Eyes Without a Face
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Eyes Without a Face (Les Yeux sans Visage) is a 1960 French film directed by Georges Franju and co-written by the duo Boileau-Narcejac. It starred Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli and Édith Scob. The music was composed by Maurice Jarre. The film is based on a novel by Jean Redon.
A brilliant surgeon, Dr. Génessier, helped by his assistant Louise, kidnaps young women. He removes the skin from their faces and tries to transplant it onto his daughter Christiane, whose face has been disfigured in a car crash. All the experiments fail, and the victims die, but Génessier keeps trying while Christiane becomes more unbalanced.
The film has influenced a handful of European films since its release. Spanish director Jesús Franco created films throughout his career that were influenced by the film. Franco's first was the Spanish and French co-production of Gritos en la noche (1962). Franco's variation of the film concerns the efforts of a mad surgeon, Dr. Orloff, to reconstruct the face of his disfigured daughter Melissa. Inspector Edgar Tanner investigates Orlof using his girlfriend, Wanda Bronsky, as an undercover spy. Franco followed with several sequels to Gritos en la noche. He made one more film strongly influenced by the Franju film, Faceless (1988). Faceless has a similar plot involving beautiful women who are abducted by Dr. Flamand's (Helmut Berger) female assistant and kept hostage. The doctor uses the skin of the women to perform plastic surgery on his disfigured sister, but the experiments leave the victims mutilated and dead. The Italian film Atom Age Vampire (1961) was also influenced by Eyes Without a Face with a doctor attempting to take the faces of other women to repair his daughter's face. These homages are seen in the plot line of a police lieutenant who is investigating the circumstances behind the death of a young girl whose body has scars around the eyes. The lieutenant's investigation eventually leads him to a plastic surgery clinic, a similar plot motivation to Eyes Without a Face. The British film Corruption (1968) adds a variation to the theme: A surgeon tries to restore his fiancee's beauty by repeatedly treating her with extracted fluids from the pituitary gland of female victims.
The film also influenced American film productions. John Carpenter has suggested that the film inspired the idea of a featureless mask for the Michael Myers character in the slasher film series Halloween. Carpenter recalls that the film crew "didn't have any money to make a mask. It was originally written the way you see it, in other words, it's a pale mask with human features, almost featureless. I don't know why I wrote that down, why Debra [Hill] and I decided on that, maybe it was because of an old movie called Eyes Without a Face".
DVD film reviews have suggested the film influenced director John Woo; critics have compared the graphic detail of the face transplant scene in Woo's action film Face/Off (1997) to the face transplant scene in Eyes Without a Face and noted the similarity. Another resemblance is Woo's trademark use of white doves in his films that is similar to the character Christiane's dove-laden escape in the film's finale.
In 2001, on the television program VH1 Storytellers, singer Billy Idol cited the film as giving him the idea for his song Eyes Without a Face. The song, which has the film's original French title ("Les Yeux Sans Visage") as the recurring background chorus, however, takes the idea of the film's father relationship and outlook toward his daughter and recasts it describing the deteriorated relationship between the narrator and his lover. The song would become Idol's first top-ten hit in the U.S.