Time has cast a golden glow on the memories of my tenure as a video store manager. At the time, I’m fairly certain I was on the verge of embarking on a tri-state killing spree (NJ, NY and PA, if you must know), but in hindsight, it was pretty cool to work a job that included such perks as “unlimited free porn rentals” and where the only cast-in-stone dictate from upper management was “stop sitting on the counters while the store is open.” As the store’s official “Horror Expert” (yes, we had to designate areas of expertise on our nametags–the same nametags on which my colleague was not allowed to abbreviate his title to Ass. Man.), I felt it was my Professional Duty to rent every horror-related title in the store. This makes it all the more upsetting that the VHS of one of my favorite titles, “House of Psychotic Women,” wound up getting broken before I ever had a chance to see it. At the time, I felt that the mysteries contained in that box, with its lurid depiction of two be-night-gowned ladies torturing a shackled, screaming man, would never be revealed to me. All that I knew was that this movie had to be awesome.
Imagine my unearthly delight upon learning that there was a recent DVD reissue of this film by the marvy folks at Deimos! And that this movie whose title I had so admired starred none other than that most recent inductee into my Idols List, Paul Naschy! It was to swoon when a copy of “Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll” appeared in the Tenebrous Mailbox.
The Vicar of VHS, Grand Vizier of the Tenebrous Empire and Official Paul Naschy Scientist, has stated that even bad Paul Naschy is still damn entertaining, and I’m inclined to agree with him. While “Blue Eyes” doesn’t have the same wild-and-wooly, kitchen sink approach of my favorite films from the Naschy canon, it’s still an entertaining thriller that’s dominated by its star’s charisma and commitment to his character.
The film tells the story of Gilles, an ex-con who is looking for a fresh start in the French countryside, who is hired to do odd (read: manly and frequently shirtless) jobs at the estate of three eccentric sisters. And by “eccentric,” I mean “krazee.” Sis Claude, whose hand has been maimed in an accident, picks Gilles up on the side of the road (as you do), and immediately upon his arrival at the Chateau, nymphomaniac sis Nicole is all over the beefy new handyman. Add in wheelchair-bound Ivette (whose mysterious-accident-related condition may or may not be psychosomatic), and our man Gilles is smelling easy prey all over the place. Nicole gets all seducey on Gilles, who takes her for a (very) brief tumble, after which he details the merits of her sisters. Note to all men: Never do this. Seriously. Add in the semi-sketchy new nurse who is taking care of Ivette and PRESTO–the chateau is a simmering cauldron of repressed lust.
Things take a turn for the darker when blonde-haired, blue-eyed ladies begin showing up murdered and disoculated. Gilles has a series of flashbacks (portrayed in what look to be interpretive dance scenes on a blank, red-lit stage) and it becomes clear that there are skeletons in this pectorally-impressive he-man’s closet. Since handymen are known for their murderous tendencies, Gilles and the sisters’ former handyman Jean are quickly ID’ed as prime suspects.
In the mean time, Gilles has taken the opportunity to fall in love with Claude and in what’s actually kind of a sweet love scene, he shows her that her hand makes her no less of a woman in his eyes (IYKWIMAITYD).
The pacing of the movie is pretty snappy, with the final reveal of the killer coming as a genuine surprise and ending on a genuinely creepy note. This isn’t fresh, new territory, but the material is handled very well by director Carlos Aured and each cast member puts in a creditable performance.
One of the things I enjoy about Naschy’s movies is that his leading ladies are never cookie-cutter babes–make no mistake that these women are beautiful, but they’re frequently mature and have unusual features. Eva León’s Nicole is a smokin’-hott Eurobabe, while there’s a certain delicate vulnerability to Maria Perschy’s Ivette, and Diana Lorys’ portrayal of Claude’s sexual awakening is compelling.
Interiors range from the eye-gouging battling patterns as shown above to subtly-handled black-background shots. There’s an effective use of this matte-background technique during intense scenes (particularly during love scenes and murders), and the high-contrast lighting during the murder sequences is pure shuddery, old-school, black-and-white creature feature stuff. Heartily APPROVED by this reviewer!
In a way, I’m glad it took me this long to get into “the House of Psychotic Women,” since it’s not the rip-roaring exploitorama that the VHS cover had led me to believe. Its alternate title, “Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll,” is far more evocative of the actual contents of the film, even if it would’ve made for a much poorer name for my dorm room in art school.
ETA: Enjoy Arbogast’s musings on youth and salad bars as they relate to the opening sequence of “Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll.” I know I did, and I’m pretty clued in with regards to enjoyable stuff 🙂