Monday, 14 December 2009

Evil Face (1974)

Georges Franjus’ superb Eyes Without a Face started an entire sub-genre of horror movies - plastic surgery horrors. Evil Face (La mano che nutre la morte), a 1974 Italo-Turkish co-production, is a relatively typical example of the breed but with enough twists to make it worth a watch.

Klaus Kinski is Professor Nijinski, a brilliant surgeon carrying on the controversial work of his equally brilliant surgeon father-in-law. He has personal reason for his obsession with this field - his beautiful wife was horribly disfigured by fire in an accident. His aim is to restore her beauty. As is usual in this sub-genre, this can only be done at the expense of other beautiful young women whose faces must be sacrificed to provide the necessary tissue for the skin grafts. And many experiments are needed to perfect the process, so the professor must kidnap and murder a succession of young women.

A young couple staying the night in the professor’s gothic castle will provide his latest victims - the husband to be murdered quickly while the wife will provide material for the latest experiment. The plan miscarries, partly due to the interference of a woman who is convinced (quite correctly) that the doctor has murdered her sister. She and her friend have talked their way into staying at the castle as well.

There are some reasonably good plot twists which I’m not going to give away.

The 19th century setting and the castle provide a suitably Frankenstein-like mad scientist atmosphere. The direction and the cinematography are competent. The production values are fairly impressive fir what was obviously a low-budget movie, and the mad scientist laboratory has some nice steampunkesque touches.

The acting is generally adequate, and Klaus Kinski is, as you’d expect, a very convincing insane scientist. He overacts rather less than you’d anticipate.

There are some fairly gory surgical scenes, and the disfigured wife with her strange doll is rather disturbing.

Yilmaz Duru and Sergio Garrone are co-credited as directors. They don’t have the visual brilliance or the visionary qualities to make a great eurohorror movie from the material at their disposal but they’ve still managed to make a fairly entertaining film.

The woman investigating the disappearance of her sister has a friend with her, the friend’s sole function in the movie apparently being to allow the inclusion of the lesbian sex scene without which no eurohorror movie would be complete. But that’s the wonderful world of eurohorror!

MYA Communications have attracted a certain amount of flak for some of their releases, including this one. It does have the look of being taken from a VHS source, and there’s a distinct lack of extras. On the other hand if this is so it was certainly a very good VHS source, and the picture quality is more than acceptable. It’s not the kind of pristine transfer you might get from Blue Underground, but MYA Communications are putting out some very obscure, hard-to-find and rather interesting titles and I’m happy to support any company that will make these previously unobtainable European cult movies available to cult movie fans in reasonably good DVD editions.

It’s not one of Kinski’s greatest performances and it’s not a forgotten masterpiece, but for eurohorror fans it should provide good solid entertainment.

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