1960 British film starring Peter Cushing and directed by John Gilling (who directed the fantastic Hammer film Plague of the Zombies) that this was a Hammer film. It was in fact made at Shepperton Studios and was produced by Triad Productions. I was particularly torn between Circus of Horrors and The Flesh and the Fiends. In the end John Gilling’s excellent The Flesh and the Fiends won out in a large part thanks to the performances of Cushing, Pleasance and Rose.

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#9 MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN

Directed By: Giorgio Ferroni

Mill of the Stone Women is about a reporter writing a story on a reclusive sculptor who lives in an old mill. The mill houses a strange tourist attraction created by the sculptor; a carousel-esque contraption that features statues of historical women including some famous murderesses. The sculptor is hiding a secret in the form of a beautiful daughter suffering from some mysterious illness. Add to the mix an eccentric doctor and you’ve got one entertaining story. They give away too much information too soon yet the finale is none the lesser for it. The film’s finale is an absolute utter treat! Mill of the Stone Women is an imaginatively filmed lush affair with some seriously trippy scenes. The performances are good; particularly strong are Herbert Boehme as Professor Gregorius Wahl and Wolfgang Preiss as Dr. Loren Bohlem. It is a slow-moving but hypnotic watch with utterly fantastic set pieces, especially that lady carousel; that thing was freaking awesome! Giorgio Ferroni’s Mill of the Stone Women is a stylish, atmospheric horror film that comes highly recommended.

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#8 JIGOKU (aka THE SINNERS OF HELL)

Directed By: Nobuo Nakagawa

Jigoku or The Sinners of Hell is a bit of a bitch to give a short summary for. It is a story about a student named Shiro who is engaged to his professor’s daughter Yukiko. Shiro is the passenger in a hit and run, but there is a witness who wants revenge, Yukiko dies in a car accident, and Shiro is called home to see his dying mother. Shiro’s father runs a shoddy retirement home and openly flaunts his mistress and his mother’s caretaker is a dead ringer for his recently deceased fiancé. For reasons I will not divulge everyone ends up in hell. Hell! Rivers of blood, endless tortures, and demons await you! Jigoku is one of the earliest films to feature graphic gore. There is a flaying and a decapitation among other goodies. Jigoku is an exceptional film visually that is as beautiful as it is bizarre. To check out my photo review for Jigoku click here. Jigoku is an exceptionally unique Japanese horror film…and it has gore!

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#7 HOUSE OF USHER

Directed By: Roger Corman

Roger Corman directed several films based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe starring horror legend Vincent Price. Expect to see more of these on the top ten lists as they are some of the best the decade has to offer! Vincent Price plays Roderick Usher who opposes the marriage of his sister Madeline due to their cursed family bloodline. Price, of course is brilliant as Roderick Usher and he gets strong support from Myrna Fahey who plays Madeline Usher, Harry Ellerbe as Bristol and Mark Damon as Philip Winthrop; Madeline’s intended. The visuals are first class all the way. House of Usher’s great costumes, fantastic sets, superb performances and well-paced plotting assures you are entertained every single second of its 80ish minute runtime.

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#6 CITY OF THE DEAD

Directed By: John Llewellyn Moxey

City of the Dead was on my list of favourite witchcraft films I posted last week and it easily qualified as one of the best of 1960. City of the Dead is about a college student prompted by her professor to do research in the tiny village of Whitewood where much to her horror she discovers she is a target for a coven of witches. The performances are good particularly from Patricia Jessel who plays dual roles and Christopher Lee who has a memorable supporting turn. City of the Dead is a great atmospheric horror films with excellent suspense, beautifully gothic visuals and an engrossing story with one hell of a finale.

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#5 VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED

Directed By: Wolf Rilla

Village of the Damned has been a favourite since I was a kid. An entire town rendered unconscious and protected by an invisible force field even the military can not breach. After a while the force field disappears and the townsfolk begin waking up seemingly unharmed. A few weeks later however the women of child-bearing age discover they are pregnant and all deliver on the same day. The children grow at an alarming rate and bare a striking resemblance to one another. The creepy, emotionless blonde haired children also possess supernatural powers! Filmed in beautiful black and white with a perfect sense of paranoia and an eerie menacing vibe that is completely engrossing. Village of the Damned is well-written and the performances are perfect; especially excellent is George Sanders as the affable Gordon Zellaby, and the talented Barbara Shelley as his charming wife Anthea. Beware the glowing eyes of the children! Why haven’t you seen this film? Village of the Damned is one of the great classics of sci-fi horror.

