Sunday, March 8, 2015

Headless Eyes, The (1971)

... aka: Bloodthirsty Butcher
... aka: Cabezas sin ojos (Eyeless Heads)
... aka: Headless Eyes

Directed by:
Kent Bateman

Before Kent Bateman started facilitating and personally financing the budding careers of his actor children Jason and Justine (subject of a 1988 People Magazine article questioning their reputation as insufferable, spoiled "showbiz brats"), he made this ultra low-budget gore flick. It was also an early effort for producer Ronald Sullivan, who'd later go on to become a famous hardcore porn director under the name Henri Pachard. While attempting to rob a woman's apartment late at night so he can pay his rent, financially-strapped New York City artist Arthur Malcolm or just 'Mal' (Bo Brundin) ends up getting a big surprise himself when the woman gouges out his eyeball with a spoon. The traumatized artist loses his mind, spends some time in a mental institution and completely alienates himself from his emasculating rich lover Anna, who'd been carrying his expenses on her shoulders for years. Now free from all his constraints, Mal lurks around the city murdering anyone he can get his hands on and then removing their eyeballs, which are placed in blocks of ice in his freezer until they're ready to be added to his art pieces.

This is ultimately little more than a succession of stalking / killing vignettes just barely held together as a film with scenes featuring the killer giving over-the-top deranged monologues. After a drunk, bickering couple mock him, Mal follows them home and kills them with a hammer. He then follows a woman back to her apartment and stabs her through the throat after she tells him she's a hooker ("You know, prostitutes are human, too!"). Many others will die and part ways with their peepers in the process, including a woman hanging sheets on a rooftop, an old lady desperately wanting plastic surgery (and who makes the mistake of lifting up Mal's eye patch), a plainclothes cop who stumbles upon him defiling a corpse in an open grave and a blonde would- be actress who takes her top off for a sleazy casting agent. News headlines scream “Police Baffled. 'Eye' Killer Slays 14th!” This is all somewhat amusing for a little while, but the general lack plot, the repetitive kills and the technical ineptitude soon catch up to it and it becomes both tedious and tiresome.

After an endless string of murder scenes, a female art student named Gigi starts hanging out at Mal's studio demanding to learn his 'technique' but this pointless character then abruptly disappears from the film after having done nothing of note. A lot of the dialogue seems improvised as if there wasn't even a script, the editing and photography are both pretty awful and it's evident by the end that this was never even completed. The very last shot is a freeze frame of the killer, having just claimed yet another victim, exclaiming "I am not finished! I am not finished! I am not finished!" ... and the same applies to the movie itself! A few oddball scenes are worth mentioning, though, especially one of the strangest funerals in film history, which includes a newscaster conducting street interviews with spectators as a corpse of one of the victims is hauled out of her apartment already in a casket (?!) The lead actor sweats, cries, screams, goes on crazed nonsensical rants and I suppose deserves a little credit for putting his all into the role.

The Spanish poster (Cabezas sin ojos) lists cast members "Mike Scott" and "Vicky Bateman," whose names are nowhere in the credits of the film (only four actors are listed and they ain't two of them). Since Kent was married to a flight attendant named Victoria for a number of years it makes me wonder if that isn't her in one of the roles using a pseudonym.

J.E.R. Pictures first released this theatrically on a double bill with Andy Milligan's The Ghastly Ones (1968) in 1972. 

It also played at various drive-ins on a dusk-to-dawn program under the name Bloodthirsty Butcher, not to be confused with Milligan's Bloodthirsty Butchers. Depending on where one saw it, the line-up of co-features changed and titles were often swapped between films.

Early 80s UK Beta release from Sapphire.

Back cover of the Wizard release (using two stills that are not in the actual movie).

David DeCoteau's awful The Killer Eye (1999), a Charles Band production, re-used Wizard 's great VHS cover art for its release, which has caused some confusion between titles over the years. As bad as Headless Eyes is at times it's still way better than DeCoteau's movie.


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