Eyeball [1975]

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" Film Still
“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.
"Eyeball" Film Still
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.
"Eyeball" Film Still
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.
"Eyeball" Film Still
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. 

12 thoughts on “Eyeball [1975]”

  1. Mirta Miller AND Silvia Solar? Well, this one just rocketed up my “to see” list! That’s some quality Naschy-related femme-flesh, right there. 😉

    I’ve come *this* close to buying the Eyeball t-shirt from Fright Rags several times, but haven’t pulled the trigger yet for some inscrutable reason. That’s such a great poster, though. Srsly.

    And I’m hereby resolving to try and make every day of my life include a 5-minute mega-mix of bad behavior.

    Great write up as usual, Empress!

    (Comment verification: FOOMYO. It’s the street-wise response to the question, “Yo, whass tha last name of that bigass dragon Fing Fang sum shit, yo?”)

  2. OMG EYEBALL!! I rented this from the sleazy vid store that offered “6-for-$5” specials, sometime back in the mid-90s. I got a scratchy grainy VHS copy, watched it, and could never find it again. I mean, I didn’t look too hard, but still, blast from the past.

    I have the same love-not so much love as you for giallos. To be honest I never ventured much outside Bava and Argento until you told me about HOUSE OF THE LAUGHING WINDOWS.

  3. Thanks for the pic with the bottle of J&B and the primo mid-70s fashion. If I didn’t know better, I’d have guessed it was from my Bar Mitzvah reception. I haven’t seen Eyeball yet (sorry for the bad pun), but I’ll keep an eye out for it.

    Regarding the “sightseeing continuing after the first murder”, I can actually understand this behavior. I was on a cruise to Bermuda 10 years ago when a fellow passenger had a heart attack and needed to be airlifted off the ship. At first, most of the other passengers were annoyed, and then it turned into a photo op as all the passengers crowded on the deck to get a better glimpse of the Coast Guard airlifting the poor lady off in a gurney tied to a helicopter (the Coast Guard calls this move “dope-on-a-rope”). After watching this, everyone went back to the bar to order Dark and Stormy’s as if the day’s excitement had never happened. And no, the poor lady wasn’t wearing a red vinyl raincoat.

  4. You beat me to it Kate. I was going to post a blog entry regarding this flick and also my hope that it gets a dvd release in the near future.

    I still may anyway. 🙂

  5. i have to see that 5 minute mega mix of bad behavior. Plus i’m a huge aficionado of big ass euro trash sunglasses!

    this sounds like a good one and might be well worth seeking out.

  6. Kate, you’ve actually offered a pretty eloquent defense of gialli as a genre, not to mention a pretty convincing recommendation of Eyeball. The Seventies, lesbianism and violent death sound like a winning combo every time.

  7. I think you’ve summed up the way I feel about gialli as well. I’m not a huge fan, but I do enjoy them. I’m surprised I haven’t seen this yet being such a big fan of Lenzi as I am. The promo art alone is amazing.

  8. Gialli really do unfold in an alternate reality–which is what I love about them–and EYEBALL is definitely set in one of the weirder, sillier corners of it.

  9. Enjoyed your “Eyeball” review Kate! I think “Eyeball” is considered to be the cheeziest of Umberto Lenzi’s Gialli. It has a much more rushed and cheap look than say “Spasmo” or… well ALL of his others. But it is really fun in a kind of “guilty pleasure” sorta’ way! I’d recommend someone first check out hie movies “Paranoia”, “So Sweet, So Perverse” or “Spasmo”.

    I think most of the great Giallo movies were probably made between 1969 and the late ’70s with a few exceptions. But Giallo movies in the ’80s and beyond have taken a rough ride. Just compare the early ’70s Fulci Gialli to the aforementioned “Murder Rock”. Only Argento seemed to be able to pull them off in the ’80s but even for him it was downhill after “Opera”. Maybe you need to see more of the “classic” ones to get bit by the Giallo Bug?

  10. Vicar, I thought of you straight away when I saw two of your girls in this film. I really do think Ms. Solar *needs* the black wig from “Night of the Howling Beast,” though–it truly sets off her features.

    Costuminatrix, it’s such a frustrating thing that there are several SUPER AMAZING gialli out there, while so many others promise so much and yet–in some ephemeral way–manage to simply not deliver. Then again, I think that statement could be made of genre films in general. It’s worth the frog-kissing exercises to find the real gems, at the end of the day! And yes–“House With Laughing Windows” is superb, unique and creeeeeeeeepy!

    Eibon–amen to that, friend 🙂 And thank you!

    Fred, this film had several conspicuous displays of the J&B bottle. I mean, c’mon–with American jetsetters in vacay mode, how could Lenzi *not* include it? 🙂 Your cruise story is both incredibly depressing and yet… not unhilarious in its own right. Yikes to human behavior!

    Metalhead–I completely agree, although it pains me to realize that the days of swanky DVD releases may be limited. WHAT WILL I DO?!?!?!

    wiec?–it’s definitely worth your time. Also–WIN on that Fu Manchu icon. That is uh-mazing, sir!

    Rev. Fred–I was thinking that this might just have some of the niftiest promo art I’ve seen! That campy-slash-gruesome Grim Reaper image is such a winner.

    Curt–well-said! There’s a driving force behind a lot of these storylines that exists outside of the normal realms of what we think of as “sense.”

    Thanks, Brian! To my shame, I have yet to see “Spasmo,” in spite of getting a LOT of glee from the title every time I see it. I’ve gotta say, there’s enough yummy stuff going on in these movies that I keep on seeking them out (much to the Baron’s mild chagrin). As to the Golden Years, my exploration so far leads me to agree with you. There’s a sweet spot right in the early 70s during which a majority of the finest gialli were made. Anything after–say–1975 that winds up being any good kind of surprises me if it’s a good film!

  11. Great director, great soundtrack, great cast, etc. I’ve watched this many, many times and it gets better with every viewing. This makes a great double feature with The Case of the Blood Iris.

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