Continuing my vintage reviews of Spanish horror releases via BCI/Deimos:
Mon., 21 April, 2008
I'm just not much of a giallo fan. As a sub-genre, it's wonderful in theory, and usually godawful in execution. I was somewhat hesitant about picking up the new BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL disc, because, as its title suggests, it's an intentional effort to ape the Italian gialli, this one brought to us by the Spanish. It stars the most excellent Paul Naschy, Spain's Lon Chaney, and was directed, in 1973, by Carlos Aured, a fellow pioneer of Spanish dark fantasy who has recently died. Those two facts helped prompt me to pick up the movie, but the two real selling-points for me were that I also wanted to help feed BCI/Deimos, who have done a fantastic job on their series of Spanish horror films, and I wanted the Aured/Naschy commentary, recorded not long before Aured's death, and probably his last public words on his career. That, in particular, made it a must-have item. Still, I didn't have very high hopes for the movie itself.
Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a pretty solid film. Our man Naschy is a drifter who breezes into a town in the north of France and goes to work for three odd sisters, living a reclusive life in a big, old house. Almost immediately after he arrives (and starts getting very friendly with two of the sisters), blue-eyed ladies start turning up dead around town, each one having their eyes stolen by their killer. Naschy's drifter, it turns out, has a past from which he's on the run, and when it emerges, all suspicion turns no him.
But there's more to this mystery than meets the blue eyes.
The movie, though certainly worth a look, is far from perfect, and it would probably be fairly ranked as a relatively minor Naschy outing. It suffers from some of the shortcomings that so violently sink most gialli, but, unlike so many of the Italian films, it isn't sunk by them. The police procedural elements are fairly minimal. The "big reveal" at the end is, as in practically every giallo, utterly ludicrous, but the final sequence is so odd and so well played that viewers will tend to forgive the film for failing to solve a critical piece of the mystery (a major character is stabbed, but it's never revealed who did it), and for building up a minor one, then leaving it completely unexplained (the matter of the accident that resulted in the injuries to the two sisters). We're given at least one red herring that is never explained--one of the sisters spies Naschy's boots covered in mud, which was potentially very important, but no explanation for their being muddy is ever given. As a mystery, it has far too much of the giallo in it to be very good. As a movie, though, it's pretty consistently entertaining, with plenty of nifty directorial flourishes and a really good score.
I may be going easy on it because I was so surprised it wasn't a complete waste of space. Still, all the caveats I've offered in mind, I'd give it a marginal recommendation.
(As a footnote, one of the film's retitlings over the years was HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN, which has always seemed to me a much better title. Interestingly enough, Aured mentions this on the commentary, and seems to like it better, as well).