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#4 BLACK SUNDAY

Directed By: Mario Bava

I warned you it would not be the last time you would see Mario Bava’s Black Sunday on a list! There is no movie on this list I have seen more than Black Sunday! My childhood viewing of Black Sunday terrified me! These days I appreciate it more for its beautiful, gothic, hypnotizing cinematography. But that scene of the mask of Satan being pounded into Barbara Steele’s face still has some sting! It is the story of a witch put to death by her own brother who returns 200 years later to seek revenge on her descendants. Black Sunday is beautiful, eerie and hypnotic and Barbara Steele simply stuns in her dual roles. Black Sunday is one of the greatest gothic horror films ever made!

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#3 PEEPING TOM

Directed By: Michael Powell

Peeping Tom has a particularly racy story for 1960. Peeping Tom is the story of Mark Lewis who murders women so he can capture on film their terrified expressions before death. Its voyeuristic nature is heavily emphasized and the film is as much psychological as it is horrifying. Carl Boehm plays it quiet and brooding and is outstanding as the awkward and unstable titular Peeping Tom Mark Lewis. This isn’t simply a film about a serial killer it is an in-depth character study and an intelligently written story that explores deeper issues than one would expect of the sub-genre. The film is a slow-burn but an extremely effective one. Peeping Tom is a dark, edgy, well-made film that was ahead of its time. Absolutely brilliant.

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#2 EYES WITHOUT A FACE

Directed By: Georges Franju

Eyes Without a Face is about Christiane who lives hidden from the world, shrouded by a white featureless mask that hides her horribly disfigured face. Her father is guilt-ridden plastic surgeon, Dr. Genessier. With the help of his assistant Louise, they lure young women in and surgically remove their faces in hope of successfully grafting the skin to his daughter. But one failed graft after another leaves a pile of bodies and little hope. Eyes without a Face is about vanity, guilt, obsession, depression and redemption. It is a tale that is as bizarre and bleak as it is beautiful. Eyes Without a Face is a visually stunning film; its sterile brightly lit surgeries, shadowy corridors, endless rooms and impressive set pieces. The “face removal” was very graphic for the time and still impresses. A strange and wonderful score compliments beautifully. Eyes Without a Face is a flawless, strikingly original, bleak and beautiful contribution to the horror genre.

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#1 PSYCHO

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock

Truthfully, I don’t enjoy Psycho any more than the other films in this top five. As I mentioned in my introduction I gave all five of these films an identical perfect rating. Alas one of the films had to hold this spot and technically speaking Psycho is a flawless masterpiece. I am sure there is nothing I can add that hasn’t been said about Psycho before. If you are unfamiliar with Psycho’s story it revolves around a woman named Marion Crane who decides to leave town to start a new life with money she stole from her employer. Inevitably she must stop to rest and chooses the Bates Motel run by a socially awkward momma’s boy named Norman Bates. This does not end well for Ms. Crane whose disappearance does not go unnoticed. Psycho is a stunning film with a pitch perfect mood and atmosphere. Psycho’s real attraction for me is Norman Bates. Anthony Perkins gives a truly epic and iconic performance as cinema’s most infamous momma’s boy. Hitchcock constructed a truly beautiful, chilling, ground-breaking film that has a firm place in horror history.

