I have a rather… shall we say… tempestuous relationship with gialli. As a Naked Lady Delivery Device, the genre proves itself to be a mixed bag, from “Strip Nude for Your Killer,” in which everyone does, to “Naked You Die,” in which no one does. The giallo is on equally uncertain ground as a Gruesome Murder Delivery Device, ranging from Argento’s operatic over-the-top blood spatter in such films as “Tenebre” to the almost self-conscious, postmodern, and gore-free hat-pin employed in “Murder Rock.” I have a difficult time saying I’m a fan of the subgenre–while I really enjoy some entries, it fails to be love with others. I do know that in order for me to properly enjoy any giallo, I have to remove certain words from my vocabulary, such as “coherent,” “gratuitous,” and “logical,” since the giallo by its very nature isn’t, is and isn’t, in precisely that order.
If you’re willing to agree to these terms, there’s plenty to enjoy in Umberto Lenzi’s “Eyeball.” Yes, it is a nonsensical bit of Italian mystery fluff punctuated by the mutilation murders of young women and yes, it does employ lesbonic relations in order to elicit cheap thrills, but I just can’t parse why anyone would decry sexy girl-on-girl action as “gratuitous.” That is, quite simply, in-fucking-correct, interpals–a world without copious girlkissing is a world I’m not interested in living in.
“Eyeball” details a series of icky murders linked to a group of Americans on vacation in Spain. Eschewing subtlety from the get-go, these Ugly Americans are shown to be bad news from their first appearances–we’ve got an adulterous husband making time with his secretary, a granddad-and-granddaughter pair whose mannerisms indicate possible incest, a probably-pervy priest, and a hot-tempered lesbian fashion photographer traveling with her exotic model girlfriend. When bodies start piling up missing a titular sight organ, anyone could be a suspect. You’ve got to admire the sheer audacity of a movie that contains at least two Red Herring Montages, in which each tourist’s character flaws are revealed over the course of a five-minute mega-mix of bad behavior.
Groovy gowns, chunky platform shoes, a parade of wigs, and big-ass Eurotrash sunglasses decorate the proceedings, and even the killer’s signature red raincoat (which is much-maligned in some of the other reviews I’ve read) looks glossy and creepy. While the music isn’t as memorable as other soundtracks of the same era, it’s still suitably funky.
Colorful and filled with on-site flavor, this movie is engineered for maximum escapist entertainment. As such, it leaves common sense and logical plot development in the dust like so many discarded panties. Would it be very likely that a group of tourists would just carry on with their sight-seeing after Murder Number One? Not so much. In the universe of “Eyeball,” however, the characters are so selfish and preoccupied by their own interpersonal dramas that they seem aggravated by the deaths and not at all frightened. I’ll admit that I was distracted enough by the simmering-if-silly melodrama, psychedelic fashions, and gorgeous Barcelona locations that I wasn’t much bothered by the ludicrousness of the plot development. The film never relied on logic at any point, so it’s not like it suffered from any type of inconsistency.
And–really–am I about to complain about a movie that features a lesbian fashion photographer and a murder that takes place inside an old-fashioned dark ride? You’re damn right I’m not! I like being provided with a kaleidoscope of outlandishness–that’s why I watch these movies in the first place.
The cast does a creditable job, from Mirta Miller (playing the aforementioned photographer) and Silvia Solar (who looks kind of like Europe’s answer to Dyanne Thorne) of Naschy-film fame to Eurotrash vet Martine Brochard (nunsploitation *and* women in prison–check!) and a slightly-higher-hairlined John Richardson of Bava’s “Black Sunday.” You won’t find anything bravura here, but as cartoon cut-outs, these folks are just fine.
You could find *far* worse ways to spend ninety minutes than sitting down to watch “Eyeball.” Its unrepentant nonsense and flamboyant fashion appeal more than make up for its shortcomings as a gripping mystery tale.