Friday, 28 December 2012

The Hypnotic Eye (1960)

Hypnotic Eye1The Hypnotic Eye is both a crime mystery and a horror film which (within its B-movie limitations) straddles the two genres fairly well. And it’s a lot of fun.

A series of bizarre self-mutilations has terrorised an unnamed city. All the victims are women. One woman set her hair on fire, with fatal results. One woman slashed her face with a straight razor, thinking it was lipstick. Another stuck her face into an electric fan, thinking it was a vibrator. There have been in total eleven strange inexplicable self-mutilations.

Detective-Sergeant Dave Kennedy (Joe Patridge) has been assigned to the case. He’s a nice enough guy, but he’s clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Even when he and his girlfriend Marcia (Marcia Henderson) attend a performance by Desmond, The World’s Greatest Hypnotist (Jacques Bergerac), it doesn’t occur to Dave that maybe hypnotism has been involved (something the audience will take about 30 seconds to work out). This is in spite of the fact that he has a buddy who is a psychiatrist (Dr Philip Hecht, played by Guy Prescot) who uses hypnotism in his practice. It’s only when Dave and Marcia’s friend Dodie, who also attended the performance, goes home and tries to wash her face in sulphuric acid that the penny finally starts to drop for Dave.

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You see, Dave is a sceptic. Even though his psychiatrist buddy has told him how dangerous hypnotism can be in the wrong hands, Dave believes hypnotism is pure nonsense.

After Dodie’s disaster Dave in finally on the trail of Desmond. Marcia is way ahead of him. She’s attended another performance and has volunteered to be hypnotised by Desmond. But Marcia resists being hypnotised, and discovers the first of Desmond’s nasty little secrets. While on stage he secretly gives the most attractive of his female subjects a post-hypnotic suggestion to come and join him in his dressing room after the show. He then takes them out to dinner, and then back to his place to see his etchings.

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Marcia thinks she can resist being hypnotised, but she doesn’t yet know about the Hypnotic Eye. No woman can resist the Hypnotic Eye. She also hasn’t yet figured out how Desmond’s little assignations tie in with the self-mutilations, although she soon will. But under the influence of the Hypnotic Eye, will she become the next victim? And will Dave finally put the pieces of the puzzle together in time to save her? The audience will certainly have solved the puzzle long before Dave does.

This movie attempted to use some William Castle-style gimmickry to whip up audience interest. In this case the gimmick was HypnoMagic. During a sequence in which Desmond hypnotises his entire audience, the movie audience can join in and become hypnotised as well!

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By 1960 standards there are some reasonably horrific scenes. The self-mutilations are fairly graphic.

Jacques Bergerac was apparently a real magician. He certainly wasn’t a real actor but he chews the scenery with enough enthusiasm to make his performance work. Unfortunately not even HypnoMagic can make the performances of the other players interesting.

Despite some inadequate acting and a plot that wouldn’t challenge a five-year-old this is still an insanely entertaining little movie. Plus it has beatniks and beat poetry! Crazy, man, crazy. Another fun feature is the stern warning at the end to never, never allow yourself to be hypnotised by anyone who is not a medical doctor. It’s all great exploitation movie hokum.

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Warner Brothers have presented this movie in a superb transfer in their Warner archive MOD series

An odd but thoroughly enjoyable B-movie romp that combines some delightfully campy hypnotism silliness with a serviceable if fairly obvious mystery plot. A worthy addition to the collection of any cult movie enthusiast.

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