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Les yeux sans visage – EYES WITHOUT A FACE – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in France, horror, movies with tags , , , , on December 6, 2009 by goregirl

We borrowed the Criterion Collection version of ‘Eyes Without A Face’ from the library (I really do love my library). It’s a beautiful, clean, sub-titled version with some pretty cool extras. The most fascinating of the additional material is Franju’s 1949 short documentary ‘Blood of the Beasts’ about the slaughterhouses of Paris. This documentary was extremely difficult to watch. I literally had to look away on several occasions. Films are pretend, but with that said, death or violence against animals is something I have low tolerance for even in fiction. This here is the real deal. This is a blunt and brutal display of the facts. After all, if you eat it, why the hell shouldn’t you have to watch it be slaughtered? An absolute must see extra if you rent this version. I wonder if Franju knew how his film was being marketed in the US? In the disc’s extras ‘Eyes Without A Face’ is shown being double-billed under the name ‘The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus’ along side ‘The Manster’. The Manster looks super hokey! Half-man, Half-monster! Don’t get me wrong, it looks like it could be good for some laughs but come on! It has no business being billed with ‘Eyes Without A Face’! This film kicked my ass! I freaking loved it! So the rest of this review will be me pouring all over this film, so you may want to grab a bucket.

Christiane lives hidden from the world, shrouded by a white featureless mask that hides her horribly disfigured face. Her father is guilt-ridden plastic surgeon, Dr. Genessier. With the help of his assistant Louise, they lure young women in and surgically remove their faces in hope of successfully grafting the skin to his daughter. But one failed graft after another leaves a pile of bodies and little hope.

Don’t we all wear a mask? At the very least, most of us attempt to hide our imperfections from the world. ‘Eyes Without A Face’ is about vanity, guilt, obsession, depression and redemption. It is a tale that is as bizarre and bleak as it is beautiful. How the hell could I not have seen this film until now? This one really is a stunner. Visually this film is most impressive. Some scenes are brightly lit and sterile while others are washed in shadows and completely surrealistic. The props are amazing. The huge old estate is awesome and the multiple rooms, hidden staircases and concealed doors make for a maze-like setting. Dr. Genessier keeps several dogs, as well as white doves in wrought-iron cages which he uses for experiments. And in the same wing of the house is his surgical room, where he kills women and experiments on his daughter. There is a scene where they remove a woman’s face that is extremely impressive. They have scissors holding down skin all around the face and Dr. Genessier cuts slowly and precisely with a scalpel. With extreme care, he pulls the face off. I was surprised by the brutal but matter of fact way they go about this scene, particularly gory for a film from that time. There are many other wonderful, unexpected scenes in ‘Eyes Without A Face’.

Dr. Genessier is the cold as ice Doctor who at times seems to be completely devoid of human emotions. Christiane seems more like a science project than a daughter at times. He is not the eccentric mad doctor often portrayed in old horror films. His monstrous tendencies are well hidden behind a mask of respect and authority in which a man of his calibre commands. During an awkward family dinner while Christiane is wearing her lovely new face her father suggests “Smile dear…but not too much.” The man does not exude a lot of warmth. His malevolent assistant, Louise has been a benefactor of his plastic surgery skills, wearing a multiple strand pearl choker to cover the scar. Aesthetically she exudes no deformities or abnormalities, hers are all internalized. She feels an obligation to help the doctor, meticulously planning how she will make contact with women, and get them to Genessier’s estate. The real focal point of the film is Chrisiane. Her character is an inspired visual. Thin as a pole and pale like a ghost. Delicately gliding through their massive home wearing that featureless white mask. Her mind is a prison she wants to escape. Death is friendlier than a mirror.

It was her father Dr. Genessier, who had been the driver of their vehicle when the accident occurred, that caused Christiane’s facial disfigurement. It was perhaps out of guilt that he had first removed the face of a young woman, but the success of a graft clearly became on obsession. In one peculiar, but effective sequence we literally see snapshots of Christiane’s deteriorating new face over various time periods, narrated by the doctor. Each female sacrifice equals another failed grafting experiment. With each failure Christiane becomes more solemn. Her sad eyes are the only life that emanates from the white featureless death mask. In the end it is all too much for Christiane. Which finally leads us to one of the most striking finale’s ever to grace a horror film. It is like some twisted and demented version of Snow White.

‘Eyes Without A Face’ kept me mesmerized from beginning to end. Even the musical score is perfect. Cheerful, yet twisted circus music with a hint of malice. I don’t go throwing this word around, but “masterpiece” is appropriate here. This amazing film stayed with me for days after seeing it. A strikingly original, bleak and beautiful contribution to the horror genre. Highest possible of recommendations!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Georges Franju

Starring: Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Juliette Mayniel, Edith Scob, François Guérin, Alexandre Rignault, Béatrice Altariba