Monday, November 17, 2008


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).



  1. My disc is now displaying all kinds of motion issues which I didn't notice before. I tried to watch it again and noted that all camera moves seem staggered and plagued with the curse of the first COTD disc and the WS BCI discs. It's also in fullscreen, which I don't appreciate. The video quality is very good but these issues are a huge problem for me.

  2. The "fullscreen" doesn't appear to me to be a cropped-screen presentation, though. I don't have anything to compare it with, but it doesn't seem as though anything is missing. I don't know why it would be shot in academy ratio. If anything, it may have been shot open matte, with the intention of cropping it later. Depending on what BCI had to work with, that can present a problem for anamorphic enhancement. As I recall, VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES was filmed like this, and the BCI disc offers the full frame, as well. I'm hardcore on OAR, but I didn't have a problem with this.

    I didn't notice any motion issues with the disc, either, and there certainly wasn't anything of the scale of the first CURSE OF THE DEVIL disc (which was completely unwatchable from a few seconds in). You have me curious about it now, though, and I imagine I'll be looking at it again soon. Perhaps this is some sort of physical problem with the discs? I don't know a lot about that end of it.

    I remember a few years ago when Anchor Bay said their first AGUIRRE release had a pressing problem that caused similar issues over time, but I never had any problem with my copy of it.

  3. Woah, glad to hear good words about this film, because I'm hesitant about giving it a chance. Now I think I'll give it a spin. Nice site J!

  4. BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL isn't any sort of classic, by any stretch, but I still had some fun with it (I still think HUMAN BEASTS is better). I also think I'm a lot more forgiving of its shortcomings than I'd normally be because I was expecting so little and was pleasantly surprised--I'm just not a fan of gialli.

    Nice site J!

    Thanks. I do try. The blogging thing is new to me. I've been reading yours for a while, now, too, and it's quite good.